Like the rest of the legal industry, conveyancing is an area that is still heavily paper-based, comprising monotonous administrative tasks. ‘Monotonous’ is the key word here, as any task that is repetitive and somewhat predictable could potentially be automated through the use of advanced technologies.
The Future Trends for the Legal Industry report by Deloitte claims that only 18% of legal professionals currently utilise new technologies for in-house tasks, suggesting that this is an area that is falling behind many other sectors in terms of technological adoption. Information management is key to conveyancing, and yet many solicitors are still using manual records; a system that does not particularly facilitate the efficient, accurate, and simple access to and communication of essential information during the property buying and selling processes. The primary reason? Concerns about the control and security of the data.
In a Government report, it was found that the efficiency of solicitors was one of the main complaints of home buyers and sellers, especially as there is typically little communication, through this end stage of the process, to provide peace of mind that progress is being made towards a successful completion.
This highlights the fact that there is a definite and very urgent need for digitisation and automation in conveyancing to improve the speed with which purchases and sales are handled, and to ensure a satisfactory communication flow throughout the entirety of the process.
Artificial Intelligence in Conveyancing
One of the technologies most commonly cited to come and disrupt the conveyancing industry is artificial intelligence, or AI; the concept of machine learning. Through the use of AI, machines will be able to pick up on key words and phrases automatically throughout contracts, essentially ‘reading’ these documents and extracting necessary data. And, of course, these contracts won’t be the standard paper-based contracts that we see used today; they will be smart contracts created on the blockchain.
Smart contracts on the blockchain (a secure ledger that cannot be manually adjusted) are expected to become the norm within the conveyancing industry; an industry that, at many times (and especially at times of dealing with uncomplicated, straightforward purchases and sales) is largely highly predictable.
A report by Deloitte suggests that while 46% of legal professionals believe there is an advantage to using smart contracts on the blockchain, only 13% are actually utilising this technology. The advantages of using such technology for conveyancing are clear: retention of clarity and transparency, monitoring of receipt and interactions with the document, secure online storage, generation of alerts to signal document signage, and more. Contracts can even be customised for more complex sales and purchases.
Looking to the Future
Automation and the digitisation of legal documents holds the potential to overhaul the current conveyancing landscape completely, directly addressing some of the most common concerns of buyers and sellers. For conveyancers, greater speed, increased efficiency, and reduction of human error could be achieved through the automation of repetitive tasks. For buyers and sellers, improved transparency can remove some of the most frustrating aspects of the buying and selling process as it stands today.