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clever thinking, simple solutions. Innovative technology for the legal industry.

March 2020

Welcome There’s nothing quite like grabbing your favourite drink and curling up with a good book – or in this case a Modern Law supplement! And this is a terrific Modern Law supplement to get your teeth into. Produced in conjunction with poweredbypie, it provides an innovative insight into this dynamic company and some of the excellent people who make it tick. Independent thought-leadership legal professionals give their views on the conveyancing sector – and there’s endorsements from clients who’ve benefitted from poweredbypie’s excellent products, services and expertise. The company’s mantra is ‘clever thinking, simple solutions’ designed to help its clients move forward in-line with a changing legal-tech world – and has positioned the company as a market leader in providing solutions for conducting property searches, in addition to developing technical solutions tailored to the needs of the conveyancing industry. Over 3 million individual transactions are processed each year using poweredbypie’s IT systems. And, by looking at things differently, the company’s goal is to be the number one supplier of technology to the property market.

We kick off this supplement by chatting to The Two Carole’s – Carole Marsden (Chief Commercial Officer) and Carole Ankers (Chief Product & Technology Officer) – about the biggest challenges and opportunities for conveyancers and how advancements in AI and machine learning will enhance the customer experience. And there’s so much more, so either checkout the contents below and pick your article – or simply get comfortable and read it from cover to cover!

Pete Ward Editor Modern Law Magazine pete@charltongrant.co.uk

Contents 4

Interview: Carole Marsden Carole Marsden, Chief Commercial Officer, poweredbypie, discusses challenges and opportunities for conveyancers in 2020 and beyond.


Interview: Carole Ankers Carole Ankers, Chief Product & Technology Officer, poweredbypie considers how AI can enhance the customer experience and the importance of data in adapting to consumer behaviour patterns.


Interview: Julie Davis Julie Davis, Head of Residential, LCF Residential, provides insight into the role of technology in conveyancing, including how it can help the key major stakeholders of the home buying process collaborate better.

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Interview: Angelo Piccirillo Angelo Piccirillo, Partner and Co-founder of AVRillo, talks about some key issues facing conveyancers today, including the biggest dangers facing the UK conveyancing market in the next five years, and how technology can consolidate the market in the future. Case Study: McKeag & Co. – Regulated local searches Chris Thomson, Partner, McKeag & Co., tells us how he and his team have benefitted from using poweredbypie’s search solutions, ordered through the Brighter Law Suite. 10 Minutes with… Craig Matthews, Chair of the Legal Software Suppliers Association (LSSA) Feature: Why Document Portal is set to become a game changer for law firms Marina Tchechmedjieva, Product Manager, poweredbypie, explains the development process of the new poweredbypie solution for legal firms to enable the

secure electronic exchange of all documentation within the conveyancing process.






Roundtable discussion: Technology’s role in retaining and growing business for your legal firm In February 2020, poweredbypie, in conjunction with Modern Law Magazine, hosted a roundtable discussion in Leeds. Modern Law’s editor, Pete Ward, reports on the key talking points. Feature: Growing Revenues with Brighter Law Andy Stradling, Regional Sales Manager, poweredbypie, describes how law firms can benefit from using Brighter Law, a comprehensive suite of services from poweredbypie to help them generate compliant, instant quotes from their website. Interview: Tony O’Reilly Tony O’Reilly, SaaS Regional Sales Manager. poweredbypie, talks about the implications of compliance, transparency of fees and the role of legal tech in the conveyancing sector. Interview: Craig Matthews Craig Matthews, Chair of the Legal Software Suppliers Association (LSSA), writes about why you should consider using an LSSA member company when choosing new legal software. Case Study: David & Snape – Anti-money laundering Ryan David, Partner, David & Snape, explains how his firm uses poweredbypie’s swift and efficient search ordering reports for property transactions, and its ‘Brighter Estimates’ intelligent solution so customers can obtain quotes through the firm’s website.

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Interview with... CAROLE MARSDEN Chief Commercial Officer at poweredbypie

Carole Marsden has extensive experience in the legal, finance and property data marketplace. She is a passionate and highly motivated leader with expertise across sales, marketing, operations, customer service and product development. She has an extensive track record of initiating and driving change and has achieved outstanding business growth throughout her career.


What are the biggest challenges and/or opportunities for conveyancers for 2020 and beyond?


To quote Bill Gates: “We always overestimate the change that will happen in the next two years and greatly underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten”. This feels relevant to the Legal Services sector right now. There are many papers, groups and forums all discussing the future of conveyancing, as well as many reference initiatives around property reservations and how technology can support change. Ultimately, they are all looking for ways we can expedite and improve the house buying/selling process. A real challenge/opportunity around this lies with how consumers judge the service they receive. Legal Services aren’t just reviewed against other Legal Services, they are up against other digital services too. Expectations have shifted, with words like ‘Uberisation’ of the Legal Market being banded around, and the industry waiting with bated breath for a great disruptor to appear. In my

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view, we don’t need to wait for this great disruptor. We understand what needs to change, and by embracing some of the simple improvements now we can deliver what the consumer wants, and the legal profession can focus on delivering great customer service.


Technology and people – how can software help support workflows and compliment the work done by people in conveyancing firms?


I think the key here is that some firms aim to be ‘technology enabled’, and some are looking at how they can become ‘technology led’. For many, technology helps them to be more effective and deliver improved service, whereas others use technology to streamline process and reduce overheads. The most important factor is the value the conveyancer adds, their expert opinion and guidance. This can be supported with the right technology – not replaced.


Where do you see technology adding value and strengthening Conveyancers’ relationships with their clients?


Tools around improving communication are adding significant value in this area. Secure portals with two-factor authentication enable clients and their customers to receive instant quotes, accept them, and to sign documents. Moving away from traditional postal dialogue, or overloading email conversations is a real step forward in building customer relationships.

“Secure portals with two-factor authentication enable clients and their customers to receive instant quotes, accept them, and to sign documents.” Carole Marsden


Chief Product & Technology Officer at poweredbypie Carole Ankers is an experienced board level manager with principal accountabilities in product development and delivery. Passionate about the customer experience with a proven track record in developing solutions and leading teams to deliver real value to end users as soon as possible. She strives to work with, and to build teams that foster a culture of collaboration, challenge, innovation and a strong desire to ‘get the job done’.


How will advancements in AI and machine learning enhance the customer experience?


Today, artificial intelligence (AI) is beginning to transform the legal profession in many ways, but mostly it supports what Solicitors do and frees them up to take on higher-level tasks such as advising clients and focussing on due diligence. AI-powered software can improve areas – such as document analysis – and we are seeing this technology start to review documents and flag them as relevant to a specific matter. We know that machines are much faster at sorting through documents, and they can help reduce the load on the solicitor by forwarding on only documents that are questionable, rather than the need to review all documents. At poweredbypie we have started to do some research in this area, to validate how we can identify and share only relevant matter information. Our early engagement programme helps us understand the value, and is where we can share

these ideas and get feedback before we move into development.


Even with the most efficient technology, firms will remain vulnerable to cybercrime if they don’t invest in staff and training – why do you think this remains a consideration rather than a necessity to many firms?


According to Deloitte, they report that by 2020, law firms will be faced with a “tipping point” for a new talent strategy. Now is the time for all law firms to embrace a growth mindset, and to understand that technology needs to go hand in hand with training the users of the technology. We are continuing to see a significant increase in the amount of data and information exchanged online relating to legal matters and clients, requiring greater reliance on IT infrastructure and cyber security.


How important is data as a means of adapting to consumer behaviour patterns?


We can see changes in consumer behaviour in how they select legal products and services. More consumers will use recommendations, whether this comes from someone in the chain, the estate agent, or they start to research online for trusted advice from peers, culture and media. There is a growing expectation by clients of increased speed, ability to communicate and transact in the way they do with other digital products via mobile devices.

“There is a growing expectation by clients of increased speed, ability to communicate and transact in the way they do with other digital products via mobile devices.” Carole Ankers

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Interview with... JULIE DAVIS

Head of Residential, LCF Residential Limited Julie Davis spoke to Modern Law Magazine about the growing role technology is having in law firms and the benefits it brings.





When considering investment in technology what are law firms actually looking for? LCF evaluates its technology investment based on seven key questions – Is something going to break if we do not invest; Does our technology meet our clients’ requirement; Is this required to comply with regulation or compliance; Can this investment lead to a cost saving or generate revenue and does it link to the firm’s strategy? The answers to these questions allow the firm to prioritise its investment and IT project portfolio.

With today’s home buyers more tech aware – what impact is that having on expected delivery of service? We are looking at ways to digitise our service and provide a service outside of core business hours. We need technology to help solve these service issues as increasingly clients and other related parties expect an “Amazon” immediate response to all their communications.

What are the major irritants in the industry that technology could help solve?

One of the ways we are managing expectations is through the introduction of an online portal and client App which is linked to our case management system. The online portal technology allows us to deliver a great customer experience from the initial touchpoint to throughout the transaction, providing a level of service today’s digital home buyers expect.

I believe we are facing a shift in expectation from both client and staff on what technology should and could do. In addition to doing the simple things really well, technology has the potential to help remove administration burdens, assist with compliance and improve efficiency.

We can use this system to not only update our clients, but also any third party involved with the transaction such as estate agents, brokers etc. We find it particularly useful when a client requests that we update another member of their family. For example, if we are acting for an elderly person who wants their


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“technology has the potential to help remove administration burdens, assist with compliance and improve efficiency.” Julie Davis children kept up to date, it saves on sending out duplicate paper work, which is time consuming and has a cost impact. Securing the client at the outset is key to any law firm and we also use the same online platform to provide online quotes to clients visiting our website and any telephone enquiries for quotes we receive. The client App also proactively updates the client whilst they are on the go.


Can technology give law firms the competitive edge?

Technology has disrupted most industries and legal will be no exception. As a firm, we have taken

“Today’s tech-aware consumers expect the same level of experience with a law firm that they receive from other brands they use on a regular basis.” Julie Davis

the decision to review our current IT infrastructure. Across the firm we have invested in outsourcing to Cloud computing, AI and digital employee’s to provide a competitive edge as well as using anywhere, anytime computing to attract and retain the best talent. This will also allow our in-house IT team to concentrate on procedure enhancements as well as making changes proactively to reflect changes in the conveyancing process, which seem to change now on a near weekly basis!


Will technology improve or detract from the human interaction part of the process?


Human interaction will always be key as people want to speak to people, and keeping the client updated is paramount. However, technology can improve the human interaction if it is designed properly – equally if it is done incorrectly or with little understanding then it will likely detract. It is not the technology, it is how it is implemented that will be key. Today’s tech-aware consumers expect the same level of experience with a law firm that they receive from other brands they use on a regular basis. The client App allows

us to connect with our customers in a digital format that they prefer and that is more convenient to them. Human interaction is made easy through mobile technology.


How could technology help the key major stakeholders of the home buying process collaborate better?


A lot of information is still moved around via Word documents, forms and email. A platform that allows data to pass between all entities and then execute via a blockchain contract seems to be an obvious direction of travel. In practice though it may never happen, or if it does, it might take some time for all in the chain to get to this point. Having “all parties buying into such a system” would rely on all parties involved - to update the system during a transaction. We still come across solicitors and third parties that not only do not have email, but also will not accept large documents by emailinsisting instead on paper versions. By using our online platform, it allows us to easily communicate with all parties involved, which enables us to speed up the transaction process,

save a lot of time and focus on implementing our areas of expertise instead of administrative tasks. Currently we do not correspond with other solicitors on this platform, but there is nothing to stop us doing so in the future. It’s just a matter of take up by other solicitors.


Will technology make the compliance elements of the process easier?


This is an oxymoron – technology should help. However, with technology moving so fast we expect more regulation e.g. the SRA stating that we have to explain how AI makes decisions. Equally, technology can help but people are still involved in the process and we need experts that understand the legal transaction, as well as the technology that is in use.


Is technology driving change in the conveyancing industry?

Yes. Although the speed and efficiently of which is determined by the importance law firms place on and their attitude to technology and change.

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Collaboration, technology – and people Interview with... ANGELO PICCIRILLO

Partner and co-founder of AVRillo Launched in 1998, AVRillo has grown into a multi-awardwinning conveyancer. Strong values are a common trait in this family business which led to a switch from a business centred around paper to one centred on people. Angelo Piccirillo is partner and co-founder of AVRillo and here he talks to Modern Law about some key issues facing conveyancers today. What can the UK legal Q market learn from other legal jurisdictions outside of the UK? Having lawyer friends in the A United States and Italy, plus observing for years what happens

across the EU, I don’t think we have any specific lessons to learn from other jurisdictions as all the answers are here – or should I say, the questions that need answering and the lessons that need learning are within our own remit. The UK market sort of works but it is hampered by the way people approach it. So I would say that all the lessons are in the UK. What it needs is for conveyancers to put their heads together, pick up the phone more, don’t hide away behind their gatekeepers, and collaborate more to solve the problems that despite legal-tech innovations In the UK, completion can still take between four to five months. And the longer the transaction goes on the more chance there is of the case falling through. And the average conveyancing fall-through rates in the UK are between 33 to 37 percent. People buy properties or move house

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for many different reasons, and spend months finding the right property at the right price in the right location – but once that decision’s made they see it as theirs. Then three or four months down the line, dreams can be shattered when it falls through and they have to start all over again. That’s not counting the financial cost of lost legal and other fees, plus possibly pay thousands more, months down the line, for a replacement property when prices have gone up in the market. A huge cost therefore both emotionally and financially. It’s a big problem and it needs to change.

“To me, one of the biggest danger facing UK conveyancing is the largest firms continually buying up smaller firms.” Angelo Piccirillo except maybe for foreign buyers depending on whether the pound goes down or up. But otherwise the conveyancing market will remain largely untouched by Brexit.

impact will Brexit have on Q What the UK conveyancing market? In the build-up last year, nobody What are the biggest dangers A was exactly sure what to do and Q facing the UK conveyancing how the market would react. Since market in the next five years? the decision’s been made and we’re out, or on the way out, there has been some improvement. We deal with estate agents around the country and we have seen a pick-up, not massive, but the mood is better. And as mood is largely dictated by people and the media, there’s been no negative trickle-down to the property market. I think Brexit’s impact will be minimal,

To me, one of the biggest A dangers facing UK conveyancing is the largest firms buying up smaller

firms, with big budgets to invest in more advance tech. There are predictions that in the next five years all the conveyancing work will be handled by around 25 percent of larger firms, while others will struggle

“Embracing technology and embracing change leads to firms being able to offer employees a better work-life balance, and that’s becoming increasingly important to those younger lawyers entering the legal sector and highly skilled working mums who want to come back in.” Angelo Piccirillo

with reducing profits, not only cheaper fees from some of the large scale firms, but also from more time being spent on juggling legal work, the hours of additional obligations and compliance regulations as well as with the demands of an increasingly tech-savvy and more demanding modern consumer. Another aspect that’s always debated at conveyancing conferences and events, is technology. And one danger I foresee is the huge underinvestment from firms in legal tech. Many are still doing things manually, whereas to speed up the transaction firms need to let technology handle more of the more routine aspects of conveyancing which, as well as speeding up the process frees up busy fee earners to do more proactive work. So, as a partner, I spend almost half my time helping to developing new IT systems. But to make tech work there’s an investment required that not all firms can afford. We’ve taken a partner view that a little less profit in the pocket can go into investing in making the business secure, slicker and more efficient in a difficult market.

Cybercrime is without Q question on the rise and so is the capabilities of the attackers

themselves – how can conveyancers become more aware of the threats, and how should they prepare for the inevitable risk in the future?

Cybercrime is a massive risk – and A the UK is the money laundering capital of the world – but all we can do as conveyancers is strictly comply with what the guidance says, and be extra vigilant. We warn clients not to be too trusting, look out for fake, but plausible email requests to send money to a false account. Our emails have a massive footer with guidance for customers, warning against giving bank details, the dangers of phishing emails and the fact that we will never change our bank details. We send out leaflets, we send out warnings, so our customers understand exactly what they mustn’t do. But phishing and email hacking is known to be one of the biggest sources of claims made against conveyancing firms.

Another problem for lawyers is available time. Clients are increasingly more demanding. Keeping up with compliance demands more time.

And then there’s AML checks, source of wealth, source of funds, fraud checks and all the other cybercrime issues. But there’s no short cut where cybercrime is concerned. So, a safe and cost-effective route for dealing with cybercrime, that allows a lawyer to focus on doing what they were trained and are paid to do, is to outsource to an expert partner. This ensures that up-to-date security is in place protecting both the client and the firm against increasingly sophisticated criminal activity. Where cybercrime is involved, whatever form it takes, the onus falls on firms to educate customers to the dangers, while also doing everything in their power to prevent it happening to the firm. Buying a property isn’t a regular occurrence, like doing a weekly shop or even buying a car, and it’s probably the largest single transaction a person will undertake. So, with all the threats from cybercrime it is incumbent on the firm to educate its customers. From the very first contact, it’s essential to communicate through every channel possible to educate customers to the dangers.

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Continued... ANGELO PICCIRILLO What impact will AI technologies Q have on the UK legal conveyancing process? I’m a great believer in trying to A make things as easy as possible for everybody. We need to make it

easy for customers who, obviously, want a quick and efficient transaction. Also, we need to make it easier for our employees as they work extremely hard both upfront with clients and in the back office doing the important admin work. So AI, in its broadest sense, will have a massive impact in our industry. We’re looking at aspects of AI to read and extract clauses in leases, some of which are hundreds of pages long, and so we can eliminate the possibility of human error when ploughing through those documents. We’ve introduced live-chat onto our system and we’re developing a bot that takes a super-approach to frequently asked questions and, using machine learning, will develop into being able to answer questions in whichever different ways they may be asked and provide concise and comprehensive answers. Currently, many tasks require a lawyer to spend time doing routine jobs rather than working towards a speedy conclusion to the conveyance. Lawyers need to be released from the routine tasks to deal with the more complex issues that can arise and where their skills are best deployed. “It would be like expecting your conveyancer to do all the tasks of a surgeon but also do the rest, surgical assistant, surgical  technologist, nurse, radiographer and anaesthetist.”

How can the industry collaborate Q better to counteract future dangers affecting the industry?

This is a tricky one, because at the A day-to-day level the various parties involved could easily collaborate better if they weren’t all at odds with each other! Conveyancing is competitive and therefore can be very combative and result in ‘points scoring’ between those working on behalf of the seller and buyer. As a firm we try everything we can to avoid what we call the

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‘hamster wheel’, where our lawyers and staff spend so much time going round and round and not getting anywhere because they’re dealing with unnecessary sticking points and hold-ups. We have a system where at five weeks, if additional enquiries are not completed, we instigate a conference call between the parties working on behalf of the seller and buyer, not to argue but to discuss and resolve outstanding issues, which can sometimes involve both clients in the conference call. We find that in those circumstances, where delays and disputes occur, this system works because no one can hide. So it’s a basic, but very effective, way of collaboration that has helped to solve any number of sticking points in the transaction. And the customer benefits from a speedier completion and is less likely to be a victim the 33 to 37 percent of transactions that fall through.

What impact will technology Q have on the people currently employed in the conveyancing industry and potential future employees?

The impact of technology will A be massive, and for the best. People will still be needed, but doing

the right jobs. Yes, there will be an adjustment, but lawyers aren’t going to be made redundant by technology. Indeed, there’s a shortage of good lawyers and if we as an industry use technology properly then lawyers, can do the work they’re supposed to do and cut the completion times from four months, and some surveys say five months. And as I said before, once it gets to five weeks everyone in the chain should know exactly what that transaction’s about, it’s not as if we have to reinvent the wheel for every conveyance. Embracing technology and embracing change also leads to firms being able to offer employees a better worklife balance, and that’s becoming increasingly important to those younger lawyers entering the legal sector and highly skilled working mums who want to come back in. As

our firm has grown and adapted to change, one reality is that our more senior people are the ones most averse to change, at least initially. It may sound like a stereotype but once I explain to them how it will free them from the mundane tasks and enable them to take on more meaningful legal work rather than facing redundancy, it usually has the desired motivational effect.

Will technology consolidate Q the market in the future – as consumers demand even better levels of tech savvy products?

Without doubt consumers will A demand more but some lawyers are still in the Middle Ages where tech’s concerned. Standing still is falling behind with ever innovative digital changes. But technology will definitely help consolidate the market. For example, consumers want to be more informed and the Land Registry is very keen for firms to integrate with them. All solvable by legal-tech innovations.

I spend a lot of time finding third-party software to integrate with, and if it’s not available I have a team of coders who will develop it from scratch. A large portion of our budget is spent on IT and that’s by choice rather than necessity. We want to ensure clients get the very best experience which means we have to stay ahead of the game. We want to be a growing, thriving business in five years’ time, and beyond. And using technology to its fullest advantage is key to achieving that. Not only that, we want to play our part in changing the industry. As a business were are very keen to help break down the final barriers that exist in conveyancing and we give talks around the country promoting the fact that technology can help consolidate the market. So let’s not be restricted in our thinking. Let’s not be suspicious of each other. There’s more than enough work to go around if we don’t lose it to the 25 percent. So, as firms, estate agents, banks and lenders all embrace and share technology that can only help to break down the remaining barriers to efficiency and strengthen the conveyancing sector.

Case study Regulated local searches CHRIS THOMSON Partner at McKeag & Co

McKeag & Co is a mid-sized High Street firm of 50 staff based in Newcastle upon Tyne, which has provided a range of legal services – including conveyancing – to clients throughout the North East for over 80 years. Partner, Chris Thomson, heads up the seven-strong conveyancing team dealing exclusively with conveyancing matters, for both local and long distance clients.

Chris Thomson has overseen the growth of McKeag & Co’s residential conveyancing team over the past decade, and became a partner in 2016. Chris and his team have used poweredbypie’s search solutions, ordered through the Brighter Law Suite since 2014. Chris confirms: “We resisted using regulated local searches for a long time as we saw others coming through which just didn’t contain the required information. Many said ‘information not available, please rely on indemnity’, which is just not how we do business. “However, poweredbypie’s regulated local searches are different. I had known Shaun Cannell, Brighter Partner of Brighter Law Solutions, for many years and trusted him to introduce us to poweredbypie, and show us how accurate the searches are. The process is simple: we log-in, generate an address with the smart address search function, and the boundary mapping tool ensures that information is accurate and property specific. With as little as a street name, we can get the Land Registry property boundary and the size of the site; it takes about 30 seconds to place an order from start to finish. When the searches are returned, which for environmental and flood can be in just a few hours,

they contain full and accurate information, plus they are all CoPSO and PCCB compliant. “We have never had an issue with the turnaround time. Occasionally, a local authority may be experiencing resourcing issues and so there could be a delay but we are always kept informed and so we can keep our clients in the loop. A few years ago, five local authorities came together in Northumberland and this led to searches being delayed for between 30-40 days, it was the same for everyone – but poweredbypie kept us informed so we could manage our clients’ expectations intelligently.

“The system really is very simple – everyone can use it! The technology is designed for purpose and backed up by poweredbypie’s friendly and helpful team who are always a pleasure to deal with.”

“One of the attractions is that the search packs are cost effective. Prices are also consistent nationally. This means that I can provide a quote for someone moving house locally and it doesn’t matter whereabouts they are based in the North East, the price for the searches is always the same. Likewise, an estate agent all the way down in Essex can refer a client to us and the price will remain the same too.

Chris Thomson

“We order the search packs through the Brighter Law Suite, which we also use for all our client quotes. The system integrates with our website

and I can provide a branded quote with minimal details in just a few minutes, freeing up time for billable work. We can track quotes through the system and follow-up any that don’t initially generate instructions. The system really is very simple – everyone can use it! The technology is designed for purpose and backed up by poweredbypie’s friendly and helpful team who are always a pleasure to deal with. As an organisation, McKeag & Co has been pleased to make the move to poweredbypie and its Brighter Law Suite.”

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10 minutes with... CRAIG MATTHEWS

Chair of the Legal Software Suppliers Association (LSSA)


Has the industry changed drastically since you started working in it?


The industry has changed drastically since I began to work in legal tech over 20 years ago. Gone are the days of local server installations, hardware and network related performance issues and here are the days of cloud first solutions. With the adoption of apps across Windows, iOS and Android, I’ve seen things come full circle. We had client installed software come and go as we all moved to browsers, and now we’re back to wanting “apps for that”.

Bezos. These guys have collectively not only changed the way we use technology but the way we live our lives.  Watching my young son grow up is really inspiring. Seeing how he interacts with tech, with tablets, phones and laptops and how he can’t work out why Mummy and Daddy don’t want him banging the big TV – he has an expectation that every screen should be a touch screen. Seeing his mind develop in this super connected, voice activated, AI world we inhabit inspires me every day.





What has been the key positive, or negative, impact of change in your area of the market? It’s most certainly the cloud. The ability to access critical data from anywhere in the world instantly, through any device is a major game changer. The reluctance to use tech has gradually faded and been replaced with a desire to use tech more efficiently and effectively. Firms in general have a different, fresh attitude towards embracing technology and are using it to gain efficiencies and enhance their customers’ experience. The way firms have embraced technology to improve their client relationship is excellent and it’s a real pleasure to be involved in this type of work. Collectively pushing technology to improve services is so rewarding.


Who inspires/has inspired you and why?

There are host of uber famous “techies” that spring to mind. Pioneers such as Bill Gates or Steve Jobs or the current crop with Elon Musk and Jack Ma. You could even throw in Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff

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What has been the most valuable piece of advice given to you? I have two that are neck and neck, and I encourage the team at Practice to live and die by these. 1) Only change one thing at a time. It might seem simple but it’s a mantra I live by. It’s invaluable in problem solving but I actually use it in every area of my life. By only changing one thing at a time you can measure the success of that change. Making multiple changes means you don’t really know what change worked or what made it worse. 2) Version 1. Whilst this stands true in development terms, think “minimum viable product” it’s also true for everything else. You can’t improve things until you get a version one. So, get a version one and expect version two to be better and subsequent versions to be better still. Don’t wait until you think it’s perfect. Get version one out, share it, get some feedback, collaborate and get working on version two, and three and so on…  Most of what we do is iterative so the sooner you start the sooner you can improve!

“The way firms have embraced technology to improve their client relationship is excellent and it’s a real pleasure to be involved in this type of work.” Craig Matthews


If you were not in your current position, what would you be doing?


Probably working in a bike shop. When I started my career in law I worked in a bike shop at weekends because I really enjoyed working with and fixing push bikes, not to mention riding them. I was offered the chance to manage the bike shop permanently but opted to go into tech. I still spend time tinkering with bikes. The thing I really like about this manual pursuit is that if I put my bike away with a flat tyre or a broken chain, when I take it back out of the shed it will still have a flat tyre or a broken chain. It’s nice to have a hobby that requires manual and accountable intervention. It keeps me grounded and whilst my hands are working it frees up my mind to think about what’s next for Pracctice, Osprey Approach and the LSSA.

Why Document Portal is set to become a game changer for law firms MARINA TCHECHMEDJIEVA

Product Manager at poweredbypie Marina Tchechmedjieva is product manager at poweredbypie. With many years’ experience in product development, Marina works with poweredbypie’s development team to create practical, real-world solutions for law firms to solve common issues and enhance workflows.


Tell Us About Document Portal

poweredbypie has developed Document Portal, a new solution for legal firms to enable the secure electronic exchange of all documentation within the conveyancing process. By removing the need to ‘print and post’, Document Portal offers a simple, secure solution to speed-up the exchange of documentation between solicitors and clients.


Why has Document Portal been developed?

Gone are the days when being the only law firm on the high street meant you would naturally get the work! Because of the growth of internet presence across all industries, homebuyers are now able to select a law firm for conveyancing purposes easier than ever before. Interestingly, we see that homebuyers are not just choosing a law firm based on price, but also on how convenient interaction and the transaction will be for them.

These days, customers can buy expensive consumer items online and have them delivered the next day with just one click. For this reason, homebuyers are driving change by altering their buying habits. Similarly, when booking things such as medical or dental appointments, clinics will have an online portal to book, add information, and check your history. These kinds of processes are everyday activities for consumers now. Closer to our own industry, online forms for mortgage approval and interactive quotes are the start of the conveyancing journey. This sets the scene and the expectation for that journey to continue in the same techy manner. In the future, it is likely that consumers will choose to use the law firms that offer an app or secure document portal to communicate, because electronic communication is familiar, everyday and natural to them.

Insight from our own legal clients using Brighter Law showed us that there are delays in the conveyancing chain with client care pack returns - many were going back to post for document delivery, fearing email’s lack of safety. We knew there was technology which could help, it was just about finding a way to make this readily available to our clients, and so we began the development

“Law firms can create a document portfolio which includes intuitive, editable forms and a digital signature facility provided by the leading eSignature brand DocuSign.” Marina Tchechmedjieva

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Why Document Portal is set to become a game changer for law firms

Continued... of Document Portal. The result is a secure, digital way to speed up document exchange using online communication that homebuyers are familiar with.


What is the process of developing a new solution such as this?


Our founder had a vision of a paperless conveyancing transaction which was simple, digital and secure. That became our goal. It took time to break the vision down into bite sized pieces, but eventually we came up with a demo and took it to three clients. We took stock of their feedback and got to redesigning. Along the way we kept gathering more feedback from our clients in user focus groups and round tables. We’ve also established an Early Engagement Programme. We are now confident it addresses the needs of simple, secure and rapid communication between homebuyers and law firms. One of our first beta clients recently confirmed that a homebuyer had just registered for Document Portal for a new property transaction. They got the client care pack, opened the documents, signed and returned

“However, in the world of law, innovation and tech is scrutinised for a lot longer. Wet signatures, even though they’re more easily forged than digital ones, are still seen as more valid.” Marina Tchechmedjieva

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them securely within two hours! With this communication typically taking a week or more through the post, we can see how to make the often stressful - process of buying a new home much more convenient for customers, giving law firms a real competitive edge and saving time throughout the workflow of the transaction.


Why is poweredbypie well placed to develop such innovative solutions?


Our developers have many years of experience in this industry, giving them a really good understanding of clients’ needs, and the context of the problems they are solving. This makes communication with the development team simple and keeps users 100% front of mind when developing new products. Our combined industry knowledge and experience - gathered by working with our stakeholders internally and also the hundreds of clients who use our systems - make our teams well placed to develop and deliver the next generation of solutions for law firms.


How much involvement do real customers have in the development?


Document Portal has gone through several iterations of build, demo, learn, build, demo, learn. We have demonstrated to clients many times, and worked their feedback into the design until a good minimum product was developed. We then took this to real users across several companies and conducted a beta trial. Completion of the beta test will enable us to iron out any minor pain-points experienced during the final testing. The feedback will also guide the next features which the users identified would be of most benefit to them.


What are the main features and benefits of Document Portal?

Document Portal is both simple to use and to set-up. We try and make life easy for law firms! The solution takes care of all the technology needed to supply a secure two factor authentication protected communication portal – an approved secure alternative to email communications - for electronic document exchange, removing the delays associated with paper-based legal forms and mitigating the risks posed by email. Law firms can create a document portfolio which includes intuitive, editable forms and a digital signature facility provided by the leading eSignature brand DocuSign. Not only does this provide a secure, streamlined environment for client data only for those with authorised access, it also highlights to the client exactly what information needs to be filled-in; first time, every time, reducing errors and speeding up the process of document exchange. White label branding means that the end customer has a seamless experience of your brand: from getting a quote in Brighter Estimates, to eSigning in Document Portal. The overall faster conveyancing process with real time notifications leads to happier clients who are more likely to recommend your services. We’ll also setup your docs for you. Your docs will be linked to your Brighter Law case instantly, including the completed customer signed ones. Some data from the case is also prepopulated. We have spent the time and investment into the DocuSign integration so that you don’t have to.

“Our developers have many years of experience in this industry, giving them a really good understanding of clients’ needs, and the context of the problems they are solving.” Marina Tchechmedjieva


How will this solution change the workflows of legal practitioners and their clients?


We believe Document Portal is set to be a game changer for law firms. Through Brighter Law, it is now possible to provide and convert quotes, accept the instruction process and share all of the necessary documents securely within the same solution: not through Outlook, not through the printer and post room, not even though logging into another product designed for this purpose. It’s a simple, secure, and streamlined approach to manage client interaction and transactions, which will free-up time for professionals to work on more complex legal tasks.


How significant do you think it will become in the industry?

I think this is the only way the industry can go. There is no way back to email and post. More and more of the workflows and interactions will be moved into products like these, which manage the communications and information exchange between parties, securely and with an audit trail. The more data we digitise, the more automation we can build into our processes.

easily forged than digital ones, are still seen as more valid. Post is seen as secure and more official. It takes time to change. However, consumers are now used to working digitally. They require instant communication and in a way that suits them. They are comfortable with using two factor authentications for banking and even email, Facebook and Google accounts for example, and so almost ‘expect’ this from any organisation using a portal containing personal information. This includes law firms. Consumers are now driving the need to change.


Do you think only the most forward thinking of legal firms are ready to embrace new technology like this or is it relevant for all?


The most forward-thinking firms will certainly be the early adopters of any new technology. However, moving to a secure solution for document exchange and digital signing is really a natural next step in the evolution from a paper to paperless file and it will be the future for all firms eventually.


How can legal firms make a smooth progression to this new workflow?


We have tried to make the process as easy as possible for legal firms with intuitive interfaces, free training, user guides and a telephone support team. This change should not be seen as scary, that’s the beauty of the design of Document Portal, it’s so simple! We take care of all the integration and setup, all that’s left for you to do is to use it and start to feel the benefits. For any legal firms interested in learning more or seeing a demonstration of Document Portal then please see: https://poweredbypie. co.uk/lp/document-portal.html We also have an early adopters’ special promotion for curious clients who want to try out the product.

There is a cultural shift, consumers want online interaction, a service which feels transparent, secure and instant. These needs will be met by products like Document Portal. To begin with, these will be an exciter but it will quickly become the norm, just like online quotes were.


Why do you think it hasn’t been done before?

I think it comes down to timing. A lot of this tech isn’t innovative on the world stage, it’s been around for a while. However, in the world of law, innovation and tech is scrutinised for a lot longer. Wet signatures, even though they’re more

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Technology’s role in retaining and growing business for your legal firm A roundtable discussion

In February 2020 Modern Law again took to the road, this time in conjunction with poweredbypie, a market leader providing solutions for conducting property searches, for a roundtable discussion on technology’s role in retaining and growing business for a legal firm. Modern Law’s Editor, Pete Ward, reports on the key talking points. The agenda for the discussion addressed the following points: 1. What are the biggest challenges and/or opportunities for conveyancers for 2020 and beyond? 2. Does your firm use technology today? a) For those who say yes – what aspects of your business benefit from this? b) What pressure does technology help alleviate and how does it improve your efficiencies? c) For those who say no – why have you chosen not to adopt? 3. Are there any problems that you feel can’t be solved by implementing technology and why? 4. Technology and people – how can software help support your workflows and compliment the work done by people in your firm? Do you think there is a feeling that technology is trying to ‘replace’ the human element? 5. Where do you see technology adding value for your clients? Do you think tech can help strengthen your relationship with clients? 6. What are some of the risk factors in implementing technology? And how can we help balance the risk with tangible results? 7. Compliance – where can technology help you comply with the rules of your regulator? 8. What are the main concerns a firm has when faced with the challenge of keeping up with modern advances – not only in technology but also when it comes to the conveyancing process? 9. Is there something you have wished ‘if only we had’? Are there any particular areas where you could see technology supporting solicitors which has not yet been explored? 10. Do you think technology has a place in your business growth strategy moving forwards? 11. Finally, what are the top three things you would change about the industry?

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Chief Product & Technology Officer (Chair)

About poweredbypie poweredbypie provides solutions for conducting property searches in addition to developing technical solutions tailored to the needs of the conveyancing industry. Our IT systems process over 3 million individual transactions each year. We process 8,000 Searchpacks every month and nearly half a million searches a year. poweredbypie’s clients are as diverse as solicitors, estate agents, DEAs, surveyors, panel managers, regulated search agents, and search resellers. Our goal is to be the number one supplier of technology to the property market but we look at things differently. By understanding how our customers work, we unlock the power of technology to help clients streamline processes, track progress and deliver best results by managing everything in one place. Our mantra is ‘clever thinking, simple solutions’ designed to help clients move forward in-line with a changing world. For further information please go to: poweredbypie.co.uk

Carol Ankers, poweredbypie’s Chief Product and Technology Officer, took the chair for a round table discussion on the topic of ‘Technology’s role in retaining and growing business for your legal firm’. She kicked off proceedings by referencing the fact that the start of a new year, and a new decade, often brought about new thinking and asked the group…

What are the biggest challenges and/ or opportunities for conveyancers for 2020 and beyond? Harvey Harding opened up the conversation saying, “Industry-wise, not just for conveyancers but in the property industry generally, there is a real shift year-on-year in consumer expectations. I think we’re beyond the point of talking about clients now. We’ve moved on to see them as customers or consumers in the sense that their expectations of legal services, as with any other services, should be accessible, economical, and readily available.” He went on to say, “I think there’s a real shift. Customers want us when they want us, as opposed to the traditional availability and accessibility of a solicitor. So I think that’s one of the biggest shifts, certainly from a consumer perspective.” Martin Langan agreed, adding that there’s a subtle distinction between service and experience. He said he’d seen an interesting survey recently, polling consumers on what’s the best customer experience, saying, “Had it been done five years ago, it would probably have been John Lewis first, whereas now it’s Amazon. And what our clients are looking for is people who it’s easier to do business with, whether that’s in terms of time or process or whatever. And that’s the challenge that firms have to rise to – but it’s also a great opportunity.”

How does the conveyancing industry currently measure up? Harding responded, “As an industry I would say not necessarily very well, and very varied. But I think that has to do with the market. There must be around 4,000-plus practices still doing conveyancing. So, it’s very difficult to have an overlying customer experience and, therefore, it’s also difficult for everyone to engage in the same way, meaning customer experience might well be varied.” Sarah-Jane Newsam pointed to advances in communication methods often negatively affecting the customer experience. “When letters were sent there was always a period of time between responses, whereas now the minute a customer sends an email, if you haven’t responded within two or three hours then that’s seen as a bad customer experience. Everything has to be instantaneous. And the demand for a solicitor to be on hand 24/7 is definitely an ongoing challenge.” Louise Davies highlighted the massive changes brought about by the immediacy of social media. “Not only does social media raise expectations of instant turnaround, but also it’s become easier for people to moan or complain. Simply by putting a hashtag on Twitter and tagging the firm to get a response that way.” She continued, “It’s a different

world to when we all qualified and started this job but we have to move with the times, though I’m not sure conveyancing is keeping up, which is a huge challenge.” ‘Live-chat’ – how useful is it? Harding responded that its use was sporadic, with periods when people did use it but a lot of time they didn’t. He explained, “from live-chat, we tend to get a lot of random questions, not from customers and not from people who will necessarily become customers. We’ve also got an app for our customers and we find that interaction through that process seems to work much better.” On the question of live-chat, Langan said, “We’ve created an automated chatbot using machine learning to actually answer legal questions. The first one up and running covers wills. And we see that as being helpful to guide people through that process.” Sarah Glynn said her firm was very early into live-chat trials and although there was a slight uplift in prospect enquiries most people so far seem to use it as another channel of communication. “And that ends up coming back to the teams to answer. So early days yet, but we’ll see how it goes.” Having taken the reverse path to the norm, Jonathan Winston went from a non-legal tech-geek to starting his

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Technology’s role in retaining and growing business for your legal firm A roundtable discussion

Tuesday 5th February 2020, DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel, Leeds “It is all about training, specifically in-house training, because you can have the best case management system in the world, but if people aren’t using it effectively and properly it’s a complete waste.” Louise Davis, Crombie Wilkinson LLP own law firm. “The challenge for me was to use technology to help our staff manage their caseloads more easily and efficiently, so they’re under less pressure and able to respond to clients more quickly. The staff think it’s brilliant. We get fewer calls because it has a portal. The clients think it’s brilliant. We’re able to charge more, therefore we don’t need to take on as many cases. So I’m all for technology, but not for it dumbing down the process to the point where people expect to pay £200, even £100 for what, let’s face it, is an inferior conveyancing service.” Winston added that, importantly, if clients have a good experience then they will come back, and not just once every five or seven years for the conveyancing, “But for all the other areas we handle as a law firm.” Adele Holliday agreed, adding, her firm’s objective is to have less volume but receive proper remuneration for conveyancing, while offering a bespoke service to clients, saying, “So they’re not just a client for conveyancing, they’re a client for the firm across other disciplines.” Technology the enabler? Harding believed technology really helps with automating processes. “And if you’re automating the stuff that can be automated, then your property lawyers can spend more time with the customer.” Holliday agreed, adding it resulted in a more efficient job for the client. Davis pointed out that whatever case management

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system firms used, it was essential to use it to its fullest potential to manage client expectations. But she warned, “There is a danger that it does take away the brainpower and if you rely on a case management system too much, you also become ‘automated’ as a person instead of engaging brain and thinking about specifics. So it has its benefits, but it has its drawbacks. Yes, conveyancing is a process but every case is different and doesn’t always follow a pattern.” Sidhra Ali said, “As a new, small firm, we don’t yet have the benefits of such a management system. We do have some background automation of processes, but most of what we do is very hands on. The good point being that, as a new firm, we get more oneto-one contact with our clients, which they appreciate. But, as we grow, the impact technology has will evolve to our specific needs without diminishing our client relationships.” Ankers said strategies around conveyancing are about whether a firm is either digitally enabled or digitally led, saying, “A digitally enabled strategy, where you automate so that people can deliver it is about integration, speeding up processes and using automation as an advantage that you can still deliver using people. Whereas if you’re digitally led that’s more about trying to replace humans with computers to achieve less human input. So I think from the value you add to conveyancing, it’s definitely a digitally

enabled strategy around how to get automation working better.” She added, “But I’m also a consumer. I’m buying a house. And I don’t want to wait 14 weeks.” In Winston’s opinion there is one fundamental problem, “We could probably have the conveyance done in four weeks, but we’re up against larger firms who have too big a case load and take forever. It doesn’t matter what the technology is.” Harding said he didn’t think it was all about size, it was more about how that firm is structured, with a major delay factor being chains, whichever firm is used, adding, “There are many other elements in terms of what stage everyone is at; have they actually sold the house, have they got a mortgage, and various other aspects. So, even if you had the very best solicitors in that whole chain, with or without the technology and the customer service, you still have those issues as potential

“Customers want us when they want us, as opposed to the traditional availability and accessibility of a solicitor.”

Harvey Harding, PM Law Limited

hold-ups.” Winston responded, “But that’s not the solicitor slowing the process down, I’m convinced it’s the firms that take on too much work.” The good the bad and the ugly The discussion then moved on to the use of case management systems within different firms, with Ankers asking for views on the good the bad and the ugly of the technology. Davis said, “At my previous firm I was involved in setting up and updating its case management system which worked to its full potential doing the automated tasks of ticking off certain steps. For example, automatically sending an e-mail to a client saying, we’ve got your contract, this is what to expect next and this is how long it will take. It was also generating a daily task list, which I found really useful.” She added, “And now at my current firm, I’m using that experience to work on our current case management system to try and help speed up those type of processes to work smarter, not harder.” Ali said they had recently changed systems to one that integrates with Outlook giving the ability to handle Land Registry and SDLT information, adding, “Filing and documentation is a lot simpler and easier because it’s all automatically synced with email. We still have some development to do as we’ve only been using it for a couple of months. Also, because we

have updates via Lender Exchange and LMS, it would be good to link those elements into the system.” Harding said they have an in-house development team to run and maintain their case management system, rather than relying wholly on the outside supplier to fulfil that role, “And it’s obviously much more costeffective. “Also, we developed our own app as part of the system, so we can change it to suit our needs and it interacts directly with the supplier’s system.” Sarah Glynn thought that a case management system that enables effective reporting is essential to the process. She said, “As a marketing manager, what I want to show clearly is the systems impact on client service levels and bottom line. And I think that’s something that technology providers can help firms to improve, because often upfront investment for technology is very high, particularly for a smaller firm.” She explained that conveyancing is a key part of her firm’s business, but maybe only around five or six percent of the its turnover, so financing a system that helps the conveyancing process in isolation to the rest of the firm is a large investment. She continued, “But what you would then hope to see is an impact on profitability, client service levels, client retention and repeat business.” She echoed previous positive comments about

case management systems in general, and the one her firm had chosen in particular, saying, “But it’s about what you do with the technology. I think sometimes there’s a danger of adopting technology for technology’s sake, rather than actually listening to the needs of the client base. So we’re also investing in a development team to achieve speed of change.” Vanessa Moscardo-Parker asked if, for conveyancing, Glynn wanted to take case management further to communicate with her customers? Glynn responded, “I believe we need to know what the client actually wants, and those conversations with the client must then be fed back to the development and I.T. teams.” She continued, “We probably take a similar approach to Jonathan (Winston). It’s actually about the efficiency of the team and leaving them with more time to advise and do things that the client will value, such as calling them regularly as opposed to receiving automated push notifications.” Winston added, “Our system has a portal which for conveyancing is automatically set up so it can be turned off, we give staff that choice. We’ve developed a conveyancing system for the whole firm, creating workflows for all different areas, many of which don’t require a portal, or the staff have requested not have a portal. And it works really well.”

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“The challenge for me was to use technology to help our staff manage their caseloads more easily and efficiently, so they’re under less pressure and able to respond to clients more quickly.” Jonathan Winston, Winston Solicitors LLP

Adopting case management Ankers asked the group how long ago they adopted case management? Winston said they went case management in 2005. Davis and Holliday said they first came across it in 2001/2. Langan said, “We’ve worked for a long time with most of the major case management systems, with lots of firms, and the biggest issue isn’t the technology, that’s not the barrier, it’s always cultural change.” Davis agreed, saying, “That’s what I found when I developed a case management system in a previous company. I went to all four offices to roll it out and people just sat there, they weren’t making notes, they didn’t want to use it and, sadly, they didn’t want to change. That was so frustrating and one of my biggest early challenges, not just getting people to use, but to use it properly.” Langan highlighted that the problem can be very deep rooted, especially with the majority of firms still operating a partnership model, usually requiring unanimity of decision making. “So if any partner doesn’t want to use it, or won’t encourage their people to use it, there’s not a lot you can do about it, unfortunately. And it’s fair to say there’s a fear factor. People who are very good at what they do, when suddenly confronted with something they don’t really feel comfortable with, and rather than admit it, they will find lots of reasons why it’s not a good thing, and it is a problem.” Davis concluded that aspect by saying, “It is all about training, specifically in-house training,

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because you can have the best case management system in the world, but if people aren’t using it effectively and properly it’s a complete waste. So it isn’t just about the system, it’s about using the system and making sure people use it effectively.” Cybersecurity Ankers next introduced a hot topic always being covered in the legal press, cybersecurity, and asked the group if anyone had experienced any concerns? Harding said that phishing and email intercept seem to be the most prevalent forms of cyber risk. “I heard of two very similar incidents over the last couple of years, where clients were being tracked in terms of their transactions, their email had been hacked and they received an email purportedly from their solicitor saying ‘you’re at a crucial stage in your transaction, and we’ve changed our bank details’ and the client blindly believed that and they never see the money again!” He continued, “Now we, like everybody else I’m sure, have disclaimers absolutely everywhere. We will never change our bank details. In fact, we never send out our bank details at all. They’re behind a two-factor authenticated wall, in order for anyone to be able to receive them. But we are seeing a lot more phishing and e-mail intercept. And what we’re trying to educate our clients not to do is discuss anything on social media, such as ‘hey, we’re moving house soon’. Criminals are smart. They do know how to socially engineer these things. They will track you. And they can discover a lot of criminally useful information.”

Harding then gave an example of workshops he runs in the conference business, saying. “In one session we did a little hacking experiment and actually managed to hack quite a few people in the audience. Because generally people’s passwords will start with a capital letter, will contain the number one, will probably include an exclamation mark. Then if you go onto Facebook, you can find out pets names, Mum’s and Dad’s names, maiden names, where they went to school and, if you go through that list, that’s probably the top 10 likelihoods of whatever is going to be in an email password, unless you have the password 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8!” Holliday said they had had similar incidents where clients emails had been intercepted and they received an e-mail purporting to be from us. “We too have all the usual disclaimers at the foot of emails. And every time someone rings our offices and is put on hold, they are constantly being told we will never change our bank details. We will only ever send bank details by post to the client, and then we’ll give them a call to say we sent them. But it flabbergasts me the amount of people who will send me their bank details by email.” Glynn thought it was all about communicating with the customer, because, “At the end of the day, law firms are businesses and you can only really implement things at a cost that the client is willing to pay. So, whose responsibility is it to educate people to cyber risk? Should it be down to the law firm, or the SRA, or the government?”






Langan referred back to Harding’s comments and agreed that two-factor authentication is a great way to do things, “And we are probably moving into a password-less world based on that kind of security.” Ankers pointed out that banks have moved it along the lines of two-factor authentication and customers are becoming more familiar with it. Magic wand After discussing technology, case management and cyber risk, the conversation then centred around the various stages each firm was at, whether seeing themselves as digitally-enabled or fully techintegrated, Ankers asked, “If I could give you a magic wand and you could change anything about the conveyancing sector, what would that be?” Immediately Glynn said that, although she was on the periphery of conveyancing, in her marketing role, “One thing that keeps our team awake at night is compliance and AML and the increasing pressure on teams to get that right. So a magic wand able to spot people who are trying to launder money through buying houses would be very useful.” Davis said, “Just going back to CML, every lender has a different set of instructions, so my magic wand would be that all lenders standardised their instructions – which I think might break my wand!” Tony O’Reilly added that most wanted to wave their magic wands over communication and technology. “But I’d direct mine at the clients,

the buyers out there, so they would understand exactly what the process is and what the role of the conveyance is. And then I think they’ll embrace the technology more because they’ll understand what it’s about. So my magic wand would be to educate everyone out there in what actually the conveyancing process is and how it works, so they understood what the hell is going on!”




LICENSED CONVEYANCER – Crombie Wilkinson Solicitors LLP

The AML space There were comments about AML technology being expensive, but Harding said, “As MLRO I would rather not be in prison! So from my perspective, the cost is quite low against the reassurances the system provides. But it doesn’t replace your staff having to be vigilant throughout all the transactions. So that’s my magic wand, let’s use one product for all the AML activity in a central hub.” Moscardo-Parker asked the group if they thought that was possible, where would it sit? Harding said it had been debated with the Land Registry as to whether there should be the central repository of some form of I.D. data, which would deal with the I.D. element, but not necessarily Source of Funds/Source of Wealth. And he thought there was no magic wand as far as that was concerned, saying, “That’s just going to be on us!” Holliday highlighted another problem regarding SOF/SOW from an MLRO point of view, is that it’s supposed to be standard across all law firms but what each firm wants to see can differ substantially.



MANAGING DIRECTOR – Legal Workflow and Legalmatters


MANAGING PARTNER – Winston Solicitors LLP





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Growing revenues with Brighter Law ANDY STRADLING Regioinal Sales Manger at poweredbypie

Pic Here

Andy has been working in the property sector since 1987. His experience includes estate agency (from trainee, to running his own), panel management, and of course, Brighter Law.

We work on the premise that conveyancers should convert around 70% of their estimates. Less than this, then there is a problem. Do you know who converts the most enquiries or who the top fee earner is in your firm? From experience of ‘crunching the numbers’ we have found that perception is sometimes not the same as reality! However, to make improvements you need understand the facts and figures. For that, you need the numbers right at your fingertips. It is helpful to know who is billing the most, because then others can be encouraged to learn and replicate ‘how they do things’. However, when you start to look more deeply into the statistics, interesting and often surprising patterns can emerge which if addressed, can start to change the way firms work and as a result, grow revenues. Sometimes subtle changes to workflows or staffing arrangements can make a significant impact very quickly. One law firm started using Brighter Law, a suite of services from poweredbypie, to help them generate compliant, instant quotes from their website. This functionality was helpful

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as it provided a simple, intelligent solution to automate enquiries and meant they ticked some of the boxes to ensure they became compliant in relation to the SRA regulations concerning transparency of fees. However, it was the system’s ability to extract data that was really able to make a difference and add value to their organisation. We worked together with this firm to pull out statistics generated automatically in Brighter Law, to analyse who the top billing individual was over time and who converted the most quotes. It was not who the management team thought, nor was it the same person! The individual who was perceived to bill the most, was actually the second best, but they were given the greatest number of enquiries by reception. However, because they were so busy, they were unable to follow-up quotes and so their conversion rate turned out to be one of the worst in the firm! This was easily rectified by making the ‘best quote converter’ the first point of contact for all new enquiries. More conversions subsequently resulted in higher revenues.

The challenge for organisations without access to management tools like Brighter Law, is that they are essentially working in the dark. By the time it becomes apparent that there is a profitability problem, the damage may already be extensive. If profit is down in September, billing would have been down in August and this is likely because the conversion of quotes was compromised four months or so before then. With Brighter Law, immediate access to data can ensure you can react quickly. It may be that the marketing department wants to use the data to track enquiries from a spring ‘first time buyers’ campaign. The system can report on all users converted during the specific period of the campaign. In Brighter Law, the solicitor can choose to apply a discount or promotion when creating the quote. This will mean that the success of the promotion can be analysed and used to shape future marketing efforts.

“The beauty of the system is that we can track the progress of all the estate agencies we work with to see which refer the most work to us. The technology is simple to use and adds real value to our business.” Andy Roscoe, Partner, Meaby & Co Solicitors LLP

It may be that you need to compare the performance of different branches or highlight which staff might need more support or training. Or, it might be that you want to become more sophisticated with pricing. We worked with one client who wanted to see if it was possible to convert more quotes by reducing their fees. Following analysis, it was clear that in the £500k- £1Million conveyancing transaction bracket, their conversion rate was well above 60%. However, for lower priced properties, a small fee reduction was able to increase the likelihood of instructions, therefore they only needed to adjust their fees in the lower purchase price bracket, optimising their fee structure. This can also work the other way around with one small firm of solicitors working with us to investigate the effect of increasing fees once they had hit capacity. By putting prices up, they were able to increase their profit margin by 20%. Although they converted 10% less enquiries, they were able to earn more by doing less which was their aim. Another element of functionality

which can help drive revenues is the Estate Agent Web Quote facility. This is where the law firm gives an estate agent Brighter Law and they use it to integrate with their own website to provide an instant quote for legal fees including SDLT. On Friday evening the estate agent may agree a sale price for a property and to help ‘get things moving’ use the online tool to provide an automated quote to the client. If this is acceptable, the client can instruct the law firm and by Monday morning the instruction and case details are in the solicitor’s inbox. A solution such as Document Portal can be used to share a client care pack with the customer with the opportunity to get the digitally signed documents back the same day in a protected, secure environment. We have worked with hundreds of law firms to give them access to the management tools in Brighter Law Suite, and the free training and support we offer can really help organisations optimise processes in today’s competitive environment. Andy Roscoe, Partner, Meaby & Co Solicitors LLP explains: “We have five branches in and around London offering a full, boutique law service designed to achieve the best possible

results for our clients. We have used Brighter Law Suite for around three years. There is a lot of functionality which has been able to help us from a business perspective. We have worked closely with poweredbypie to understand the effect of adjusting fees for example and we have been able to monitor the results in relation to profit margins easily. We are also currently trialling the estate agent web quote tool which will help us cement relationships with local agencies. We anticipate this will help drive revenues through increased conveyancing instructions directly from estate agents. The beauty of the system is that we can track the progress of all the estate agencies we work with to see which refer the most work to us. The technology is simple to use and adds real value to our business.” At poweredbypie we bring together our experience and knowledge of the legal sector and our technological resources to develop solutions that speedup workflows and solve specific challenges in a cost effective and intelligent way. This means, while legal firms trust us to take care of the tech, they have time to focus on their complex legal case work.

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Interview with... TONY O’REILLY

SaaS Regional Sales Manager at poweredbypie Tony O’Reilly is SaaS Regional Sales Manager at poweredbypie. Here he talks to Modern Law about the implications of compliance, transparency of fees and the role of legal tech in the conveyancing sector.


How is legal-tech helping firms to comply with fee/pricing/ services transparency regulations?


I think most firms have attempted to be compliant with the transparency regulations. There are a few firms who believe they’ve met the regulations when actually they haven’t. And a lot of firms out there simply put a set of PDFs on their website for different fee earners, detailing what they charge and what they charge for – which technically meets the regulations but can be complicated for the potential client to work out and could result in them moving on to another firm. In reality, what firms need to do is embrace tech and let tech control that transparency of fees. It’s not

to do with the regulations, it’s to do with the end user, the potential client, and their experience. And if firms use tech to streamline their fee structure, consumers can access a simple quote that’s up-to-date and easy to understand, meaning there’s a much better chance of them feeling comfortable and thinking, yes, I’m going to deal with this firm. And that’s where legal tech can help. By putting a simple widget onto its website, which basically links to a quote conversion tool, a firm can provide accurate bespoke quotes – and that’s the sort of transparency the end user wants. They don’t want to see that the different fees are for different services. They just want to know what their fees are for their specific circumstances. And legal tech

“I think we lose sight sometimes that as technology moves forward, the expectations of consumers are also moving forward.” Tony O’Reilly

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can give them that very quickly and efficiently, which they can access from anywhere at any time on any of their devices.


Which aspects of transparency of fees are firms finding hardest to comply with – and how can legaltech help?


I would add to that question by saying that some firms do find transparency difficult in the first place until they manage to meet, or try to meet, the requirements. But what they find most difficult to comply with is actually keeping up with changes, because the reality is these happen all the time, whether it be the actual fees of the fee-earner, or whether it’s other fees that will be incurred by the potential client. To be able to keep up with changes within those fees, so they are then providing true transparency, can be difficult. What firms haven’t got is the time. We all know time is the enemy, and it takes time to keep up with the almost weekly changes and continually having to amend their website. Whereas, if they take the legal tech

“If firms can find a trusted partner to outsource their legal tech requirements to, they can access leading-edge technology they wouldn’t have the resources to provide themselves.” Tony O’Reilly

from an expert as a trusted provider, all of that is done for them, taking away the pain and allowing firms to keep up with fee transparency and remain compliant.


What are the major conveyancing industry irritants and how can technology help solve them?


The feedback I get is that the biggest irritants are the ‘time thieves’ stopping them from doing the professional job of using their conveyancing skills. And there are so many things now that steal that time away from a conveyancer. Whether it’s compliance, whether it’s regulation, whether it’s time having to input information into the system and manage information throughout the transaction, lack of time is by far the biggest irritant. And where we can help is giving firms the ability to free up time and provide a professional service, as opposed to spending valuable time meeting regulations. Tech removes a lot of that hassle. So, from the very beginning of providing quotes to

potential customers and managing those quotes, the security of getting information to and from customers, the inputting of that information into case management systems, the ordering of all the services a customer needs, whether it’s an AML search, enviro or insurance etc. All that is time consuming, when all conveyancers want to do is give a professional service to successfully complete a transaction. And we within the legal tech can help with all of that. What’s more, if you can get it all from one source, it makes life so much easier because there isn’t double keying of information for the staff, there isn’t confusion between different suppliers, and it all goes through one route. That’s where legal tech can really help.

that the ones that are tech savvy, will be dealing with much larger numbers of transactions in a quicker more efficient way. But perhaps the smaller firms, who won’t embrace tech in the same way, will provide a more bespoke, personalised service. And the market will divide itself with potential clients choosing which they want – either speed and efficiency, or a more personal, bespoke way. I can see the industry pulling in those two different directions already and I think it will go further that way.

Looking forward I think there are going to be two types of firms in the legal sector. There will be those that embrace legal tech and push forward, push the boundaries and embrace all the innovations as soon as they’re available. Then there will be firms that will only embrace what they need to embrace in order to get the transactions done. And you will find


Compliance itself has become less of an irritant now, as it’s accepted that it’s something firms have to deal with and central to how they do their daily job. So it’s not so much an irritant, but something that does still steal time. How does compliance in conveyancing differ from other legal sectors and how can tech assist?


An interesting one this, because in conveyancing there can be huge amounts of funds moving around within the transaction. And because lenders are involved, and the funds are usually owned by the lender,

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Interview with

Continued... TONY O’REILLY effectively there’s more than one body with an interest in the transaction. This results in conveyancing being a target for fraud. So it becomes inextricably linked to compliance because those funds must be protected, whether you’re the lender, the firm, or the client. Yes, there are funds moving around with other departments, probate is one example, but it’s not a target for fraud in the same way as conveyancing where more transactions involve the movement of funds. This means that conveyancing does need to be more compliant to ensure secure transactions.


Still in its ‘relative infancy’, what impact will AI technologies have on the UK legal conveyancing process?


AI at the moment is a cover all term. Already it means faster evaluation of data, and that data will no longer be something that slows a transaction down. Larger firms will be faster and slicker because of embracing AI. In the future they’ll no longer need reports, the data will be checked by AI and simply dropped into their case management system with no further action. Then, as others involved in the transaction, such as the Land Registry and Local Authorities, embrace technology their data will be more open and able to be scrutinised and put through AI, then that information can be delivered to the conveyancer so much more efficiently. Going back to the potential polarisation, where larger tech savvy firms, and those that invest in tech, will be able to perform transactions so much more quickly because of AI. The firms with less resources available will still want to interrogate

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the information and still want to get the report and that will be a more bespoke service they give to their clientele, with the larger firms embracing AI and becoming quicker and slicker. Also referring back to the major irritant of time thieves, AI can only assist in improving that, and in all directions free up time for the legal professional.


For firms without IT resources or budgets, what are the key benefits of outsourcing tech requirements?


Some firms don’t have the resources to embrace technology and use it to its full potential. If firms can find a trusted partner to outsource their legal tech requirements to, they can access leading-edge technology they wouldn’t have the resources to provide themselves. This is absolutely essential for them to be able to keep pace with changes and, crucially, keep ahead of the expectations of their clients.

Plus, we all know now that email is not secure for sending sensitive documents and information, so cyber security increasingly becomes a central theme for firms with its ability to ward off fraud. Firms need systems such as document portals, where they can securely send and receive documents and sensitive information. That type of technology just wouldn’t be available to most firms unless they were to work with a third party trusted partner who can give them that level of service and support, from the quote stage at the very beginning with the technology to handle and convert it into an instruction, drop it into a case management system, to move documents to and from a customer securely, to order the other services

seamlessly, so they could embrace getting the AMLs, the insurance, their search reports, and have those delivered back into their own case management system. And at the end of it, to be able to do the SDLT post completion duties. If they tried to do that all themselves, they would need a very large IT department. And outsourcing it to a trusted partner and one that can do it all in one place won’t just help them keep up with the changes in technology, but just as importantly, keep up with the expectations of their clients and their potential clients out there. I think we lose sight sometimes that as technology moves forward, the expectations of consumers are also moving forward. The expectations that everybody who is wanting to do business with a law firm over a property transaction is that it will be done, at least in part, digitally, and of course, will be done properly and professionally. Customers expect to interact digitally with a law firm. And that’s why law firms need to embrace technology and many simply can’t do it to the high level that’s required with their internal resources. But where the consumer is concerned, I think we kid ourselves if we think they’re at all interested in the details of technological change within the property law world, nor do they need to know what’s happening tech-wise within firms, or the Land Registry, or within the software that’s being developed. When they come to buying or selling a house, the tech expectation is the same matter-offact expectation such as choosing the latest phone, or expecting to sign digitally for the next-day courier delivery. So, things like two-factor authentication, even though they might not know it by that name, is something the consumer is ready for. But if you were to pin somebody

“Compliance itself has become less of an irritant now, as it’s accepted that it’s something firms have to deal with and central to how they do their daily job.” Tony O’Reilly

against a wall who hasn’t done a property transaction in the last 10 years and say, what do you expect from your lawyer, they’d say ‘no idea’ but actually put them into that transaction and their expectation would be that the law firm is up to speed and embracing technology. And of course, the benefits to firms and customers are enormous. But it’s wrong to assume it’s only the younger generation embracing technology. For example, my mother is 86 and she can quite happily book a train ticket online and then use a digital ticket on her phone. And I think the tech expectation covers the whole of society and not just those under 30, I think those days are gone. Everybody now is embracing technology and law firms are following that path but to be truly effective they need to embrace tech with the help of outsourcing to firms like ourselves.


How can poweredbypie’s Brighter Law suite assist firms with transparency and compliance issues?


The Brighter Law suite gives a law firm the ability to produce quotes and display quotes for the potential client’s needs, instantly. So, whether that’s at 10pm through the website, that quote can be emailed instantly. Or whether it’s an introducer, such as the estate agent, the mortgage broker, etc. being able to produce a quote there and then and instruct a law firm instantly, we can help with all of that. And true transparency is the client being able to understand what the fees they can expect to incur for their transaction. Brighter Law can provide all that to a law firm. More importantly, it can also give them the marketing information behind it to show firms where their successes are, show them why they won instructions

and also, just as importantly, why they failed to win instructions. So it’s also a training aid tool towards improving conversion rates. Now, with the extension of the poweredbypie Document Portal, we can then move those instructions through the Brighter Law suite, so once a firm’s won the instruction, documents can be sent instantly to the potential client, and through two-factor authentication for absolute security, they can be signed and returned digitally, securely, and the transaction can progress instantaneously and with full confidence. It can then order searches at the press of a button. There’s no keying of information after the initial quote, and all the information is pulled into the platform so insurances, searches and reports can be ordered without any further keying.


For firms complying fully with fee transparency regulations, what else can they do to stand out?


Those regulations, in my opinion, were devised so the consumer can understand what costs they will incur in their transaction. If firms are meeting the requirements of the SRA and the other regulatory bodies for transparency, they don’t necessarily answer that question of costs for the individual, but they can meet the regulations. What they can do, above and beyond, is make it personal to the individual and their circumstances. And that is delivering a quote for their transaction, or their potential transaction. And then the consumer has complete transparency over how much it’s going to cost, what’s going to happen and when. Giving customers that transparency over the whole process is essential and then being able to do it digitally and remotely from their mobile phone while sat at home in the

evening and not having to attend a firm’s office to sign paperwork etc. And that’s what firms can do to stand out from the crowd.


Compared to the last decade, will the next one see legal-tech grow exponentially – and how?


Absolutely it will. But where exactly it will go, who knows? Ten years ago, who would have accurately predicted where we are now? It is difficult to predict a decade ahead. But the move towards AI producing results rather than just speedier reports is inevitable. Larger firms will invest in tech in a big way. The Land Registry has already moved towards digitisation. Some local authorities have embraced tech magnificently, while others, in my opinion, have avoided it and that can seriously slow the transaction down which is frustrating. But the next 10 years will see those local authorities forced to move quicker. Will it all go digital? In 10 years’ time will the whole thing be completely at the press of a button? There’s always talk of ‘house passports’ at the touch of a button accessing all the information in one place, instantly. I could see that happening. Why wouldn’t it happen? You would see the title, the reports on risks, in fact the whole history of that particular property all in one place. And what I can’t see is that it wouldn’t go in that direction. But that’s not to say that something might emerge from stage left to totally revolutionise everything. One thing’s for sure, there will always be a need for a professional conveyancer to guide a purchaser through the transaction.

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Interview with... CRAIG MATTHEWS Chair of the Legal Software Suppliers Association (LSSA)

Craig Matthews, chair of the Legal Software Suppliers Association (LSSA) writes about some of the issues why you should consider using an LSSA member company.

Choosing a new legal software provider may seem overwhelming, particularly if you’ve been using the same system for several years and are worried about issues including data transfer and the security of your data. Here are some points to consider.


Does the proposed system do what you want it to do? Is it easy to use? The system needs to be easy to use so a firm can adopt it quickly. We recommend thorough testing opening new matters, recording time, finance integration etc. to ensure it works for your firm.

Support and training

Consider what support you will receive and the cost. Is training included in the price? How will it be delivered. Is the training managed by the software vendor or outsourced to third party consultants?

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Transition and change management

Typically, a firm will have a considerable amount of client matter, accounting and document history relating to both the cases it has worked on and the firm’s own accounts. When a firm takes on a new Practice Management, Case Management or Legal Accounting system, it is usually necessary to transfer some or all data from one or more existing systems to the new system. When choosing a new system you not only have to consider how to import your new data into the new system, you need to be able to retrieve your data easily at any point in the future or at the end of the contract. The scope of data conversion will vary from firm to firm and from system to system. Depending on the scope, data conversions can be complex and time-consuming, requiring input from the old system supplier, the new

supplier and the customer. The more complex conversions will require significant planning and usually a trial-run to ensure the result meets the customer’s needs. The LSSA has a structured policy on data transfer. This policy is listed on the LSSA website. A data transfer from one system to another can be a complex process, because each system will hold data in a different way. For example, one system could store an address in one field and another system could store the address in multiple fields. In this example the address field would need to be broken up into town/ street etc. during the transfer process. Different systems will have different levels of sophistication in the data. For example, one system could have a link between a bill record and the time transactions included on the bill, whereas another system might not record this level of detail. All of this impacts the viability and technical challenges of a transfer.

About the LSSA The Legal Software Suppliers Association (LSSA) is the UK industry body for legal systems developers and vendors. Representing most of the leading UK suppliers, it aims to both set and maintain professional standards within the industry and manage areas of mutual interest between lawyers and software providers. The LSSA has numerous links with legislative bodies – such as the Land Registry, Legal Aid Authority, HMRC, Law Society, etc and is committed to developing clear channels of communication to enable law firms to gain the maximum benefit from their selected software solutions.

Code of Conduct

By belonging to the association each LSSA member company undertakes to comply with certain obligations set out on the LSSA website to promote high levels of service quality to the legal profession.

Data transfer from one system to another can be completed at many different levels. One end of the scale would encompass perhaps just static data for live clients and matters, through to the other end of the scale where all data including historic transactions and other ledgers such as a Purchase Ledger would be included. Generally, the options would be: Static Data only; Static Data and Balances: Static Data, Balances and Transactions and Full Transfer which includes all static data, balances, transactions, case management and peripheral data across the whole system.

implement a cloud-based system you should carry out your due diligence to satisfy yourself that your client data remains in the EEA and appropriate service level agreements are in place.

Cloud or non-cloud?

Mobile working

Cloud-based systems allow legal professionals to securely access their practice information from anywhere at any time. Cloud-based systems can be more secure and robust than a ‘traditional’ server model where the emphasis on data security rests with the user firm. When looking to

Cloud systems can bring cost savings as you’re not having to purchase expensive servers, bring increased accessibility and mobility for your teams, allow more flexibility in working locations and timings. Cloud systems are the way the legal technology industry is moving so you should investigate these if you’re looking for a new system.

It is important to have the option to work remotely and at a time to suit all your staff, including fee earners, as described in the section on cloud computing. Ensure your software provider can offer mobile capability and ask for a demonstration of their case management software’s mobile

version. For example, does it work across multi-platforms?

Service or support contract You should satisfy yourself that your proposed supplier’s terms and conditions of supply are acceptable. Make sure software support is available in a form and time acceptable to your business operations. Check your minimum length of contract should your circumstances change and remember your data is yours and that you can readily retrieve your own data should you ever need to terminate your contract. Take up some references just as you would when employing a new member of staff. Does the supplier have the confidence to give you a service level agreement?

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Case study Anti-money laundering RYAN DAVID

Partner at David & Snape David & Snape has offices in Bridgend and Porthcawl and is also part of QualitySolicitors, a national network of law firms with over 200 high street locations.

Ryan David, partner at David & Snape, based in the Porthcawl office explains: “As a local practice, much of our work is regionally based. We always ensure our clients can talk directly to their lawyer and we are open, transparent and upfront with costs. We aim to be responsive and answer questions the same day – it is never an inconvenience. As a result, our clients trust us and we tend to build relationships over time and get to know them very well. “We have worked with poweredbypie for many years using the company’s search ordering reports for property transactions which have proved swift and efficient and great value for our clients. We also use the company’s ‘Brighter Estimates’ which is an intelligent solution allowing customers to obtain quotes for legal work through our website. “As the risk of criminals attempting to generate income through illegal actions has grown, quite rightly, the regulatory burden has also increased to mitigate this risk. The latest regulations (5AMLD) further emphasise the requirement for a risk-based approach, focussing on customer due diligence and understanding the specific risk posed by each transaction. Therefore, for several years, we have been using the Veriphy report, an award-winning Anti-money-laundering (AML) check also available through poweredbypie. “The report allows our staff to complete the necessary identification

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background confirmation, particularly relating to new clients. The report provides proof of compliance, giving us peace-of-mind when used for enhanced due diligence matters where the risk is greater. We use Veriphy like a ‘tin hat’ for our process as it is a practical addition to our usual checks but has become an essential part of our tool kit to complete ID verification. “Because we have long standing relationships with many of our clients and they are locally based, we usually meet face to face. However, the risk becomes greater when we take on work from further afield and we are often recommended to new people. This is where the Veriphy standard AML report comes into its own as we can use it when we open a new client file. “We order around 20 reports per month through our Porthcawl office alone. Our staff have confirmed it’s simple to order, safe and transparent, allowing them to perform an individual background check quickly and easily. It ensures ID verification is completed correctly and importantly; they can prove it. Using Veriphy we can rest assured our clients are who they say they are. “We like dealing with poweredbypie. The team are helpful, available and responsive. We trust the brand and the organisation which further underpins our comfort in the software and that we have mitigated risks relating to AML processes.”

“We have worked with poweredbypie for many years using the company’s search ordering reports for property transactions which have proved swift and efficient and great value for our clients.” Ryan David

Beth Lord, customer development manager, poweredbypie confirms: “As technical experts in the property sector, the solutions we offer legal firms are designed for specific purposes. We aim to use our resources to develop intelligent answers to solve our customer’s everyday challenges through a simpler and better way of getting things done. Veriphy AML is a good example. It provides clients such as David & Snape with a diligent, professional and compliant AML checking service to ensure they comply with the latest regulations and really get to know all of their customers.”

Profile for Charlton Grant

Modern Law Magazine poweredbypie Supplement  

Modern Law Magazine poweredbypie Supplement