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25. Confessions of a cyber conveyancer

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Data is the new oil. Upfront information is the silver bullet. Artificial intelligence will make everyone redundant.

Spend any time on LinkedIn and having scrolled past the boxes of Roses, spaniels on office chairs and copies of illegible thank you notes – you’ll have been bombarded by many of these messages.

It’s not that they are not true, ( apart from the last one, obviously ) but they’re just not relevant to our everyday lives of the muck and bullets that is Conveyancing 2023. Whilst there was much hand-wringing when a recent survey showed only 20% of lawyers had heard of upfront information, the reality is that as lawyers, we’ve got the day job to deal with.

Which is frankly, not getting any easier and despite what some may think, decent technology is the only solution that can help here.

A standard operating procedure ( SOP ) for lawyers?

A pilot friend was explaining that during a flying career of over 25 years, he’d never flown with the same co-pilot. Which made it crucial that everyone adhered to the same protocols and procedures so there would be no misunderstandings.

Now – obviously, a disagreement over procedure in a cockpit would have much more dire consequences than a spat over an indemnity policy between lawyers, but the principle is the same.  Although like most lawyers, we are avid and enthusiastic subscribers to the Conveyancing Handbook, it doesn’t cover the areas such as what specific enquiries to raise, or not, as the case may be.

Which is where our good friend technology needs to step up to plate.

I’m not talking about the topic so beloved by practice managers and despised by lawyers – workflow.  In my opinion, whilst it’s completely understandable in theory, in practice, it is the cause of delays and in accuracies.  If you block a user from progressing until they’ve ticked a box, you end up with bad data.

Standard enquiries for residential property?

Having stored nearly a million enquiries on about 30,000 transactions, we know what questions our lawyers raise about a particular type of property we have bought, as well as other lawyers about the properties we have sold. Pretty useful data.

I’m not going to talk about Large Language Models (LLMs) – just mentioning the letters I and A but in a different order gets the keyboard warriors foaming at the mouth – but we can learn an awful lot from this data.

Although it’s a bit messy, it’s not a huge challenge to throw it into a magic analysis machine and draw some useful conclusions. Without undermining the skills or expertise of lawyers, rather than leaving it to the whim of an individual, why don’t we as an industry, oops, sorry, obviously I meant profession ( although could someone please tell that to the CQS solicitor who hung up on my colleague last week ) determine what are the most common and relevant questions for a particular property and agree standard wording for these. Amongst ourselves.

It’s not a precedent

Before the wailing and gnashing of teeth begins, I should point out that our colleagues over in the commercial department have been doing this for years. Yes – of course there are different elements at play here, but the concept is proven.

Just supposing … and I know that if I was unlucky enough to be a woman and living in New England in the 17th century, I would have been burned as witch, we could all agree on a standard set of enquiries that we could raise and manage centrally – how much easier would all our lives be?

Alternatively, we could of course continue to put our collective heads in the sand and hope this process will somehow magically fix itself.

Only it won’t.



Peter Ambrose is the CEO of The Partnership and Legalito – specialists in the delivery of transparent and ultra-efficient conveyancing software and services.

Peter Ambrose:, 01483 579978

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The Partnership are an award-winning property law firm.