How is new technology affecting Scottish conveyancing?

A recent survey by BDO LLP, an Edinburgh accountancy and business advisory firm, has revealed that seventy per cent of Scottish law firm partners and senior partners believe that technology will have the greatest impact on their client relationships in the next five years, compared with 40 per cent in the rest of the UK. BDO’s Law Firm Leadership Survey asked partners at 63 law firms across the UK how new technology could impact their relationship with their clients. Some of the major changes predicted include new methods of communication and more remote working. When it comes to younger clients, such as first time buyers, it was believed they expect access to new technologies and apps.

This corresponds with the results of the survey carried out by ESPC where 500 buyers and sellers in east central Scotland were asked their thoughts on the conveyancing process. Results showed that communication and transparency are the biggest concerns for clients when it comes to their relationship with their solicitor, and that clients often felt they had a lack of information from their legal team during the property buying and selling process.

One in two respondents described the moving process as frustrating and stressful, while 18% told us that they found it particularly frustrating and stressful dealing with their solicitor. For first time buyers who are just beginning their property-buying journey, this stress can be compounded. Young buyers tend to place greater importance on access to digital tools and apps, and so any efforts to ease the process are likely to be welcomed and valued.

These findings demonstrate how technology is expected to be at the forefront of client relationships in the future, and Altis, as Scotland’s first online conveyancing system, is leading the charge in innovation. Altis is a joint venture between ESPC and BDP Estate Agency Software, and has been built in alliance with Scottish conveyancers to support digitalisation and increase transparency and automation in the residential conveyancing process. The Law Society of Scotland also have a stake in the business, following Altis’s successful bid for partnership, announced in January 2016.

Paul Hilton, CEO of ESPC, says; ‘Altis is owned by ESPC, and one of the reasons why we got involved is that we saw that our member firms could do with a conveyancing system that works with the Scottish market and allows them to be more efficient, so it becomes a better experience for the client. Altis also opens up the opportunity for remote working, and this flexibility is one of the major predicted changes in the survey of partners’. 

Paul notes that in the focus groups carried out by ESPC; ‘Our respondents felt the conveyancing process was ‘horrible’, ‘expensive’ and ‘stressful’. It is often a nerve-wracking experience and they felt that solicitors didn’t keep them informed from the start. They noted that they often had to chase their solicitor to find out any updates. With this in mind, Altis can offer the client greater transparency’. 

Following legislative changes allowing solicitors to sign documents online and the introduction of the Law Society Smart Card, there has been an increased appetite for digitalisation within the legal industry. Altis consolidates all these new digital opportunities into one. Altis allows increased transparency and efficiency between firms and their clients, because it provides a centralised document room that stores all files relating to the transaction.

‘Altis is a ground breaking development in the conveyancing industry,’ says Jamie Hill, head of Altis. ‘Designed to simplify and streamline the current conveyancing process, it is the first e-conveyancing software of its kind in Scotland. We believe that Altis is the future of Scottish conveyancing and that the platform has been developed to an award-wining standard.’

‘The conveyancing system in Scotland has operated for the past 400 years and little has changed in terms of the process carried out by a conveyancing solicitor in Scotland, with bundles of written titles and draft documents passed to and fro between the seller’s solicitor and the purchaser’s solicitor. Customers do want a better experience and Altis is bringing conveyancing into the 21st Century’ 

One of the challenges Jaime has found is a cautious resistance from solicitors around the client login. ‘The reason they don’t like client login is that they are worried about they will overshare this information with the client, but the login is really a way of reiterating the information. The ESPC survey results found that clients are often not feeling updated, and would rather not have to chase their solicitors. However, the client login is not a replacement for letters and emails, but another way for sharing in user friendly way. And it is also a good selling point for getting brand out there.’

It seems that transparency and communication is vital for good relationships between clients and their solicitors, and keeping your clients happy will lead to repeated business and referrals. Therefore, keeping on top of new technology and industry changes could offer a more communicative way of conveyancing.