Brownlie v Four Seasons Group
The Law Society have revealed plans to create an online conveyancing portal, with aims to have the portal live by 2014. All parties to a transaction, solicitors, clients, estate agents, lenders etc, will be able to log on to a communal portal where all the documents relevant to a residential transaction can be viewed.
The Law Society hopes that the Portal will streamline the conveyancing process, make communications between all parties easier, assist firms with compliance and risk obligations, and make conveyancing greener, quicker, and more in tune with the 21st century. A similar scheme was underway by the Land Registry as part of their overhaul of the Land Registration process, but this was abandoned in 2009 at the cost of £15m. The Law Society Portal also carries a “huge cost” which is likely to be covered by subscription fees by law firms, and solicitors and conveyancers not accredited under the Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme must be vetted before being able to use it.
Green, quick and up to date all sounds good but will an online portal really encourage better communication, apparently the biggest complaint currently received by the Conveyancing Association, between conveyancers and their clients? As a newly qualified lawyer I know I should be embracing these new developments while more senior members of the profession mutter under their breath about ‘technology’ and ‘my day’ but I am uneasy about the suggestion that an online portal and easy access to documents will increase any genuine sense of communication between client and lawyer. One of the things I quickly learnt during my training is the importance of picking up the telephone. I am confident that a quick chat on the telephone offers more comfort to a residential client than the ability to view the latest version of the contract.
Of course, the Law Society’s Portal is mainly aimed at the high street conveyancers concentrating solely on residential conveyancing at extremely competitive fees and streamlining the process for relatively straightforward and low value residential transactions is a commercial inevitability. Equally, it can only be a good thing to try and pull back from our dependence on paper, and use technology more intelligently, to deliver a quicker and less cumbersome service to the client. But helping the residential property world move forward does not have to be at the cost of human interaction, individual relationships, and genuine communication. For all the straightforward residential transactions that take place, there are slightly odd ball, surprising and more complicated transactions and arguably what the client needs is a lawyer who is not only environmentally friendly, technologically savvy, and efficient but also more than capable of picking up the telephone.
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