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Lawyers holding pen over contract

Solving conveyancing delays is a ‘bigly’ problem

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If we’ve learned anything from the US elections it’s that doing paperwork in advance doesn’t guarantee a speedy outcome. Sitting around waiting for results and being powerless to speed things up, had a Conveyancing 2020 feel about it.

Whether it’s voting slips or FENSA certificates, just because you ask for information upfront, doesn’t make the process go quicker. That might help those who think it will solve all the delays in conveyancing, wake up, and smell the coffee. Or they can keep peddling the same, Trump-like message. Convinced they are right and the real world is wrong.

Work from home if you can

The inherent problems, in conveyancing, are being exposed by several issues. These include increased caseloads, and a refusal by law firms to recruit more staff.

It didn’t help with Boris going on TV again and confusing everyone. With complicated slides containing what turned out to be wrong data.  As a result, lawyers have once more been banished to their bedrooms like errant teenagers. Which is really bad news for home buyers and sellers.

Because let’s face it, if they’re sitting on their bed with a ropey old laptop, desperately searching for a Word document on their company servers, it’s no surprise things are slower than they’ve ever been. And wrong.

In the heady days of Lockdown#1, people raved about work-life balance and the efficiencies of remote working.  Given the daily deluge of signed contracts, contract packs, and letters we receive from lawyers for properties we have nothing to do with, I beg to differ.

When it comes to conveyancing, other than an extra hour in bed, there are few benefits from home working.

Can we speed things up?

If the delays in conveyancing were caused by clients taking time to fill in property forms and stick some guarantees in an envelope, then boy, we’ve got a simple problem to solve.

Getting “seller ready” is a trivial part of the process – a handy improvement but reducing it by a couple of weeks is small beer – very much like putting lipstick on a pig.

The fundamental problem is that case details are held in a lawyer’s head.  No fancy cloud-based communicating platform available on an iPhone is going to solve that particular issue.

The key is changing the way we collect and store data.  Before anyone mentions the new BASPI form that is waiting on printing presses, no, that really is not the answer.

Collecting Information

The information must be collected at the source, automatically. Whether it is Land Registry for titles, local authorities for searches, management companies for leasehold details, or clients for answers to enquiries, this must be structured and automated.

Obviously changing the way organisations hold data is a huge challenge.  But this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t move blinking towards the light.  As an interim measure, technology can be used to analyse this information automatically by reading the documents and drawing out their key elements.

This analysis would then be used to produce a Report on Title and raise enquiries; core activities that today can take anywhere between four and seven hours.  These enquiries must then be tracked centrally, rather than using the industry-standard Post-It note system in use today.  (Take a moment to recognise the plight of lawyers sitting on their beds surrounded by files and yellow notes.)

Reducing the time to produce reports and raise enquiries is the key element in speeding up the conveyancing process. Holding enquiries in a way that clients, lawyers ( and agents ) can view and respond directly, will reduce the confusion that this most time-consuming element of conveyancing brings and will have a major impact on transaction times.

Conclusion

Solving the conveyancing conundrum is not a simple one. There will always be complex legal matters that need to be addressed, whether it is a Deed of Variation that needs drafting or additional terms that need to be added to a contract.

However, removing the manual elements of the process that lawyers currently have to endure, will allow them to focus on resolving those issues quicker and more efficiently.

This is in stark contrast to the simplistic idea that getting information upfront solves all the issues. As Mr. Trump will testify, just because you can get information in advance doesn’t necessarily result in a quicker answer or the one you actually want.

As published in https://propertyindustryeye.com/solving-conveyancing-delays-is-a-bigly-problem/