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When it comes to understanding and measuring risk, I’ve always said that technology beats humans every day of the week.  Machines don’t suffer from a bad night’s sleep, being lectured by a client for being too slow or face the wrath of the other side for daring to raise enquiries, resulting in rushed decisions.

That said, we do know that in some ways, machines are very like humans, mostly in that they struggle to do things purely by themselves, and perform best when working with others.

Which is why, even though we know that when it comes to getting clients to complete forms, whilst it’s better to fill them online, we had to ensure the technology had the support it needed.

From humans.

In conveyancing, forms are everywhere

People who don’t do conveyancing think we only use a couple of forms, the TA6 and TA10 and if you’re unlucky, the TA7.   In our firm we’ve got about thirty; typically used where clients confirm they agree to something or another.  They can be the difference between a potential claim and a restful night’s sleep.

We were using fillable PDFs for our forms, which we delivered through our portal, to protect against email fraud.  Annoyingly, you can’t save a PDF form in a browser, so our clients had to download them, complete and save them before uploading them again.  Not a brilliant user experience.

Now we had to fix this

Our rule is that new technology should only be introduced when we have to fix something worth fixing.  As 15,000 clients had completed forms this way, the few service complaints we received didn’t justify the change.  Until it did.  On one case, we had the wrong address details and sent private documents to an unknown address – a clear breach – the time had come to make a change.

The typical selling arguments for the use of online forms centre around efficiency and speed, but as lawyers, its risk reduction that is key.  The good news is that while technology’s primary role is reducing risk, this often has the pleasing side-effects of reduced time and effort.

We needed to collect data from our clients quickly and efficiently, but in a way that would enable us to check its accuracy.  While on the surface, it might appear that all we needed to do was create an online form, in reality, clients, like lawyers, make mistakes, delay matters and generally slow things up, so more thought was needed.

Creating the form is the easy bit

Online forms are a mundane and established technology that has been around for years.  The fact that government websites use them illustrates how much the legal profession has been held back by a lack of innovation.   Form entry is just part of the data collection process – providing a link to a client is merely a step in the process.

We built our own forms using existing technology, but we knew the process for handling them would involve teamwork between machine and our people and needed workflow to support this approach.  This took us months to work out, but our solution illustrates how technology is here to support the work we do, so I thought I would share it.

  1. Client agrees to use us – sales person must confirm this is OK and clicks “Request Paperwork”
  2. Our MatterIntelligence algorithm assigns the services administrator with the most capacity to deal with the onboarding
  3. System emails everyone involved, such as clients, alternate contacts, people giving gifts, company Directors, sending them login instructions and the name of their contact
  4. System then checks if client bought the property less than a year ago and publishes only the appropriate forms.
  1. System sets a task to automatically chase client after 5 days if no response
  2. System sets another task for the services administrator to chase after 8 days if no response
  3. Services administrators are able to view live form entry to help clients struggling with any questions
  4. Forms are automatically named and categorised so lawyer can find them during the transaction
  5. Clients signature and the data they entered are saved for future reference
  6. The services administrator receive notification in their online in-tray when client finishes the forms for checking and initiating the instruction.

So what’s the point?

If you’re denying the benefits that technology has to be play in improving our working lives, then you’re probably misunderstanding its role.

Technology is there to support the people who manage the process.  If we don’t integrate it into how we work today and ensure both humans and machines support one another, it’s not going to help us.

Finally, it’s worth reflecting that although humans are currently better than machines at sanity checking data and information, we know that machines will outperform them in the future, so we’d better start preparing for that change sooner rather than later.


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

As published:

The Partnership are an award-winning property law firm.