Artificial Intelligence in Conveyancing: An opportunity for better experiences for staff and clients

Panellists at the Digital Conveyancing Summit discussed the role of AI in conveyancing to explore benefits, challenges, and the future outlook. Read on to find out what conveyancers should know about artificial intelligence in conveyancing.

Artificial Intelligence: you can hardly open a web browser or pick up a paper without another article telling you how AI is changing the world. But amongst the starry-eyed futurism and end-of the world warnings of machines taking our jobs, what’s actually happening that is likely to make a real difference to conveyancers and their clients?

This is exactly what we asked a panel of experts at our Digital Conveyancing Summit in November 2023.

Bringing together our own Head of Product Louise Edwardes, Search Acumen Managing Director, Andrew Lloyd, Peter Ambrose of The Partnership, and Nisha Morjaria of Talbots Law, and masterfully chaired by Suman Dally of Swiitch, the panel provided viewpoints from a broad range of outlook. We’ve summarised the key discussion points and you can watch the full panel session on-demand.

The current state of AI in Conveyancing

It’s clear that in the past 12 months, AI has made the move from simply being talked about, to becoming a key part of some firms’ day-to-day processes. What’s most evident about this is the type and value of the work being undertaken, and how it is impacting the workplace – and most specifically the (human) staff.

Firms are seeing considerable value in employing AI in areas where it actively supports conveyancing teams, areas which traditionally are those humans enjoy less and are perhaps not best suited for. Firms are increasingly using AI to conduct essential (albeit dull) administrative tasks such as document categorisation, sorting and triaging of support emails, and for extracting, analysing, and comparing data. We’re seeing more firms look to use artificial intelligence and machine learning to help their staff complete key documents such as AP1s where the technology can highlight any discrepancies which might lead to requisitions, leading to an improvement in accuracy.

Taking this to the next level, we’re now seeing firms start to look to perform more complex tasks such as analysis of information in documents such as CON29s, and even conducting searches or producing easy-to-understand reports using information from title registers, plans, leases, and other Land Registry documents – all thanks to artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Digital Conveyancing Summit Artificial intelligence panel

The benefits of Adding AI to your team

The panel debated the key benefits of AI, with all parties agreeing that the potential of AI really comes from it playing a supporting role to staff rather than operating in its place. It’s clear that such a division of labour enables firms to make the best use of both human and artificial skillsets.

AI can help share the load of mundane tasks: the technology excels when it comes to dealing with repetition - something few humans enjoy – because AI doesn’t suffer from lapses in attention, or need coffee breaks, so can be highly effective at just processing those simple, but burdensome admin tasks.

Louise Edwardes highlighted the value of AI supporting firms’ growth objectives: “Lawyers are having to spend all of this time doing this sort of administration work, cross reference all of this manual intervention, take that away and it just allows a firm to scale more, which is something that I think people need to focus on with this.”

That means your team can use their time doing what they are often better at, and which are of greater value to the business and your clients – something that AI is a long way from mastering. Spending more time on personal interactions with customers, adding their legal expertise and experience to complex challenges or queries, and winning more business are all opportunities that AI provides to law firms.

And the cost? That’s a little harder to calculate. 'AI' isn’t something that’s being purchased off the shelf as a standalone tool. It’s being woven into existing tools and services so there is little, if any new investment required. What AI can do – and we are starting to see the results of this – is reduce the hours spent on individual transactions, meaning completions are being achieved with fewer people hours chalked up against them. That of course enables firms to operate with greater margins or to be more competitive on price.

“The investment required or the development skills involved are becoming out of reach of more and more, not just law firms, but tech firms who are struggling to get into this space. So finding the right partnerships and choosing who is going to help you through this period is really important. It does mean that the solution is accessible to everybody and it is an opportunity for the smaller, more traditional firms to be able to compete,” says Andrew Lloyd, Managing Director at Search Acumen.

Of course, faster turnarounds – plus the added facetime afforded them by newly unburdened solicitors – mean happier customers also mean happier customers.

Nisha Marjoria, Head of Business Innovation at Talbots Law evaluates why AI can add value for firms commenting, “So when we're looking at all this amazing tech that sits behind the lawyer, I think it enables them to deliver a better service. And actually, we owe a duty of care to our customers and introducers and providers. I think this will bring out is a better level of service.”

Challenges and considerations

It’s important to emphasise that AI is not panacea though; simply throwing AI into an already poor process is unlikely to lead to a revolution in efficiency or customer satisfaction. AI needs to be carefully implemented into workflows that are already proven if firms are to see the benefits of its capabilities. AI is great at making decisions and processing information based on what it learns, but that means it needs to learn from the right processes and procedures in the first place. Where we’ve seen AI implemented well, it’s the result of adding benefits to systems already functioning well, and after significant spells of learning, testing, and re-testing.

Additionally, while we’ve explored some of AI’s powerful capabilities, it’s clear that there is much that it still can’t do. AI cannot be viewed as a ‘set and forget’ tool – it needs a level of human oversight and management. Currently, no AI solution provider is underwriting the risk of error arising from its tools, leaving firms responsible should things go wrong, so it’s paramount that AI is managed and understood effectively by those employing it.

Peter Ambrose, Founder of The Partnership Property Lawyers and Legalito, a legal software start-up, says “Until we've worked out whether if you give advice that's based on some software that you've rented from another person who've tried to get out of their liability, I can't see many lawyers in this audience or in this country running to embrace this stuff. If someone said to me, you can use this technology which will eliminate all your paralegals, all your lawyers, and it's fantastic. My first question would be, ‘Right, when they sue me, can I countersue?’ And if they don't say yes, then I wouldn't use it. And that's the fly in the ointment here. I think we have to be grown up about that, because what's our number one concern as law firms? It’s the risk of being sued.”

That’s not to say that AI shouldn’t be embraced, but rather view it and use it as an aid rather than a do-all.

Ai in conveyancing panellists

Where to next for AI in conveyancing?

Conveyancing is a high-risk environment, and the panel was unanimous in stating that it’s unlikely that we’ll see machines usurping human conveyancers any time soon. While there is undoubtedly opportunity for greater use of artificial intelligence when it comes to further removing administrative burden from the conveyancing process, moving home is a decision in which customers are heavily invested both financially and emotionally.

As such, the human element – the ability to provide guidance and advice to an individual customer about their individual property remains highly valued. Replacing this with machines would be a very big call for any firm.

It’s more likely that we’ll see AI continue to develop in its ability to complete forms, analyse information, and provide guidance to conveyancers in those areas where human inspection is needed.

Law is, as we all know, a risk-averse industry and it’s likely that AI will need to prove itself in other fields before truly becoming embedded in law. We’ll leave the final note to Louise Edwardes:

“I think anything that really supports the context switching that conveyancers have to do not just on a daily basis – but you've got the phone ringing from 9:00 am onwards, you've got agents and clients chasing you. But I think anything that could support conveyancers that have to go from looking at one stack of documents on one file to another and deal with all these distractions that are coming in throughout the day. There's no rest depending on what the market's doing at that any given time and there are so many risks that come off the back of that – that’s where AI can help.”

DCS logo
Written By

Digital Conveyancing Summit

Published 30/1/2024
0 Brochures Selected
Download Brochures