There is an accepted understanding among professionals within the UK housing market that conveyancers have in the past been at least reticent, and at most opposed, to adopting new technology or workplace automation. You can understand their position, how many times have conveyancers been told that new proptech would be “game-changing”, only to see it over-promise and under-deliver. The term is over-used and the profession is tired of hearing it. Couple that with the genuine fear of the possibility of employees being replaced or firms being put out of business as a result of widespread “game-changing” technology adoption and you begin to really empathise with conveyancers' position.
That being said, we seem to be at the start of a change in mindset and it’s gaining momentum.
In recent years, certain benefits of new technology and workplace automation have gained recognition even within the legal profession. Such benefits as reducing the burden of laborious admin tasks, and reducing the risk of error. If technology could be the panacea to solving just some of these problems then surely conveyancing would be on to a winner? Things have moved so quickly recently that even the legal sector’s mindset on new technology has started to shift, so much so that ‘automation’ was beaten to the top spot in 2021’s Legal IT Landscapes report by ‘hot efficiency technology’.
So, we put the question to conveyancers in our Working Better Together survey, to bust the anti-technology and anti-automation myth once and for all.
Bringing simplicity to a world of complexity
The conveyancing profession has notoriously been the victim of process overload, and those seem to be getting more complex and difficult to navigate as the years go by. It comes as no surprise that when we asked conveyancers if they could pick one thing, and one thing only, to ‘make their jobs easier’, they overwhelmingly (34%) chose ‘simpler processes’. That figure is even higher for those having spent less than 10 years in the industry with as many as 1 in 2 conveyancers wanting ‘simpler processes’.
There were two processes in particular that conveyancers cited as the reason for these figures. Firstly, the sporadic and time-consuming way in which enquiries are raised and responded to, and secondly, the way in which searches are ordered and the time for those results to be returned. Could technology streamline these processes or could automating certain elements bring simplicity to the situation?
There is already a desire for (limited) automation
Contrary to popular belief, there already appears to be some desire among conveyancers for automation of some tasks. Throughout the duration of a property transaction, there are a number of tasks that conveyancers must complete that fall into the category of admin that has to be done, but no one enjoys doing. Some of those include, but are not limited to, providing quotes, taking money on account, issuing new client paperwork, chasing for Memorandum of Sale, chasing contract packs, uploading returned docs etc. So when we asked conveyancers if they could improve just one aspect of the current transaction process, unsurprisingly just over 1 in 4 conveyancers said they would be ‘Automating administrative tasks that don't bring value but have to be done’ ahead of anything else in the process.
This desire to automate certain tasks is evident across the tenure spectrum of conveyancers, from those with less than five years experience right across to those having spent more than 15 years in the profession. The group who felt most strongly about this was conveyancers who had been in the profession for 10 years or less, with 1 in 4 ranking it as their top priority to improve the current transaction process. If new technology was able to successfully automate certain admin tasks then it would certainly save conveyancers time in order to focus on the work that would add value.
The less time spent in the profession, the greater the desire for better technology
The push for new technology in the conveyancing profession appears to come mainly from those with less than 15 years experience. When posited the question in our survey ‘what’s the one thing that would make your job easier' better technology was the second highest priority for conveyancers (24%) in these tenure brackets. Only beaten by simpler processes that we’ve explored already.
Technology has already been a force for good
Finally, so far we’ve been focusing on the aspirational, asking about the changes conveyancers would like to see in future within their profession and the property transaction process, however, there is evidence within our survey to suggest that technology is already having a positive impact. Namely in the relationship between conveyancers and estate agents.
When asked whether technology had had a positive impact on the relationship between conveyancers and estate agents, 61% of conveyancers agreed. Nearly 2 in 3 of those conveyancers surveyed have already seen or experienced first-hand the positive benefits that good technology can have in their working relationship with estate agents.
Conveyancers against automation and technology - myth busted?
So where does this leave us, have we busted the myth that conveyancers are reticent to adopting new technology in the workplace? Based on the results of our Working Better Together survey it would suggest that the preconception is wide of the mark, particularly around automating some aspects of conveyancers' day-to-day. If done in a limited, targeted and thoughtful manner while focusing on automating those valueless admin tasks and using technology to simplify complex processes, then there’s no reason not to see more mindset shifting and further adoption within the conveyancing profession in future.
Want to know how estate agents felt about automation and technology? Or want to see what else conveyancers had to say about their relationship with estate agents?