I read recently that the Law Society joint venture Veyo intends to bring residential conveyancing into the 21st century. A revolution is on its way? Well, this is what the Law Society would like us to believe.
So much so Veyo has and continues to spend a vast amount of money on its attempt to convince professionals and the homeowner that despite working within the tight constraints of an archaic conveyancing system, which has more or less remained untouched since the average weekly wage was about £5, its online portal with functions to allow a client to communicate with his or her solicitor without picking a phone up, will magically speed up the conveyancing process.
I am not sure whether its naivety or sheer arrogance on the part of those behind Veyo, but one thing is for sure, the product which has yet to materialise, is not, despite the claims to the contrary, a magic bullet to cure what are and continue to be a fundamental flaws with the home selling and buying process as well as the approach adopted by some conveyancers operating within it.
To be fair to Veyo there is a lot to be said for highlighting to some conveyancers that the time is now to ditch the pigeon post, to question whether there really is a need to operate with secretarial staff, and to provide a service which allows online collaboration between conveyancers and online interaction with the client.
Not only are these changes essential to be able to compete with volume conveyancers they should also, per se, shout out as making complete financial sense. Conveyancers who are looking to survive the constant onset of challenges must make these changes soon or face extinction.
The claims made by Veyo to the consumer that is holds the answer to the long delays and frustrations some home sellers and buyers experience are disingenuous in the extreme. Yes, I accept there is a need for an improved and more transparent line of communication between those involved in the process especially with the client, but unless the philosophy and approach towards conveyancing changes no online portal on its own bring about the changes which are desperately needed to ensure both professionals and homebuyers/sellers are able to enjoy a less stressful conveyancing process.
There is no sign that with an election looming of any of any move by the main political parties to bring in changes to the conveyancing process. The shambles surrounding the introduction and withdrawal of the Home Information Pack debacle has clearly taught politicians that changes to land law and processes is a total ‘no go’ area. There is no political appetite for change and we are therefore resigned to the fact that the system which we have is unlikely to be reformed probably for a further 100 years!
So where does this leave the homebuyer/seller? Is Veyo going to turn out to be the saviour, the consumer champion? This is their idea though I suspect at best history will show it was the catalyst which the conveyancing industry needed to spark the fuse for long overdue enlightenment.
Veyo and other IT providers can provide the tools to assist the conveyancer to make changes, but what they cannot do is force some conveyancers into adopting the changes in their own processes and approach to work which are required before significant improvement will be seen.
So what is needed to start the revolution?
The starting point is the need to lose the legacy which holds a number of conveyancers back. Just because it is the tradition do certain tasks in a particular way does not mean that way is the only way or is indeed financially efficient. For example, we use our own in-house developed software to engage collaboratively with the client and the buyers solicitors when going through the additional enquiry process. We invite clients and the solicitors to engage in the process. Significantly we have no trouble with the client but looking to engage the buyers’ solicitors has proved far more problematic. ‘Can we please ask you to send to us your replies on paper’, is often the response. Others say ‘we are unable to access the replies’, which is often code for ‘ We can’t be bothered to go on line to see the replies!’.
Another legacy is the long flowery letters which the dutiful secretary has painstakingly typed. Why? Lawyers should all be capable of writing in succinct and concise terms and what is the point of dictating and having typed information which can be standardised and communicated in template electronic notes?
How may conveyancers scan their post and other written communication? The cost of the scanner is reasonable and by operating with an electronic file is not as alien as some may believe. The problem is there is no mind set or ambition to change to explore innovation of this type.