This year’s National Property Law Conference was, I believe, the largest the Section has held. A significant attraction was the launch of the Law Society’s conveyancing portal, Veyo, which is due to go live at the end of the first quarter of 2015.
As a profession, we can either stand on the sidelines and watch while others develop the conveyancing process, or we can seize the initiative and keep solicitors at the centre of things
Of those present, more than 75% believed that when it comes to embracing technology and change, the legal profession is not particularly advanced and falling behind other professions. Over 60% felt that there was a need for a product like Veyo. By the end of the afternoon, having seen and heard more about the new portal, over 83% were supportive of its launch, and 56% declared that their firm would be one of the first to use it.
There is a natural resistance to change among lawyers. When my firm first installed case management software for conveyancing, conveyancers were ‘too busy’ to learn how to use it. When the market slowed, they felt they didn’t need it because they now had time to deal with matters in the traditional way.
Having just returned from trekking in Nepal, I was struck by the number of mobile phones in use among an essentially poor population. People now live a large part of their lives online. Thriving businesses are often those with a strong online presence and an easy-to-use website.
Conveyancing cannot remain buried in paper. The Land Registration Act 2002 launched the move away from a paper-based system, and the introduction of electronic document registration has continued this process. The majority of stamp duty land tax returns are made online, as are many searches. More and more lenders are instructing online. A comprehensive portal in which all of these functions can be co-ordinated is surely the next logical step. If that same portal was able to provide greater security, increased transparency, and make the process more efficient, why would anyone not want to use it?
As a profession, we can either stand on the sidelines and watch while others develop the conveyancing process, or we can seize the initiative and keep solicitors at the centre of things.
I closed the conference with a quote by John Kotter from the Harvard Business Review in 2006: “Leadership is about coping with change. Part of the reason it has become so important in recent years is that the world has become more competitive and volatile… Doing what was done yesterday, or doing it 5% better is no longer a formula for success. Major changes are more and more necessary to survive and compete effectively in this new environment. More change always demands more leadership.”
By forming a joint venture company with Mastek UK to deliver Veyo, the Law Society has demonstrated that leadership. The profession ignores it at its peril.
On a final note, after seven years as chair of the Section, I stood down at the beginning of November. I would like to wish my successors every success in their new roles. Ian White, a former Council member for commercial property, becomes chair; and Myfanwy McDonagh, a residential conveyancer from Kent, takes over vice-chair duties. I have no doubt that the Section will thrive under their leadership, as the conveyancing world enters what I hope will be an exciting and stimulating period and our quill pens are laid down for the last time.