Digital Conveyancing Summit 2023: What did we learn?

Discover the key themes and topics discussed by our expert panels at the Digital Conveyancing Summit 2023.

Now in its second year, the Digital Conveyancing Summit 2023 focused on bringing together voices from all sides of the process to workshop key challenges and answer pressing questions in the market.

Digital Conveyancing Summit provided the industry with a key point in the conveyancing calendar to review the past year’s developments and bring together voices from all sides to explore key challenges on the horizon.

Hosted on 22nd November at 22 Bishopsgate in London, the event saw more than 150 conveyancing professionals join in person, with a further 500 tuning in online and from InfoTrack’s new offices in Leeds.

Several key themes emerged from the day’s six panel sessions, including the importance of collaboration between stakeholders, how technology – AI in particular – should be seen as an enabler, and the importance of seeing digitalisation as a continuous process.

Collaboration is key

The opening panel of the day welcomed representatives from lenders and law firms to dig into why technology is a key enabler for bridging the gap between industry capabilities and consumer expectations. The conversation identified collaboration as an essential driver, alongside moving away from metrics such as turnaround times, instead focusing on certainty and prioritising the individual motivations of the home mover.

Beverley Bradford from TSB referenced a clear change in customer behaviour. “The market's changed quite a bit over the last twelve months where the customer's driver isn't necessarily speed, but about securing a rate at that point and then just letting the months play out until they need completion.”

Host, Travis Scholes of LMS summed it up well, “Having the ability to move quickly is great, but keeping the customer at the heart and keeping everyone informed feels like it's the most important part.”

Panellists from AI session at the digital conveyancing summit

AI – an opportunity, not a threat

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is one of the most hotly discussed topics in conveyancing right now. Legal and technology specialists on our dedicated AI session debated how its use could play out in conveyancing and where it could create value. The panel were united on AI’s ability to take away the less enjoyable parts of the role and free up more of the conveyancer’s time to apply their expertise. 

Peter Ambrose, Founder at The Partnership said, “A lot of people are thinking, ‘is this going to take our jobs? Are we dumbing down?’ What we don’t want to do is dumb down the role of lawyers. Lawyers spend a lot of time doing stuff we probably shouldn’t be doing and a lot of it is a waste of time. What we've said as a firm is that we don't ever want to get away from having lawyers giving advice to clients. But what we do want to do is service relevant information more quickly.”

Digital verification is here to stay

The conversation around how technology can add value for conveyancers continued with members of the Digital Property Market Steering Group (DPMSG) unanimously agreeing that digital IDs and eSignature use is crucial and a safer alternative to traditional methods.

“Digital ID checking is objectively safer than somebody handing over a passport in a busy reception and somebody whisking off and photocopying it and having a quick look and handing it back to them. And the same with qualified electronic signatures,” said Mike Harlow, HMLR.

The group also discussed the importance of using technology to relieve the burden of processes that could be managed more efficiently by digital tools, freeing conveyancers to use their expertise to serve clients’ best interest.

Stephen Ward, CLC, said, “It’s important to free up time of the conveyancer from doing the grunt work of just assembling the data that underpins the transaction and really advising the client. Because that's where your job is. That's where the value of the conveyancer really is, in understanding what the buyer wants from the transaction and making sure they're being properly advised about that property.”

Quote from stephen ward at CLC about conveyancer responsibilities

Transformation at HMLR

The afternoon resumed with an update from HMLR, where the discussion highlighted HM Land Registry's focus on digital transformation to facilitate property buying and selling. This includes providing real-time property information, accessible registered data, and leading research and change to accelerate improvements in the property market.

The presentation also stressed the importance of submitting accurate and complete applications to reduce requisitions and processing time. HM Land Registry have said they’re working on systemising and improving data quality to achieve this goal.

How technology is shaping modern firms

Shifting the focus to how technology is playing out within firms, panellists Sam Strong of Eden Conveyancing, Paula Langley of Bookers & Bolton, Ian Osborn of Franklin & Co, and Thomas Bridge of Amity Law explored how digitising processes is empowering firms to adapt.

The discussion emphasised the significant role of technology in modern legal practices by enhancing the customer experience, enabling remote working, and improving operational efficiency. Panellists also explored whether technology creates a level playing field among law firms. While it offers advantages, the benefit is not inherently equal across all firms. The use and adaptation of technology are crucial in gaining and maintaining a competitive edge.

Tom Bridge noted, “The reality is that each firm has to decide how it wants to use technology to its best advantage. Your competitive advantage will only last as long as you continue to develop and adapt that technology.”

quote from tom bridge at amity law about using technology for competitive advantage

Discussing whether or not consultancy models will be the way forward for law firms, the panel agreed that there is room for traditional firms, but they need to have a digital mindset to best service their clients and satisfy their workforce.

“A traditional firm or a digital firm needs to appeal to the modern workforce. Technology enables us to have remote lawyers. It enables us to give them flexible working because we've got an online portal that people can access at different times and therefore we can focus on job satisfaction. So, they're not spending all their time doing admin, they're doing proper work and getting a lot of job satisfaction from that,” comments Sam Strong.

panel discussing different law firm models enabled through technology advancements

Closing out the day, Adam Bullion of PracticeEvolve, Grant Sanders of Stephen Rimmer, Lindsey Dewart, of Thomas Flavell & Sons, and Gayle Fordham of Fisher Jones Greenwood were joined by host Natalie Moore from Aconveyancing to look at what the future holds. The panel discussed the rapid evolution of technology in legal services and why small and medium-sized firms, need to embrace technology to stay competitive. Emphasis on greater adoption of AI, automation, and focusing on leveraging digital solutions to improve service delivery were key throughout the session.

Embracing modern technology was also seen as crucial for attracting and retaining talented staff, especially those looking for flexible and hybrid working arrangements. The panel didn’t shy away from discussing the challenges in adopting new technologies, especially in firms resistant to change. Gayle shared that the key to successful adoption is including staff in the decision-making process and providing adequate training and support.

Her advice to other firms was, “Celebrate your wins, provide case studies, get some advocates within your departments. Begin with positive people with the changes and then that will ripple out to the rest.”

The consensus was that the combination of good technology and skilled people is key to the future of legal services.

To catch up on all the panel sessions from the 2023 Digital Conveyancing Summit, explore our on-demand content including seven insightful masterclasses.

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Digital Conveyancing Summit

Published 06/12/2023
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