The Business of Law
ISSUE 34 ISSN 2050-5744
CAL LEEMING Cyber security expert and ethical hacker â€œAn attacker only has to break into one company in order to gain access to tens, hundreds or even thousands of clientsâ€?
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LONDON FREE to attend
www.mlconveyancingevents.co.uk Editorial Contributors Adam Bullion
General Manager of Marketing InfoTrack
Client Relationship Manager VFS Legal Funding
Business Development Director Kaplan Altior
Senior Consultant and Costs Lawyer Burcher Jennings
Colin Fowle Managing Director Blue Car Technologies Limited
Rebecca Marsh Chief Legal Ombudsman Legal Ombudsman
CEO and Founder Wavex
Research Manager Legal Services Board (LSB)
Professor Hugh Koch Clinical Psychologist and Director Hugh Koch Associates
Steve Hooper Founder LawSEO
Underwriter AmTrust Law
Product Manager Geodesys
President Law Society of England and Wales
Managing Director Best Practice Limited
Julie Brearley Head of HR Wilkin Chapman Solicitors
Issue 34 ISSN 2050-5744 Editor Brendan Gurrie
Editorial Assistant Poppy Green
Project Manager Martin Smith
Events Sales Kate McKittrick
ast week I received an email straight from the former Director of the FBI, James Comey. James warned me about the importance the FBI places on cyber security and explained to me the lengths cyber criminals are going to in order to obtain my data. His email went on to tell me about how those very same criminals had only gone and intercepted my lottery winnings by hacking into the bank where my millions were deposited. Fortunately, James told me, the criminals had now been arrested, and he was going to help me get the money I was due. All I had to do was give him some basic details about the account I wanted it transferred into. Unfortunately, before I could gather all of my banking information, James sent similar emails to everyone in the office and it appeared I’d missed my chance to claim my winnings.
Nonetheless, James’s email made a very good point. The motives and methods of cyber criminals are evolving, and at a pace big businesses like banks and law firms might not be able to keep up with. Indeed, the headlines in the past month have included the theft of supposedly cyber-secure cryptocurrencies, which are built on the same foundations as blockchain solutions that have been the talk of the legal sector lately, and it was only last year that the high profile cyber attack on DLA Piper brought the importance of cyber security to the top of many law firms’ agendas. With the implementation of GDPR only weeks away, it is only becoming more crucial for firms to ensure the security of their data and their clients. Conveyancing firms are particularly high value targets for fraudsters because of the amount of client money they hold, as we have all been reminded of during the course of the Dreamvar case over the past year. It is therefore not a surprise that fraud, cyber or otherwise, is a big challenge facing conveyancers, as we heard during the course of the Modern Law Conveyancing Roadshow, which we held late last year in partnership with Landmark Information. The roadshow comprised six regional roundtable events, which you can read all about in this issue’s write-up. Some of the parallels between the regional markets were really eye opening, and it’s going to be interesting to see how the changes being made by (or imposed on) the conveyancing and wider legal sector develop over the next year. I look forward to exploring this further in future editions, but in the meantime I’ll be content waiting to hear from my new friend James about when I can expect my jackpot.
Modern Law Magazine is published by Charlton Grant Ltd ©2018
All material is copyrighted both written and illustrated. Reproduction in part or whole is strictly forbidden without the written permission of the publisher. All images and information is collated from extensive research and along with advertisements is published in good faith. Although the author and publisher have made every effort to ensure that the information in this publication was correct at press time, the author and publisher do not assume and hereby disclaim any liability to any party for any loss, damage, or disruption caused by errors or omissions, whether such errors or omissions result from negligence, accident, or any other cause.
Brendan Gurrie, Editor, Modern Law Magazine. 01765 600909 | @ModernBrendan | firstname.lastname@example.org www.modernlawmagazine.com
Modern Law 3
07 Rosemary Rogers talks news
10 Cal Leeming
21 The evolution of cybersecurity
As change in the legal sector continues to become more consumer-driven, Rosemary Rogers, reallymoving, outlines one of these changes: the rise of the comparison website for legal services.
Cyber security expert and ethical hacker Cal Leeming discussed some of the methods and motivations of cyber criminals with Modern Law and explained why a law firm can be a particularly attractive target for a hacker.
15 Jane Malcolm
Modern Law spoke to Jane Malcolm, SRA, about the challenges and changes involved in legal services. Jane spoke about how the SRA is responding and what they can do to make the consumer choice as simple and easy as possible.
Joe Egan, Law Society of England and Wales
22 The legal needs of small businesses
Robert Cross, Legal Services Board
23 Using case management to go paper-lite Adam Pembrey, DPS Software
25 Stopping complaints before they happen
Rebecca Marsh, Legal Ombudsman
25 Q. How can knowledge of types of â€˜legal fundingâ€™ available for dispute resolution be improved?
Jacqueline Harvey, AmTrust Law
27 Remaining relevant Hannah Sales, VFS Legal Funding
EDITORIAL BOARD contributors
27 How digitising documents can help bring order to law firms
Tom Bailey, Best Practice Limited
29 Busy achievers beats being a busy fool Adam Bullion, InfoTrack
An AmTrust International Division
4 Modern Law
29 Investigating and implementing integration
Colin Fowle, Blue Car Technologies Limited
Issue 34 ISSN 2051-6495
31 Getting to know the difference: Council (Official) vs. Regulated (Personal)Searches
41 Modern Law Conveyancing Roadshow in Partnership with Landmark
57 Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should
At the end of 2017, Modern Law Magazine and Landmark Information Group took to the road to visit six cities in the UK. Here we take a look at what each region identified as the challenges and opportunities facing the conveyancing sector.
Our resident Tech commentator Charles Christian writes…
Jonny Davey, Geodesys
31 Promoting well-being at work
Professor Hugh Koch, Hugh Koch Associates
33 Price comparisons and conversations
Richard Allen, Burcher Jennings
33 The value of integration
Gavin Russell, Wavex
35 Keeping up with the communication Alisa Gray, Kaplan Altior
59 The importance of instant
42 Manchester 44 Bristol 46 Edinburgh 48 Newcastle 50 London
Technology is changing the attitude of customers, and services have got to be more immediate and ‘on demand’. Legal services are no different, explains Yvonne Hirons, Perfect Portal, who discusses how instant quotes can help gain new business.
60 Making the right investment
Chris Taylor, SIRS
35 Diversity at the heart
60 The apprenticeship route for a modern legal sector
54 An Irish Perspective
As part of the Conveyancing Roadshow, we interviewed Roy Arnott, Managing Director of Ireland’s largest provider of ancillary legal services, Rochford Brady, to hear what the main challenges are facing the Irish market.
Julie Brearley, Wilkin Chapman Solicitors
36 A proactive approach to feedback Steve Hooper, LawSEO
36 Can a law firm website win new clients and help to grow your practice?
John Hogg, Enlighten IC.
55 A conclusion on conveyancing Angela Gordon-Lennox, Landmark Information, summarises the Modern Law Conveyancing Roadshow, pulling out the top topics discussed, where there is need for improvement in the sector and how these challenges can be overcome.
Karen Pay, My Home Move
61 Case Study – Eclipse Archers Law rolls out Eclipse’s Proclaim Practice Management Software solution firm-wide.
61 Case Study - FCI
The rising number of flood risk cases.
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Modern Law 5
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Rosemary Rogers TALKS NEWS As change in the legal sector continues to become more consumer-driven, Rosemary Rogers, reallymoving, outlines one of these changes: the rise of the comparison website for legal services. rice comparison websites have existed for over twenty years, with the first created in 1995. Since then, they’ve grown in popularity, and now there is a comparison site for almost every industry, from finding a wedding photographer to choosing your holiday insurance, whether it’s a niche market or expected comparison – the choice is out there.
For consumers, there’s no doubt in the value of these sites; they empower people with choices, save them time and give them the opportunity to save money. For companies, there can be a worry that comparison sites will drive down prices, and that some simply can’t afford to compete. Yet, price doesn’t appear to be the main factor when choosing a service. Research suggests reviews are a main tipping point for shoppers, and not only good reviews, but the number of them. Recent studies by the Association for Psychological Science found evidence that when given a choice between two products, people would choose the one with more reviews, even if those reviews contained some negative comments.
All about trust In an online age, it’s no surprise that we put such stock in what other people think. Research by Deloitte shows that 81% of people read reviews, 97% said it had an impact on their choice, and most importantly, when asked what the most trusted source of information was, reviews were tied first with recommendations from family and friends. Only 16% of the people asked considered the company website a trustworthy source of information, which is worrying when that is a company’s main form of interaction with the customer, and usually, the first impression. Alternatively, there is an inherent trust from the consumer in the comparison process; 90% of people surveyed by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said they were satisfied with their experience using a comparison site, and felt that the sites were ‘unbiased’ and ‘there to help consumers’. Through offering choice, the consumer is empowered by information and price transparency, backed up by unbiased reviews. This allows them to feel safe enough to move forward with a purchase. We need to stop considering these sites as simply ‘price comparison sites’, which is not necessarily their primary function anymore. It’s about collating data, and presenting everything a company has to offer, clearly and concisely.
Be seen When assessing how customers use the reallymoving website, we saw that the majority don’t pick the cheapest option, they take other factors into account, mainly reviews and location. Their ultimate decision may also depend on interaction from the company and how proactive they are in engaging the customer.
A comparison site acts as an equaliser – the company is put in front of a customer at the right time in the buyer’s journey, when they fit the correct criteria
Modern Law 7
There is the chance for legal firms to innovate, specialise, think beyond location, and not only use reviews to draw in new customers, but to responsively adapt and improve their services In collating this data, comparison sites have a massive advantage from a search engine optimisation (SEO) perspective, as well as branding, promotion and reach. They effectively become an outsourced marketing service for the companies who use their service. Consider how much time and money goes into being ‘discovered’ by the customer wanting a service – if businesses are lucky, they may have walked past a shop front locally, but more often than not, they are searching online. Marketing departments will need to harness SEO, content, display advertising, pay per click and social media effectively and consistently, as well as making sure their site is optimised for multiple devices, just to be visible. Smaller firms may not have the budget for that, and even bigger firms may not have the time or expertise to do this effectively. A comparison site acts as an equaliser – the company is put in front of a customer at the right time in the buyer’s journey, when they fit the correct criteria. On reallymoving, companies (‘partners’) are given long and short description pages, USPs, the opportunity to appear on the blog and forum, as well as a place to store reviews. As such, their pages on the comparison site often rank more highly than their own websites, and many have said they couldn’t hope to achieve an SEO reach like that on their own. Another advantageous element is attribution – solicitors can know exactly where that lead came from, rather than pumping money into marketing options that may or may not be working. Calculating the profit from a generated lead is much clearer than assessing the usefulness of a display advert. Furthermore, if that lead is converted to a satisfied customer, who returns to the solicitor for a different service, or recommends them to family and friends, it is worth even more than expected. This means that whilst comparison sites are heralded as saving time and money for consumers, the same is also true for the companies they represent.
A race to the bottom? Some conveyancing solicitors are, understandably, reticent about using comparison sites. They think that if competition is involved, and customers get a good deal, it will inevitably drive down prices. However, as we’ve already seen, price isn’t always the main factor in choosing a service, reviews are. So pushing down prices doesn’t benefit anyone. Companies need to remain competitive, and seeing where they sit in the market, and how they can add value, can only be useful information to those looking for a competitive edge.
8 Modern Law
What many companies miss is the difference between a lead generation model and a sales generation model – in receiving leads, solicitors are introduced to a potential client who is looking for what they offer, but solicitors still need to approach the client and show off their skills and selling points immediately. A potential customer may pick a solicitor based on the information and visibility on a comparison site, but their decision to commit to hiring them will depend on their specialist knowledge, personality and how the solicitor makes them feel. Leads generation is simply an introduction to the person who is looking for a service – it is the solicitor’s responsibility to convince the customer that they are the best option. Though the internet is often the first port of call when searching for answers, companies and solutions, some people will always prefer local solicitors. However, with the growing expectation that everything should be available online, there is likely to be a move towards legal services that can be delivered remotely, by telephone, email, online or even video call. Companies who focus on great customer service and reviews, and are able to estimate prices for online services, are likely to flourish, not only because online searching is the most popular way to find services, but because the solicitors will not be harnessed to just working locally anymore.
Opportunity for profit We believe that there is an opportunity for the legal sector to profit from comparison sites, saving them time and money on marketing, getting them connected to the people who are searching for them, and allowing them to specialise. We so passionately believe this that in 2017 we acquired The Law Superstore, a comparison site just for legal services. We’ve been thrilled by the number of solicitors who see the potential in making their fees transparent and embracing technology to find more customers. Comparison sites and legal services may not always have seemed like the most natural marriage, but as we move forward in a consumer-driven market, solicitors are faced, not with a threat, but an opportunity. There is the chance for legal firms to innovate, specialise, think beyond location, and not only use reviews to draw in new customers, but to responsively adapt and improve their services. Comparison sites aren’t just about pricing anymore – they’re about helping companies be seen in the right place, at the right time. Rosemary Rogers, COO of reallymoving.
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Cyber security expert and ethical hacker Cal Leeming discussed some of the methods and motivations of cyber criminals with Modern Law and explained why a law firm can be a particularly attractive target for a hacker.
Cal Leeming 10 Modern Law
Criminals will always have varying motivations and cybercrime is no different. There is certainly a prevalence of financially orientated crime in recent times, such as ransomware and extortion
Can you outline your background in cyber security, and how has your interest in it led to your current role?
I’ve been addicted to technology and solving problems since as long as I can remember. As a young child I was fascinated by computers; my mum was absolutely convinced that this was going to be the future and did everything she could to nurture my interest. At the age of eight, my grandparents bought a 33mhz PC, costing almost £1,000, which I was allowed to use every weekend. Much to their dismay, I would spend every single second of each weekend on the computer, learning how it worked, breaking it, improving it. Eventually I figured out how to connect it to the Internet and my eyes were opened to this whole new world which very few people around me understood. Sadly I didn’t have enough guidance and mentorship, and as a result I didn’t really understand how serious hacking was or the damage it could cause. This landed me in trouble with the authorities, a vicious cycle which continued for several years. In 2006, my arresting officer pulled me out of prison and gave me a chance to prove myself by helping one of my victims, in this case, a household name UK bank. Since then in the last twelve years, I’ve co-founded several successful tech startups, provided mentorship to children aged 5-18, helped hundreds of companies and families improve their security and provided training to law enforcement officials across the UK. Today I’m the founder of a cyber security firm that provides tailor made solutions for individuals, families and organisations.
What are some of the main motivations for cyber criminals?
Law firms are effectively an aggregation point for leaked data, meaning the attacker only has to break into one company in order to gain access to tens, hundreds or even thousands of clients Issue 34
Criminals will always have varying motivations and cybercrime is no different. There is certainly a prevalence of financially orientated crime in recent times, such as ransomware and extortion. An attacker might be driven by politics, greed, anger, survival or any other reason. Cyber crime has been deskilled to the point that it doesn’t require any technical knowledge whatsoever; you can even purchase ready-made crime kits with 24/7 support. Computer crimes are far less risky and easier than traditional crime, such as bank robbery, burglary or CP (customer present) fraud.
What might make a law firm an attractive target to a cyber-criminal?
Law firms are effectively an aggregation point for leaked data, meaning the attacker only has to break into one company in order to gain access to tens, hundreds or even thousands of clients. They often hold sensitive data under “Attorney–client privilege”, or in other words, all those little secrets that companies and individuals would prefer not to be in the public. Lawyers may also hold funds or assist with escrow during deals, and there have been cases where banking information has been swapped out in an email for the purpose of stealing funds. The most common attack we see against law firms is extortion; once data has been stolen then not even a high court injunction can help you. Modern Law 11
What are some of the common pitfalls you see in cyber security strategies, and do these tend to differ between smaller and larger businesses?
Cyber crime is a risk that many people are unable to comprehend due to lack of subject knowledge. We see clients all the time who have been sold solutions that they either didn’t need or simply didn’t deliver on their promises. Good security starts with basic hygiene; it’s no good having a multi-million pound security solution if you leave the door wide open every night. Get the basics right, then focus on the complex stuff.
How are the methods of cyber criminals evolving to stay ahead of security procedures, and what steps could law firms take to keep up with these?
Cyber criminals will almost always have the upper hand on organisations, because they are not constrained by internal policies, maintenance windows, budgeting decisions or committee meetings. There is no one solution for solving this problem. You have to look at the culture of your organisation and the effectiveness of your team. If you have a culture that makes life unnecessarily harder, then you won’t be able to attract the best talent and you won’t incentivise your employees to do a good job. Security should be seen as an integral part of your culture, not as an add-on.
Many criminals don’t have the technical knowledge of how to stay completely anonymous, which is considerably harder than you may think. They might get away with it completely or they might get caught, that’s simply the risk you take when you break the law.
What does ethical hacking involve, and how has it changed as cybercrime has become more mainstream?
Since cyber security has become the “cool kid on the block”, there has been an influx of talent into the industry, which has both a positive and negative effect. On the positive side, we’re seeing some amazing talent emerge who may have otherwise gone undiscovered. But on the flip side, the market is now flooded with mediocre talent, snake oil products and artificially inflated prices.
How else do you predict cybercrime will evolve in the years to come, and what else can law firms do to prepare for this?
It’s going to get worse. Hire the best people to help you solve this problem. Tools are not a replacement for people. In the same way that a piece of software can’t replace a lawyer, it also can’t replace a well-trained security team.
What is the importance of training and educating staff to improve cyber security, and what aspects should this focus
Training staff is certainly a positive step, but many people have no desire to learn about security or the inner workings of computers. You should have a well-rounded security plan which encompasses many aspects such as training, preventative measures, incident response, planning, culture etc.
How is the danger for hackers increasing amid growing attention to cybercrime, and how is this affecting appetite for cybercrime?
Most cyber crime sadly goes unsolved as law enforcement and vendors are unable to keep up with the sheer volume occurring on a daily basis. The danger for criminals is when their activities are identified and targeted by law enforcement, government agencies or other criminal gangs.
Good security starts with basic hygiene; it’s no good having a multi-million pound security solution if you leave the door wide open every night. Get the basics right, then focus on the complex stuff 12 Modern Insurance
Cal is a security advisor and engineer with a passion for startups. He runs a cyber security firm which provides consultancy to high profile individuals and organisations within the luxury services industry. As an industry speaker, Cal enjoys visiting schools across the UK helping mentor children, staff and their families.
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Jane Malcolm Modern Law spoke to Jane Malcolm, SRA, about the challenges and changes involved in legal services. Jane spoke about how the SRA is responding and what they can do to make the consumer choice as simple and easy as possible.
How have the ways people choose legal services changed in recent years, and how has the legal sector responded to any changes in this approach?
We know from the Legal Services Consumer Panelâ€™s annual tracker survey that more people are shopping around online, although compared to other services, there is still some way to go to catch up. We know that one of the challenges in the legal sector is that nine out of ten people are not finding and using the legal services that they need. There is a lot of research that shows that people find legal services confusing and that is understandable; most people only use legal services periodically and it is very often at a time in their life that is stressful. People find it hard to understand the sector, they find it hard to find the service that is right for them and they find it hard to find something that they can afford. When the Competition and Markets Authority did its market review in 2016, it found competition in legal services for individual consumers and small businesses was not working well. It found that there was not enough information available on price, quality and service to help those who need legal support to choose the best option. The study found that this lack of transparency was weakening competition between providers, and meant that some people, in particular those in potentially vulnerable situations, did not obtain the legal advice they needed. We know that lots of firms have been trying different ways of both doing business and presenting their services to the public, and we want to help where we can. So, for example, we have put in place our innovation space that is designed to help firms come up with creative ways of doing business and, underpinning our better information consultation, help the sector to understand what it is that people want and need and how we can work together to meet those needs. But the key point here is that this is such a huge opportunity for the sector.
What are the benefits of mandatory price publishing for legal services consumers, and what are the challenges around standardising this information? What other factors influence choice and should comparison websites also list this information?
Research repeatedly shows that when it comes to choosing legal services, people prioritise reputation first, closely followed by price. The research we published in January 2018 on price transparency and consumer choice in the legal services market showed a preference of finding prices easily on a website. Again I think we can look
one of the challenges in the legal sector is that nine out of ten people are not finding and using the legal services that they need Issue 34
Modern Law 15
We want to slash prescriptive bureaucracy and have a really sharp focus on the high professional standards that are at the heart of solicitors’ practices at other sectors here, provide pricing upfront and move from away from the idea that you have to send an email to ask for a quote. What the research also showed is that different people like to have pricing shown in different ways. People want different levels of detail. We know that comparison websites are already providing different levels of detail and we know lots of law firms are already working with comparison websites, but we are not setting up a comparison website. What we do is provide basic information to comparison providers that ask us for it, and that is because it is in the public interest that the information they carry about a law firm is correct.
Does general public knowledge of the legal process influence choice when purchasing legal services, and what role do both regulators and law firms have in improving the public’s knowledge?
We are all very up close and personal to the legal sector. But most people who need to use legal services - particularly the nine out of ten who are not using the regulated professional to meet their needs - find it difficult to navigate their way around the sector. The more information that firms can provide, the more it will help consumers. From our point of view as a regulator, we work directly with the public and with groups that work with the public, for example, advocacy groups, such as Citizens Advice, who can help us to understand what people are looking for. One of the things that the regulators are doing is developing our joint Legal Choices website to provide objective information to the public and small businesses on legal services and to help them to find what they need. At our recent major Compliance Conference, it was really encouraging that compliance officers were interested in whether they could link their law firms’ websites to Legal Choices and point potential customers to that type of service. Of course we would be extremely happy for people to do that.
How can consumer groups and other organisations outside of the sector influence its transparency and accessibility, and how could regulators and professionals work with these to improve consumer choice?
The key answer to this is that we all have to listen. We, the regulators, regulate in the public interest and the firms want to provide good quality services to the public. We work routinely with lots of organisations. As well as talking to the likes of the Legal Services Consumer Panel and the Citizens Advice to gauge opinion from the general public, we held targeted sessions with specific groups, such as the National Association of Gypsy Traveller Officers and Age Concern, who can advise on what is required. In our consultation work, one of the things that we do is share views and understanding so that both consumer groups and law firms can see what each other is thinking. We have to navigate our way through the options and find a way forward that helps the public and small businesses and genuinely helps the firms to realise those opportunities and does not impose additional burdens on the firms
What steps will the SRA take to make itself and its regulatory approach more transparent and flexible for the professionals it regulates?
The key thing for us here is that we are really committed to reducing the burden of unnecessary bureaucracy on law firms and you can see that as a theme throughout our handbook reform work and wider efforts. We want to slash prescriptive bureaucracy and have a really sharp focus on the high professional
16 Modern Law
standards that are at the heart of solicitors’ practices. Our new Enforcement Strategy is out there so everyone can see what we consider important, and our Warning Notices and Risk Outlooks keep everyone up to date. We are publishing more about what we do through our new annual review, which we published for the first time last year. We are also, in transparency terms, conscious of the need to make things as easy as possible for the public. We have been publishing more in Welsh and also in easy-read versions. We are trying to put as much as we can out there to help the profession and the users of legal services.
Why is it important for consumers to be able to distinguish between regulated and non-regulated legal professionals, and how can non-regulated providers influence public perception of the profession?
We want to help people know that someone has been properly trained, has qualified and is regulated by us.
One of our key proposals is to develop a proper public register of all of those that we regulate. We have some information on our website, we have got a law firm search facility, which is very well used by the public but really well used by law firms who want to check that another law firm they are working with is regulated by us. That has got to be the most basic way that the public can check whether someone is regulated or not. Our proposals include the introduction of an “SRA regulated” and “SRA Compensation Fund” logos so that the public can see the extra protections they get when using a fully regulated firm.
What steps can law firms start taking now to increase the transparency of their services for consumers?
It is very much a matter for the law firms to look at what they think is right to reach their customers as they know them best. The obvious point is to look at what you are putting out there online. Take a look at the website, if the firm has one. And if it doesn’t have a website, should it? What is on the website? Is there information about what the firm does, how it does it and how much that could cost? There are more than 10,000 law firms, all with differing business models. What would work for one will not necessarily for others. That’s why our proposals are not prescriptive. We want to know what works for firms and creates real benefits for the profession as well as the users of legal services.
What are the next steps in the SRA’s handbook reforms, in 2018 and beyond?
We are busy processing the responses from our last two consultations and we will then take that through to our Board to make the decisions on the next steps forward. But we are already clear that we are creating two versions of the code of conduct, one for firms and one for individuals, and we are working towards a much shorter and simpler handbook.
Jane is the Executive Director, External Affairs at the SRA, covering Public Affairs, Media, Stakeholder engagement, Digital and Internal communications, Governance, Corporate Complaints and Inclusion. Prior to joining the SRA, Jane had a series of roles at the General Medical Council, including responsibility for the work of the GMC in the devolved administrations, the leadership of employer liaison and, latterly, as Assistant Director to the Chief Executive. Before she joined the GMC, Jane worked at the Federation of Small Businesses where she led UK and European policy development.
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The evolution of cybersecurity I
f a stranger asked for your number, would you share it? How about your date of birth? Your bank account details?
Now think about how much personal information you store for your clients. How do you protect it?
62% of law firms reported a cyberattack in 2015. It is an astounding figure and, no matter the size of your firm, you are at risk
Cyberattacks are on the rise and there is tremendous danger in downplaying our responsibilities to guard data safely. Consideration needs to be given not just to your legal responsibilities to protect client privacy but also the prospect of reputational damage from any potential data breach. In 2017 alone, the NHS reeled following the WannaCry outbreak, offshore firm Appleby became a household name after the release of the Paradise Papers, Deloitte received significant criticism over a hacker stealing client information and Uber had a tough year compounded after a major customer information hack. Although global companies receive a large share of media attention, they are not the only targets. Often cyberattacks are automated and set to scope weaknesses in IT systems. These attacks are likely to increase in sophistication as criminals adopt AI and machine learning.
If you work from home, you should ensure you have a secure Wi-Fi connection. Avoid connecting to unsecured Wi-Fi networks at your local coffee shop The Law Society provides a range of resources specific to lawyers, including advice and practice notes covering preparedness and how to deal with a live situation. The National Cyber Security Centre also provides a range of resources for firms to use, including practical guides for small businesses. The support available means firms of all sizes can find solutions that shouldn’t cost the earth. What’s next?
62% of law firms reported a cyberattack in 2015. It is an astounding figure and, no matter the size of your firm, you are at risk.
With the new EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) looming, the potential financial penalties for non-compliance are set to escalate – up to 4% of global turnover. Preparing now may save you headaches in the future.
Is your firm protected? Are you? Despite the prevalence of attacks being reported, only 35% of firms have a cybercrime mitigation plan. Firms have a responsibility to provide adequate training to staff and ensure they are well-prepared to tackle risks. The WannaCry attack on the NHS last year was a stark reminder how the latest versions of software need to be deployed and regularly updated to stay on top of new security challenges. You should also be aware criminals will invade your networks, stalk your social media and web channels, research your organisation and then wait for an opportunity to strike. Cybersecurity is not just the responsibility of the IT department, but everyone at the firm. Two-thirds of cybersecurity breaches are the result of individual errors and, particularly, failing to meet best practice.
With 88 pages of new rules, GDPR is the most far reaching data protection legislation ever. Most firms are still struggling with the implications and we are doing what we can to help, but we need firms to be proactive and seek out support if they are unsure of what they need to do to be ready. Committing to GDPR compliance will boost your cybersecurity, and limit your risk of financial penalties or reputational damage from a breach. It’s an investment. Most importantly, when our main responsibility is serving our clients’ interests, it’s simply the right thing to do. Joe Egan, President, Law Society of England and Wales.
Whether it is creating strong passwords and protecting them, being aware of scams and being conscious of where you talk about work, there are simple but important steps you can take to be cybersecure.
Modern Law 21
The legal needs of small businesses
Robert Cross, Research Manager at the Legal Services Board, outlines the findings of new research into small businesses. he Legal Services Board’s “Legal needs of small businesses 2013-20171” report was published at the beginning of February. The report analyses the findings of a legal needs survey of 10,579 small businesses, and is broadly representative of the 5 million small businesses that constitute 99% of all businesses in England and Wales. It shows high rates of problem incidence – 31% per annum – but low usage of legal services. Only 24% of legal problems result in the use of lawyers.
Background A legal need is an issue of everyday life that is amenable to legal advice – for a small business this might mean taking on employees, protecting intellectual property, expanding into new premises, accessing bank finance, and of course more formal disputes. It’s not that legal advice is essential for these issues; more that good legal advice can help firms tackle these issues effectively. This is something we all have a stake in: small businesses are the engine of the economy, employment and growth. This understanding helps move debates about these issues from the conceptual to the practical; informing a policy response from regulators as necessary, but also providing the basis for law businesses to design services and products that meet small businesses’ needs more effectively.
The most frequent issues across the three waves of the survey are: late or non-payment for goods or services provided; goods and services not as described; and liability for tax owed. There have been significant falls in the incidence of legal problems in all areas, except regulation. The survey found that 47% of these problems had a negative financial impact on businesses, the average cost of each problem being £6,900. Extrapolated up to all small businesses in England and Wales, this would suggest negative financial consequences as a result of experiencing legal problems in excess of £40 billion per annum. Over 1 million individuals in small businesses suffered ill health as a result of legal problems. There has been a significant increase in the proportion of small businesses doing nothing in response (10%), but the proportions either handling their issue alone (50%) or using an advisor (24%) have changed little between 2013 and 2017. Less than one in ten either employed in-house lawyers or had a retainer. When professional advice was sought, accountants were consulted more often than lawyers. In 2017, for those small businesses that did use a lawyer, 22% shopped around to find a provider. 50% of those who shopped around found it easy to compare different providers.
Key findings Around a third of small businesses (31%) had a legal problem in the preceding 12 months. This has fallen significantly from 36% in 2013.
Figure 2: Responses to legal problems
However, just 11% of all small businesses in our sample agreed that lawyers provide a cost effective means to resolve legal issues - this is down from 14% in 2015.
Figure 1: Incidence of legal problems
22 Modern Law
More positively, satisfaction that law and regulation provide a fair trading environment increased from 30% in 2013 to 44% in 2017. It is also good news that 83% of small businesses were satisfied with the adviser they used.
Using case management to go paper-lite hatever way you look at it, people don’t relish change! However, unless we change and move with the times, we are left behind. No busy office can operate completely without paper and that is especially true for law firms. What you can do though is vastly reduce your reliance on printed documents.
The problem with paper is it’s costly, bad for the environment, can only be in one place at a time and is difficult to share. Going paper-lite on the other hand means we can share, contribute, comment, collaborate and be kind to the environment far easier and from anywhere we happen to be. Having a modern and effective case management system can help you achieve this. Move on from printing and posting documents for clients and use an online portal where clients have 24/7 access to their case details and can review and sign documents without having to come to your office. Figure 3: Views of law and lawyers There are opportunities for legal service providers to expand their business if they can tailor their services to what this group of consumers need.
Bundle court documents electronically, send eChits, forget about posting letters, make printing a rarity; paperless is unrealistic for a law firm, but going paper-lite is absolutely crucial. It’s not change, it’s progress. Adam Pembrey, Marketing Manager, DPS Software.
The findings of this research highlight the continued perception of legal services as expensive, but work by regulators and others to implement the CMA recommendations2 should help to address this over time. If these reforms lead to more choice, better value, rising quality and innovation then the regulators can be pleased; that after all is what access to justice, the public interest and the rule of law demand. You can find more information about the research on the LSB research web pages including the free to access and use raw research data collected for this report. https://research.legalservicesboard.org.uk/news/latestresearch-18/ Robert Cross, Research Manager, Legal Services Board
research-18/ 2 In 2016 the CMA found that competition in legal services was not working well, and made a series of recommendations for regulators and government to address these issues. For more information see https://www.gov.uk/cma-cases/legal-servicesmarket-study
Modern Law 23
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Stopping complaints before they happen hile the Legal Ombudsman deals with service complaints about all different areas of law, residential conveyancing is consistently our most complained about area. It makes up 24% of all cases that we accept for investigation, and in over half of those that went to ombudsman decision in 2016-17, we found evidence of poor service.
There could be a number of reasons for this bringing the most complaints, one being that most people at some point in their life will have some involvement in a conveyancing transaction. The most common complaint we receive about conveyancing is delay. This isn’t a surprise when you consider that conveyancing transactions are often time pressured or form part of a larger chain of transactions. The next most common complaints are about failure to progress and poor communication. Consumers place an immense expectation on their representatives to look after their best interests and make them aware of anything of concern. Quite often, a complaint can arise from an issue which, to the conveyancer, is fairly standard and nothing to worry about, but which the client places great significance on. My best advice for avoiding complaints is to be clear with your customers, and never assume what may or may not be important to someone. Similarly, don’t make assumptions as to their level of experience and expertise in relation to the conveyancing process. Whilst there is an onus on the client to raise any queries, many people will not even know what they should be querying, or what issues they should be concerned about, unless that information comes from you. You should always be clear with your customers, including about how long the process should take, any delays and anything that happens during the transaction to change any timescales, and how much it might cost and anything that affects that, such as additional searches. Also communicate well on anything which could affect a consumer’s use and enjoyment of a property. You may feel you have done enough by making them aware of restrictive covenants affecting a property but they may not know what that means. We don’t expect you to tell people whether or not they should buy a property, but you need to make sure they have been given the right information to make a fully informed decision. Rebecca Marsh, Chief Legal Ombudsman. Our guide for first time buyers can be found here: http://www.legalombudsman.org.uk/?portfolio=on-themove-a-guide-for-first-time-buyers
Q. How can knowledge of types of ‘legal funding’ available for dispute resolution be improved? A. Ask questions - ‘delving into the detail’ can pay off. hings have changed dramatically since the mainstays of litigation ‘funding’ were standard hourly rate retainers and legal aid in limited circumstances. There is now a plethora of routes for ‘access to justice’, including: conditional fee agreements (CFAs), damages based agreements (DBAs), before the event legal expenses insurance (BTE) and third party funding (TPF). New options such as the potential for the use of ‘crowdfunding’ continue to emerge. Each option has its own variants, upsides, downsides, limitations and of course financial consequences/price.
Knowledge of an option increases with its availability and use. In choosing a route there is a great deal of information to get to grips with. A good starting point might be to get a ‘full picture’ overview. Instinct may be to concentrate on ‘own costs’ - if it can’t be funded, it can’t happen. Whilst true, where cost shifting applies, the actual costs of a claim will be the costs of bringing it and an opponent’s costs of defending it. As such, own costs constitute circa 50% of the picture and the second part of the sum also merits examination. • Is a claimant content to shoulder the adverse risk? • Can they afford it? • Do they want protection from it? • Is there any existing BTE cover that could help? • Is it sufficient? • Might it be possible to obtain after the event legal expenses insurance (ATE) and what might that cost? Would it be based on the traditional percentage of cover provided? • Does a TPF offer an indemnity for adverse? If so, on what terms? Will its cost be subject to the overall funding returns (whether by multiple or percentage of returns)? The cost shifting risk is much reduced by ‘qualified one way‘ costs shifting in personal injury claims. There can be situations where it might appear an individual is being offered ‘something for nothing’ for the accident that ‘wasn’t your fault’. Even there, take a look at what is actually offered and see what deductions there could be. The type of arrangement which will best suit a client/the claim commercials will depend on a multiplicity of factors, including price. Don’t hold back from asking questions about options, charges, and who will get what from any recovery. Clarity is key and there are no ‘silly questions’ in this complex and evolving area. Jacqueline Harvey, Underwriter, AmTrust Law. Check out AmTrust Law via their LinkedIn page: https://www.linkedin.com/company/2747378/
Our updated Guide to good complaint handling is at http://www. legalombudsman.org.uk/helping-legal-service-providers/
Modern Law 25
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Remaining relevant What skills are required of a contemporary legal professional that may not have been as necessary ten years ago? he legal landscape is constantly shifting, and the contemporary lawyer must not only possess legal skills, but also considerable business acumen to prosper in this diverse market. Furthermore, new legislation throughout all practice areas means that these individuals must remain proactive in constantly developing and updating their skill base to remain legally relevant.
How digitising documents can help bring order to law firms andling large volumes of mail is part and parcel of running a law firm. In the age of digital case management software, it is preferable to maintain digital files, however, getting documents from their envelopes to the correct location in the system is typically a frustrating and time-consuming task.
Law firms should be looking to digitise as many paper documents as they can, especially those that often arrive in the post. Not only does this reduce time spent organising mail, but it helps businesses to maximise the benefits of working with digitised files.
The current era of technological advancement means modern lawyers must stay up to date if they are to maintain industry presence. There is also an increasing amount of pressure to remain current with technological advancements that impact the industry, such as implementing cloud based systems and investment into in-house technology. When working in a service industry, lawyers are expected to capitalise on such technology and stay social media savvy to give them a competitive edge. Social media marketing within the legal community has altered radically over the past decade, and lawyers must utilise platforms like Twitter and Facebook to strengthen a firm and attract future clients.
One of the advantages of digitised documents is that it enables easy access for people working across multiple locations. The trend of flexible working is set to stay, with research completed by the TUC revealing that in 2016, 1.5 million people were working from home in the UK. Having a system with digitised files helps to ensure those that work from home or off-site have the same access as their colleagues in the main office. With lawyers regularly attending off-site meetings and court, this immediate access to digitised documents, including correspondence received, can give them a competitive advantage over their rivals. Yet, the advantages are even more than just catering to modern worker trends.
Lawyers must be commercially aware and possess the same deftness as that of an individual handling a commercial business. It is imperative that lawyers maintain innovative business practices and leverage enhanced client services to maintain levels of productivity.
Easy access digital documents help to assist business with data management including what information is being held and how they are using it. Having this data stored digitally often makes files more secure and organised, which can help with compliance and regulation. The benefits are beyond just the legalities however, as searching digitised records is also much less time-consuming, making it easier to find and process information.
A high level of business skill is required by lawyers in modern times to run an effective legal practice and bespoke funding solutions enable a firm to avoid cash flow issues. Being pro-active is essential and monitoring future costs is a constant challenge for a firm. No longer can they rely on traditional providers to fund cash flow issues. Alternative funders, like ourselves, specialise in funding law firms and offer solutions specifically structured to align with the business logistics of running cases. Cash flow is essential to run a profitable business and we aim to alleviate this burden and allow the legal professional to concentrate on the client.
The advantages of managing documents digitally are evident, but with paper still very much part of the day-to-day job, itâ€™s important to make the process of digitising documents as efficient as possible. Tom Bailey, Managing Director, Best Practice Limited.
Ultimately, the last decade has witnessed changes in technology and legislation that has led to the legal professional needing to diversify like never before and â€˜adapt to surviveâ€™. The traditional role of the lawyer is changing, and that change must be embraced. Hannah Sales, Client Relationship Manager, VFS Legal Funding.
Modern Law 27
Busy achievers beats being a busy fool ’m just so busy!” - how many times have you heard that proclamation from family, friends or colleagues? It’s a phrase we’ve grown used to hearing daily, without asking why we feel that way. It’s no surprise Totallymoney.com’s survey of 2,000 workers found on average that Brits are doing 9.6 hours in overtime, weekly. There’s no doubt that we are filling our days with more processes and work, but are we avoiding better methods of conducting those tasks? We’ve plenty of gadgets that are designed to save us time, make processes easier and automate tasks. Buying theatre tickets over the phone? A thing of the past. Visiting the bank on a Saturday morning? Now you can do that from the comfort of your home. So why are we busier than ever?
Instead of focusing on being busy, it’s time we looked at what we are busying ourselves with. How much of your day is still filled with manual processes, diarising calls and rekeying the same information? An old manager of mine suggested we have become ‘busy fools’. But just as we implement methods of improving efficiency in our personal lives, we should also apply this to how we operate professionally too. Introducing systems that nurture productivity will also drive efficiency, and automating tiresome processes improves staff morale. Operating a law firm should be managed the same as any other business where workloads are lightened through quality software integrations that aim to reduce repetitive tasks. We look at it as employing technology that makes work enjoyable. Especially as we now spend more time at work than anywhere else, we should be encouraging work environments that foster growth and productivity, the key to any successful business. So, it’s now time to take a step back and review tasks that could be performed smarter. Ask yourself if they are necessary, or could technology improve the method, the same way you do in your personal life. We all have the same 24 hours in a day, it’s about being smarter as to how they are used. Reclaim those hours of overtime, and free up your time for the things you’d rather be doing. Adam Bullion, General Manager of Marketing, InfoTrack.
Investigating and implementing integration What is the value of integration between technologies in a law firm, and how might the challenges in achieving this be overcome? here is no doubt that law firms need enterprise line of business applications to function. From document management, time recording, client relationship management and many other systems; each of these provide a key function in the successful operation of the firm. Whilst the functional benefits of each system are clear, in isolation, these enterprise line of business applications can quickly become standalone silos of information because they are not fully integrated with the business processes of the organisation, or with each other. Worse than that, there are overlaps in the information stored in these systems, which can lead to duplication, inaccuracies, wasted time finding the source of truth, and inefficient business processes.
It is clear that there is value in ensuring that each of these systems are fully integrated into the working processes of the business, and that any opportunity to streamline the exchange of data and optimises those processes between systems should be investigated and, where practical, implemented. There will be a number of challenges to achieve this goal. Having a thorough understanding of what the business is trying to achieve will be key. In the first instance, you should ensure that the firm has systemised their business processes, and by that I mean have them documented. Do you have a process manual for each of the key business processes and how they currently interact with other business applications? What data is captured in the processes and by whom? Where is it keyed into? Is there double entry? How does that data flow around the organisation? Do you need to look at processes and go through an optimisation exercise? Asking these questions will also help you to identify key stakeholders. These people need to be involved as they may have a deeper understanding of the data and processes, but also to ensure that they are on board with the vision of greater integration of applications. Once you have mapped out the key processes, you are in a better position to identify inefficiencies in the current processes and data capture. From here you can look at the market for tools and products to help with the heavy lifting of process automation and integration of your line of business applications. COLIN FOWLE, Managing Director, Blue Car Technologies Limited.
Modern Law 29
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Getting to know the difference: Council (Official) vs. Regulated (Personal) Searches onveyancing searches are an essential part of the property purchasing process and provide the buyer with information used to certify the purchase or renegotiate offers. But is there a difference between a Council Local Authority Search and a Regulated Local Authority Search, and which one do you choose? We, a leading provider of conveyancing searches for residential and commercial properties, discuss.
Firstly, let’s clarify what each search means. A Regulated (Personal) Local Authority Search provides the same information as a Council (Official) Local Authority Search, but is put together by a search agent unaffiliated with the Council, rather than being supplied directly by the Local Authority. Both searches use the same CON29 enquiry form and provide accurate and up-to-date information on issues affecting a property, including planning proposals, traffic schemes, conservation areas and compulsory purchase orders in the area. Aside from these similarities, there are a few key differences that conveyancers should be aware of. Price There are over 400 Local Authorities in England and not one will charge the same for a search, with prices varying between £50 and £250. The cost of a regulated search is set by your search provider so you will always pay one standard price, regardless of Local Authority. A regulated search is usually slightly cheaper at £75 - £120. Turnaround Council Local Authority searches do have a reputation of taking longer to complete, but more recently these times have improved. In many cases, though, the regulated search will be quicker and cheaper than a council application. Information accuracy Although there was a time when many lenders would not rely on the results of a regulated search, times have changed. The accuracy of regulated searches has much improved and most lenders now accept them. Liability A council search is fully guaranteed by the Local Authority should the buyer incur any losses as a result of it being completed incorrectly. Regulated search users are also covered for any errors, albeit in a slightly different way, through indemnity cover and insurance to ensure customer protection. The decision on which search to use is very much down to personal choice and cost. We offer our clients a choice of both regulated and council searches.
Promoting well-being at work aintaining an even keel at work everyday can be a challenge for all of us. We hopefully have an interesting job with a reasonable to high work load and expectation to perform at a high level within our competence and skills. Given this relatively stable work role situation, our daily well-being will often be determined by our own ‘psychology’ and that of the people we work alongside and under. Effective communication skills are a wonderful thing and are one key to having a good day at work. Arriving and starting the day with a positive, happy and smiling approach at the building entrance, office door and desk encourages others to respond similarly. Conversely, a grumpy start will often be met with at best non-communication or returned grumpiness! Thereafter, during the day, positivity works, whether it involves our attitude, paper management or organised time keeping both for oneself and one’s meetings with others. A clear desk at the start and end of the day encourages and reinforces innovative, single-task resolution and often better task achievement. Combining this with specific task listing on paper or digitally, results in a cleaner head for what lies ahead and planning one’s personal resources and time to achieve.
Maintaining effective relationships both with colleagues and clients is clearly a pre-requisite for well-being at work. Contemporary legal professionals have to deal with high and assertively expressed expectations both from external and internal customers. Being able to tolerate and manage ambiguous or negative/critical feedback with a helpful and win-win attitude is a challenge but conducive to feeling satisfied, happy and fulfilled at work. Typically, common sense would predict that well-being at work is linked to self-confidence and assertiveness. In many instances this is true if it predicts displaying social skills that work i.e. getting jobs done and making oneself and others feel good. Many popular self-help books endorse this image, however, one has to guard against arrogance, over self-satisfaction and conceit. We need to be accurate in evaluating ourselves, developing authentic and genuine self-esteem, which includes an awareness of our limitation and our human-ness. Positive affirmation (“I’m good at…”) is fine but needs to be accurate and linked to comparison, humility and acceptance of others. So to enjoy your day today, having read this article, smile and be interested in the next person you meet, make a list, clear your desk except for the next task and feel positive about your skills and abilities. If Brendan, the editor, rings you with a problem, help him out! Professor Hugh Koch, Chartered Psychologist, Hugh Koch Associates and Visiting Professor, School of Law, Birmingham City University.
Jonny Davey, Product Manager, Geodesys.
Modern Law 31
Price comparisons and conversations What benefits would price publishing bring for law firms, and what are the disadvantages to this? he Competition and Markets Authority’s December 2016 legal services study found inadequate information available about price, quality and service for individual consumers and small businesses, concluding this was weakening competition and prejudicing consumers.
The SRA’s survey found 66% of consumers considered more than one law firm. 15% found information without contacting a solicitor. The survey of solicitors’ practices found 18% published prices. The Legal Services Consumer Panel’s Tracker Survey of 2017 revealed that 6% of consumers found price information on a provider’s website. Countless surveys in the UK and internationally, with aligned results, show that purchasers of legal services put lowest price last in order of priority. First is transparent pricing, followed closely by guaranteed pricing and then value-based pricing. I accept that some legal services can be and are commoditised, with the likes of residential conveyancing, wills and divorce publishing charges. Yes, we can publish hourly rates and while these may be capable of comparison at a local level for standard work, the vast majority of services involve too many variables to make this generally useful. We only have to look at the Solicitors Non-Contentious Business Remuneration Order 1994 or CPR 44.4(3) to see all the factors to be considered in relation to what is a reasonable sum to charge or recover. I am firmly of the view that publishing prices, in any service-line other than a fixed fee in the commoditised areas above, will be of no benefit to either consumer or law firm, since they can at best be a guide and starting point and must be subject to a proper pricing conversation with the client. Lawyers, like most professionals, dislike pricing conversations and an almost universal lack of pricing skills invariably means professional services are undervalued and misaligned with what the client really wants. Consumers want more from their lawyer than just the cheapest price, and publishing a fee does not establish an understanding of value without a proper grasp of the context of the job in hand. Insurers don’t provide prices until a detailed underwriting process has been completed. Lawyers should be no different, with no price being offered without a detailed pricing conversation and alignment of the numerous pricing options available for the client. Richard Allen, Senior Consultant and Costs Lawyer, Burcher Jennings.
The value of integration ew law firms now operate without the assistance of technology. The most common products are document management and time capture systems. However, when you look at the workflow it covers a range of technology like Microsoft Word, Outlook and Excel.
Many would agree that the trend is not to use less technology. To remain competitive the only direction is to use more and use it wisely. But when you’ve saturated the application space, when there is no single tool to increase productivity, what can you do? Integration is the next battleground. And it’s the seamless integration between various systems which can bring significant enhancements. Integration comes in two flavours. Either through a single application performing multiple functions or a number of different applications linked together. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Integration done well brings a number of benefits: • Efficiency – information is passed through correct procedures and approval processes. The constituent parts of a larger document are effortlessly combined. • Controls – workloads can be routed based on a range of criteria like skills, matter association, workload, or availability. • Reporting and visibility – with improved controls comes improved reporting. Entire workflows can be analysed to determine possible bottlenecks or where additional resources are available. • Flexibility – once workflows are “digitised” they can be easily changed, helping meet new business opportunities or avoid potential business risks. • Decentralisation – once appropriate workflows are established, staff no longer need to be based in offices. This provides flexibility to staff, while presenting the partners with reports around individual’s effectiveness. • Innovation – through improved measurement and understanding comes innovation. This continuous improvement cycle becomes an iterative process. This new integrated workplace also lends itself well to new technologies. Automation or machine learning applications require an existing dataset to be of greatest use. If there is no integration and documents simply reside in folders, there is little these products can do to assist with existing processes. This means those firms who have not embraced integrated technologies place themselves at a disadvantage. This need not mean every firm needs to immediately integrate all their systems because over time, new applications will appear and include many of these new capabilities. The rewards can be great; however, it is important that should you be considering change, it is done in context with the overall business strategy. GAVIN RUSSELL, CEO, Wavex.
Modern Law 33
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Keeping up with the communication
Diversity at the heart
How has technology impacted legal training both in terms of delivery and content?
What can the legal profession do to encourage new talent from diverse backgrounds towards a career in law?
hat impacts the legal profession necessarily impacts the delivery and content of legal training. Advancements in information technology have changed the way in which we work forever. Location is no longer a limiting factor as we communicate daily with ease across country and time zone. We generate documents in an instant and we employ algorithms, rather than people, to sift through mountains of data.
The content of legal training has expanded to cover the benefits and perils of social media and online networking. Training providers are adopting new technologies, which seek to provide quality training in convenient and accessible formats. But as with anything, there are always limitations. These limitations are not peculiar to tech-based training delivery but inherent in the use of technology itself as a means of communication. We all use tech-mediated communication nowadays, by which I mean emails, texts, hangouts and cloud based document sharing etc. If we consider that effective communication is at the heart of legal services (legal knowledge aside, we’re instructed for our ability to explain, influence, persuade, negotiate and draft), then it’s imperative we understand how technology affects it. Empirical evidence reveals that although tech-mediated comms provide greater convenience and faster delivery, they also create interpersonal distance, misunderstanding and inefficiency. Compared to the richness of face-to-face conversation where intonation, emotion, hesitation and gesticulation all contribute to understanding, tech-mediated comms transfer information but not always meaning. Studies have shown that texts and emails more easily lead to depersonalisation, greater hostility, increased misunderstandings and less rapport than face-to-face discussions. How many times have we lamented the confusion created by an illconsidered email? In a world where people losing their roles to machines and the concept of “artificial intelligence” is no longer bizarre, it’s ironic that the legal profession’s need to understand human behaviour and motivation has never been greater. Technology provides an efficient transfer of information but it remains the job of lawyers to both convey and absorb meaning. Technology has impacted both the delivery and content of legal training but not necessarily as anticipated. On the one hand it has enabled us to provide alternate quality delivery methods, such as Live Online, and on the other has highlighted the need for good oldfashioned interpersonal skills and a firm grasp of human motivation.
ttracting the right talent can be a challenge for any firm, but for a law firm outside of the big cities, and with some offices located in areas classed by many as ‘disadvantaged’, the talent pool suddenly becomes a lot smaller.
In any service industry, people are your business – they are the difference between success and failure, which is why it is so important to have the right people and to look after, support and nurture them to retain that talent and develop them into tomorrow’s business leaders. In Britain today, there is a recognised skills shortage in some areas of business and with worldwide opportunities for our most talented young people, as a nation we must seek to inspire those from all backgrounds. We are the largest law firm in the Lincolnshire and East Yorkshire region, and an active supporter of internal development and progression, which has seen a number of people who may not have followed the traditional university route advance into a career in law. It is evident when you look at the progression of some of the firm’s qualified solicitors that the firm is serious about this aspect of its work. For example, the CILEx training is well established as a method of encouraging talented employees to progress and develop from support into fee earning roles. The firm now has an increasing number of professionals who do not have a degree but who have been recognised and helped in this way. They are now qualified solicitors and partners. Of course, any large law firm will also have a variety of opportunities for support staff who wish to develop within the sphere to which they have been recruited. When it comes to these roles, it is about being open-minded at the recruitment stage – to try to look beyond what the qualifications are telling you and assess whether there is potential in the person in front of you. As law firms, we are first and foremost outfacing businesses that must gain the trust of potential clients – to do so, an important skill is being personable and engaging. To that end, as Britain faces stiffer competition for its talented individuals, we must look to become recruiters with diversity at our heart - whether we are looking to encourage recruitment from disadvantaged backgrounds, or simply taking a much broader approach to employment and progression. Julie Brearley, Head of HR, Wilkin Chapman Solicitors.
Alisa Gray, Business Development Director, Kaplan Altior.
Modern Law 35
A proactive approach to feedback How can firms promote collection of feedback while responding to any negative feedback in a positive way? eedback in any form of business is essential to improving services and quality of customer care. In the world of digital marketing, it has the added complication of proving reputation as well as having an effect on your search engine rankings.
It has long been evident that reviews and, in turn, the responses to those reviews, can have a huge impact on whether you secure clients or don’t. We offer very clear advice to our clients when dealing with positive and negative reviews and it applies to all levels of communication with clients, new or old, and potential clients. With a 360 degree approach to digital marketing you can benefit hugely from communicating with your clients through their entire journey with you. Firstly, you have to find clients, so you need to have the marketing right (website, SEO, Social Media, Emails and so on) then once you have secured clients you need to guide them through the process of their case. Many law firms still rely on good old fashioned letters, but in a growing digital world there is a need to approach your case management in a more modern way; using technology that integrates with your case management software will help guide clients step by step through the process and then all the way through to completion and review. While these kinds of tools make the collection of reviews easier what happens next? Positive feedback is easy to revel in and a simple exchange that you can use as a testimonial on your website for all to see. Negative feedback isn’t so easy to deal with. Let’s face it, no one likes their company to be looked at in any negative way. However, when it comes to defending your honour our top advice is to take the conversation offline! Ask the reviewer if you can take the conversation into an area where things can be discussed, and if possible, any grievance solved. Although you can’t get rid of the comments, you can offer words of support and understanding and ask for things to be taken to a private form of communication. The worst thing you can do is ignore things. Always jump at the chance to offer a solution and offer a chance to talk things through - this shows you have responded quickly and authentically, showing your firm truly cares about its clients. Steve Hooper, Founder, LawSEO.
Can a law firm website win new clients and help to grow your practice? In short, the answer to this question is ‘NO’.
o win new clients, most law firms today still need to engage with a prospective client in the real world.
What your law firm website can do, however, is generate as many (quality) leads as possible for your team to follow up with and convert into clients. The challenge therefore is how to change your website from a typical ‘brochure website’ into a ‘lead-generating machine’. We like to follow our tried and tested ‘TLC’ model to increase traffic, generate leads and convert leads into clients. Traffic Spend time to understand your target audience. Understand their pains and challenges so that you can provide them with the information they need. Once you have done this, make sure you make full use of social media, SEO and paid traffic to attract visitors to your website and ensure your real-world marketing promotes your website as a destination for further information. Leads With increased traffic on your website, make sure visitors receive the content they want to receive. In addition to all the information about your firm, the services you offer and how to get to your office, add regular content to your website in the form of a blog. Some firms are already blogging regularly but not achieving the results they want. Very few, however, provide visitors with ‘Calls to Action’ and the option of further information. This could, for example, take the form of an eBook or whitepaper asking for their contact details to receive it. Don’t just wait for them to click on the “Contact Us” page! Clients Generating leads isn’t enough as you will also need to establish clear processes to convert leads into clients. Could your website send out a few automated emails to help nurture leads until they are ready to become a client? Who will be tasked with following up, and have they been trained to work through a proper sales process? Whilst a law firm website can’t do everything, if you take a strategic approach, know your audience and set up proper processes, as outlined above, you will be well on your way. So why not start today and give your law firm website the TLC it deserves? John Hogg, Managing Director, Enlighten IC. To find out more about how to grow your firm, check out our “Definitive Guide To Legal Services Marketing” for useful hints and tips. Alternatively, if you are at LegalEx this year come and see us on Stand 514. This article is the shortened version of an original article published by Enlighten IC. To read this article in full please visit enlighten-ic.com.
36 Modern Law
There’s something in the pipeline... The Law Society CON29DW
What makes the CON29DW unique?
With the abundance of conveyancing reports on the market, it’s good to know that the Law Society introduced the CON29DW in 2002 to promote a consistent approach to property-specific drainage and water information.
When speaking to clients we find that the CON29DW is usually the drainage and water search of choice. It is the ONLY search that:
With 23 questions and two accurate Ordnance Survey maps showing assets and pipes, it ensures that property buyers get a consistent and thorough drainage and water search regardless of where the property is located in the country.
• includes TWO separate maps to illustrate the position of both drainage and water assets
This standardisation of property information is very much in line with the Government’s current proposals for improving the homebuying process as it helps to reduce uncertainty and unnecessary delays.
• includes answers to ALL 23 Law Society copyrighted questions on drainage and water
• does NOT infer or insure against answers to Law Society questions • does NOT refer customers to a different source of information • provides FULL protection to residential property buyers • provides effective REDRESS for homebuyers in the case of incorrect information
Our new-generation CON29DW Despite the thoroughness of the report, the Geodesys team is constantly speaking to homebuyers who have not understood the implications of identified drainage and water issues. Bearing this in mind, we set ourselves a challenge of ensuring that Geodesys’ version of the CON29DW offers the best possible information and explanation to conveyancers and buyers. We come across examples every day where a property’s value and enjoyment have been affected by related issues – so we felt it was important to paint a picture of why this could be the case.
The redesigned CON29DW provides this information upfront, ensuring that the homebuyer is empowered either to proceed with confidence or to make further enquiries of the seller. As a result, it’s much less likely that a deal-breaking issue will emerge later in the process.
When will it be available? The new-generation CON29DW from Geodesys will be available from 2 April. For more information and to arrange a product presentation, please contact: Jonny Davey Drainage and Water Product Manager 01480 326093
CON29DW – about to make the conveyancer’s job even easier The redesigned CON29DW from Geodesys launches this April with the following key features: • a new crystal-clear front-page customer dashboard highlighting information on key questions • clearer identification of potential issues on the dashboard • easy-to-use interactive navigation so it’s easy for users to retrieve relevant information from the details in the report • two formats: interactive PDF and usual print format • improved information on drainage and water legislation • an updated ‘plain English’ guide explaining how specific issues could affect value and further development • a new design created by industry experts
Geodesys. About to get even better. www.geodesys.com
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M odern LAW MAGAZINE
Hitting The Road At the end of 2017, Modern Law Magazine and Landmark Information Group took to the road to visit six cities in the UK, aiming to identify the challenges and opportunities for the conveyancing sector on a regional level. In order to do this, six roundtable events were organised, taking place in Manchester, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Bristol, Peterborough and London. As the capital city is also the UK’s biggest legal hub, it can often be the case that conveyancers from elsewhere in the country don’t always have their voices heard, and so we wanted to find out the unique circumstances of regional conveyancing markets as well as the innovative methods legal professionals are using to respond to these. The niches between the different locations were certainly interesting; for example, the relatively small size of the Scottish market means legislation can be implemented more quickly to allow for quicker innovation, whereas attendees in the North felt English legislation didn’t consider the needs of conveyancers outside of London. That said, the majority of attendees at every roundtable felt legislation and increased regulation were putting even more pressure on their firms. And there were other macro themes like this, which were consistent throughout each location, and these were perhaps more telling than the smaller, varying influences. The most obvious of these was the fact that, as pointed out in an almost word-to-word way at every roundtable, the public just doesn’t understand what conveyancers do. The result is a set of ever-increasing client expectations towards cost and speed, created by initial estate agent contact, experience from purchasing other services or products and a plethora of other factors. Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the Roadshow for attendees was a need for improved public education around legal services and the home-moving process, though there were mixed ideas on who should tackle this and how. This lack of knowledge and the resulting perceived lack of interest in conveyancing may also be contributing factors to what was probably the second biggest challenge facing conveyancers across the country: recruitment. Sadly, I thought this was universally the most pessimistic discussion point, with some attendees citing shocking recruitment statistics. More positively, the recruitment challenge is encouraging fresh approaches and attitudes towards attracting talent and new entry routes for conveyancers, and it seemed like the firms embracing these were the ones that have the potential to prosper in the face of any skills shortages in the future.
a bigger blip on conveyancers’ radars. The sector has seen brave new technological endeavours crash and burn in the past, but 2017 had proved to be a milestone year for tech, with the likes of blockchain, e-signatures and software integration all receiving more attention in the conveyancing world, and attendees were excited to see how technology would service their needs in the year ahead. There were of course many more hot topics discussed at each event, which you can read about in the following pages. For each roundtable we’ve summarised the key conversation points, then focused in on the topic that sparked the most engaging discussion among the conveyancers in attendance. Finally, Landmark Information Group’s attendees reflect on each roundtable and delve into their personal highlights. We were also able to hear about the state of the Irish conveyancing market from Rochford Brady’s Roy Arnott, and it was interesting to find out about the parallels that lie between the Emerald Isle’s conveyancing sector and our own. Similarly, a number of themes arose during the Roadshow that echoed those discussed among legal professionals from other areas of law. It seems clear to me that power is truly shifting to the side of the consumer within the legal sector, and firms will have to either embrace this change or be dragged kicking and screaming into the era of more communicative, clear and customer-centred conveyancing
Fortunately it wasn’t all doom and gloom, and the forward-thinking law firms represented at the roundtables offered some excellent ideas about how they planned to thrive in the years to come. One of these was another common trend, technology, which is constantly becoming
Brendan Issue 34
Brendan Gurrie is Editor of Modern Law Magazine. Modern Law Magazine would like to thank everybody who attended the events as well as Landmark Information Group for sponsoring the Modern Law Conveyancing Roadshow.
Modern Law 41
Our first stop was Macclesfield, with attendees from across the Northwest. Thorneycrofts Solicitors kindly provided their offices as the venue, where it was soon mentioned by Hesketh that the client “has difficulties” understanding “why we’re there” and “what we do”. It was agreed that clients expect faster service, but unfortunately delays were often caused by third parties, with Parkinson explaining that often conveyancers are viewed as being “as good as the weakest link in the chain”. It was suggested sharing more information in a quicker manner and not duplicating it could address this. It was again mentioned that there needs to be more public education around the causes of delays, but that The Law Society or the SLC would need to support this. Unpredictable SDLT changes were problematic, as were leasehold properties, which attendees agreed required changes. However, Walton suggested leasehold houses are not regarded with as much suspicion in the Northwest since local conveyancers are “used to dealing with them”. Higher expectations were attributed by Fairweather to the fact clients are “so used doing everything online”, and that because they didn’t understand the service they were more likely to choose providers based on price. Some firms had emphasised the value added aspects of their service to justify higher prices, and Longdin explained that as a client gets further into a transaction they want a solicitor “who knows what they’re doing”, and service is more valued. However, Wright said that since conveyancers are often the bearers of bad news for clients, they “start on the backfoot” and that clients feel they’re “fighting against” conveyancers. Mulligan agreed, saying the reason for this was clients’ “emotional levels” were “much higher” at the start of the transaction. Improved public education was again mentioned as a potential remedy to this. Price comparison was suggested as one way to help consumers choose providers, if there was standardised pricing, as comparison removed the opportunity for firms to justify higher prices to clients, and Thorneycroft 42 Modern Law
claimed this required “stronger regulation”. King said that a “strong public campaign” might be necessary to encourage legal services consumers to shop around. Home Information Packs (HIPs) were described as an attempt to improve client knowledge, but attendees agreed that these weren’t delivered well. Recruitment was seen as a challenge for conveyancers, since the 2008 crash caused a lot of talent to leave the market. Quirk pointed out that conveyancers need “tough shoulders” to bear the demands of clients, which can put a lot of stress on them. Conveyancers therefore need a combination of soft and technical skills. Some firms in attendance had embraced apprenticeships, but it was acknowledged that young professionals don’t see jobs as being for life, and so the apprentice could quickly move on. Flexible working was put forward as one way to retain staff, and this was something that had become more possible with technology. Technology adoption was becoming the norm in the Northwest, and attendees thought this was the case nationally. Some attendees thought widespread adoption of e-signatures was inevitable, but there were shared concerns about the security of these. The Government Gateway portal was suggested as a possible secure means of identification and communication, but it was also acknowledged that cyber criminals are always one step ahead of their targets. Cyber security was high on the agendas of the firms in attendance, and it was agreed firms of any size were potential targets. Looking further ahead, attendees recognised automation as a potential disruptor, though they felt this shouldn’t be seen as a threat to jobs. Some attendees predicted a housing boom in the Northwest if the northern powerhouse came to fruition, but there was an awareness of a perception that conveyancers were slow to respond, and the discussion circled back to the idea that improved public awareness was needed. Issue 34
What’s in store for the future of the conveyancing sector in the Northwest? Carole Marsden,
UK Sales Director, SearchFlow “The area of ID checks was raised with the group, agreeing that identity should be verified as the very first port of call and not at three different points, which is what we see today. Both ID and Anti-Money Laundering checks have become so much more than tick-box exercises and are vital for all involved. As well as ID and AML, the group discussed the benefits of sharing as much information with the client as early in the process as possible. Searches are now so fast there is little waiting time for these, providing clients with greater insight earlier on in the process. The ‘constant SDLT changes’ are considered a challenge by all, as there is simply no warning that they are coming. Leasehold changes are needed, with some clients concerned they can’t sell their properties. It was felt that leaseholds are something that the North West region is very familiar with, and therefore conveyancers here are very used to dealing with the related complexities. Attendees felt the Land Registry was coming on to their side more and there was general agreement that the Law Society or Society of Licensed Conveyancers could do more to conduct consumer awareness campaigns to aid public education relating to the legal process of buying property. Finally, security is high on everyone’s agendas – cyber security is a reality and everyone needs to be one step ahead. E-signatures are seen as inevitable once security has been addressed and the Government Gateway portal was suggested as one possible secure means of identification and communication.”
Hayley Wright: It is difficult to say as things change so quickly. Could we have anticipated some of the risks that we face now five or ten years ago? Would we have anticipated that nearly everything is now done by email? It changes so frequently that it’s hard to plan ahead. Angela Hesketh: Hopefully there’s going to be a new housing boom and we’ll have conveyancing coming out of our ears, which would be amazing, but how, where and who does that is a different matter. You’ve got a lot of external people looking to invest in this area. We are very attractive outside of the UK for investments and we have got that benefit against London in a lot of ways; they’re limited in space and the costs are phenomenal. It’s just going to be a matter of whether the business shifts to the Northwest, and the next challenge is whether we can encourage more of the bigger businesses to come to the northern part of the country rather than hanging on in there in London. Brendan Gurrie: We talked about the northern powerhouse briefly, but does that seem to be something we should expect – is it a likely reality? AH: It’s important for us all to get behind it, because it’s got a huge benefit for us in the Northwest, and we do tend to be quite dismissive generally. There are a lot of people looking towards the Northwest, so we need to maximise the opportunities here. In Liverpool particularly, anything that can be done is going to open the area up to allow us to compensate for a lot of challenges going forward in relation to security, compliance, due diligence, systems, panels, SDLT and data protection. Joanna King: What about robot lawyers and artificial intelligence? Jackie Longdin: You will always need lawyers, but just not as much support around them. Robotics will assist with any administration duties making processes more automated, but I can’t see a day when you won’t need a lawyer. HW: It is having a huge impact in other sectors, but I can’t see the legal industry being affected massively by it. AH: In conveyancing I can see how that could work and how attractive that would be, as it would increase your turnaround time and it would allow a smoother transaction. But it’s still in development so we’ll have to wait and see. However, we have to be aware of the potentials for these things and not see them as a threat. Instead, we need to look at how we can work around them and adapt ourselves. We are pretty adaptable as a sector because we have had to be.
Northwest Attendees: Andrea Fairweather Partner Birchall Blackburn
Angela Hesketh Director and Group Head of Property Jackson Lees
Andrew Burrows Senior Director Tinsdills
David Walton Head of Residential Property Blackstone Solicitors Hayley Wright Solicitor MSB Solicitors
Jackie Longdin Head of Business Performance Countrywide Conveyancing Services Robert Thorneycroft Director Thorneycroft Solicitors
Tracey Quirk Partner and Head of Residential Conveyancing MSB Solicitors Tom Parkinson Director and Head of Property Rowlinsons Solicitors
Scott Mulligan Head of Residential Thorneycroft Solicitors
Modern Law 43
We travelled down to Bristol’s Marriott Hotel for the Southwest roundtable, where the firms in attendance were facing a lot of pressure to reduce fees, particularly as some agents only recommend the firms with the lowest fees. Hallet felt that conveyancers “take all the risk” while “being paid the least”, while Phillips suggested that clients “don’t necessarily see the value” of increased regulation, so they don’t understand fees or delays. As attendees in the Northwest had done, Parsons identified a “need for an education piece” for the homebuyer to manage their expectations. Edwards called conveyancing a “thankless job” and suggested that previously clients “had respect for you” but that this was less so the case now. Attendees also acknowledged a client assumption that cheaper is quicker. It was pointed out that a Google search for ‘cheap conveyancing’ showed firms advertising fees as low as £99, and Hobbs claimed some “inexperienced staff” that allowed those firms to advertise such low prices created “backlash” for the rest of the profession. O’Reilly said this was “all down to education”, since if consumers don’t understand the process, “they won’t value it and they won’t pay for it”. The conveyancers felt they weren’t being represented by the Law Society well, and that increased regulation was making recruitment difficult; one firm took on ten trainees a year, and in ten years not one had moved into residential conveyancing. Attendees recognised that if there was such a negative perception of conveyancing among their peers, then it couldn’t be good amongst the public. Clients were said to expect instant responses, driven by disruptive companies such as Amazon. Hajek claimed power was now “in the hands of the consumer” and that this gave conveyancers a chance to be “more sophisticated” in their services. Attendees said millennial clients might not want to meet face-to-face and that technology would be the key to meeting expectations, but the cost of this could be prohibitive, and the tech could quickly become outdated. Gordon-Lennox pointed out that younger customers “might not understand conveyancing is a legal process”, which leads to increased expectations about speed. Attendees believed the sector didn’t do 44 Modern Law
enough to have its voice heard and that they weren’t always considered, like in recent consultations on transparency. They emphasised the need for context in any price publishing, as comparison sites could drive down fees further. As in the Northwest, attendees in Bristol saw recruitment as a challenge, but home-growing talent through apprenticeships was seen as a possible solution. Close described “mixed experiences” with apprentices, saying that some young people “want to run before they can walk”. Conveyancers require soft skills as well as technical competency, which take time to acquire. One firm had put efforts into increasing the productivity of current staff, claiming that the time saved through increased productivity could be equivalent to having an extra member of staff. Another firm with 80% female staff described challenges with maternity leave and part time working, as clients expect their conveyancer to be available all the time. However, all firms agreed that flexibility was important for female and male staff. The Southwest conveyancers admitted the region might be behind the curve in technology adoption, suggesting the Northwest was seeing some of the biggest advances. Attendees highlighted the need for integration of technologies, as a lot of time can be lost to going between platforms. However, it was agreed that correct usage of the right technologies could allow conveyancers to focus their attention on client care. Social media was seen as key in engaging younger clients, and it could allow firms to compete with larger competitors, but attendees accepted that outdated feeds could look worse than empty ones. Hajek suggested that there would be no future technological advancement bigger than the Internet. However, Chaffey predicted “a drive for more e-documentation”, echoing the Northwest conveyancers. Likewise, attendees in the Southwest expressed doubt about the security of e-signatures. The forecast for the future differed here however, as some attendees suggested there would come a time when conveyancers weren’t needed. But the conversation came to a close with the recognition that in every challenge facing conveyancers, there are also opportunities. Issue 34
Head of Product, Environment, Legal & Mapping, Landmark Information
Has the impact of new technology been felt in the Southwest? Where is the Southwest ahead of the curve in technology adoption, and where can this be improved?
“One of the main challenges raised by the South Western-based professionals focused on fees and how there are pressures to decrease fees in order to compete with larger firms. There was general agreement that clients assume ‘cheaper is quicker’ and as such, it was mentioned that some firms are refusing to publish prices for fear of competitors undercutting them.
Paul Hajek: The Southwest is definitely behind. Wales is not because some of their firms have got the capacity to be national players. Technology seems to be driven in the Northwest, where you can see the highest concentration and volume of conveyancers.
During the roundtable, a Google search of ‘Cheap Conveyancing’ showed adverts for fees as low as £99, which the group agreed only creates a backlash for conveyancers, having to justify appropriate fees.
Clare Hallet: Technology is also the key to productivity, but it is integration that is the challenge.
Pricing was said to be a big influence in South Wales, and a lot of time is spent solving problems caused by ‘inexperienced cheap conveyancers’. Outside of fees, the group also discussed the risk of fraud (overseas in particular) and the importance of remaining vigilant; client/agent expectations and demands; plus an overall need to educate the public about conveyancing process. Technology formed a large part of the conversation with all agreeing that new technology is making a positive impact; the region may not be up there with other parts of the country, yet it is being utilised. Case management is seen as the key but greater adoption will reduce the need to also complete manual forms. Overall, the Internet has massively affected conveyancing. There was a general dislike and distrust of electronic signatures, although many felt that this was the way forward as clients like the speed and convenience. Greater research is therefore required into secure electronic signature to combat fears of fraud.”
Tony O’Reilly: It is interesting how you equate the national scale of technology, and you’re absolutely right; those huge firms can afford to bring in technology of all different types.
TR: Innovation within the search providers has been very much about providing everything in one place, rather than having the frustration of going to twenty different places. It allows conveyancers to focus on delivery and the relationship with clients. Building a relationship with your client will keep them coming back and that is what conveyancers need. Brendan Gurrie: How much is social media valued within firms? PH: Our firm is probably only here because of social media. Being a small firm I normally wouldn’t get invited to these events, so social media is hugely beneficial to us. CH: It is the key with the younger generation because that is how they communicate. The one drawback from social media is that it is instantaneous; you have to spend a lot of time monitoring it because if there is anything that needs a response, that response has to be quick and timely. However, it does give us the opportunity to monitor what customers are looking at and what information they want, and that gives us marketing opportunities. PH: When you look at a website, it is one dimensional, but when you look behind it you can see the personality within that law firm. Social media is a tool to educate while having a bit of fun at the same time. Social media has allowed me to compete against the big boys and not worry too much about them because there is enough work out there for us all. Angela Gordon-Lennox: With a website you don’t expect it to be updated regularly because all consumers see is static information, whereas with Facebook you can communicate and there is a personality there. It is more informal now; in the legal world you expect some formalities, but social media breaks that tradition.
Chris Close Partner Michelmores
Emma Phillips Senior Operations Manager Foot Anstey
Janine Edwards Partner and Head of Property Team Watkins and Gunn Solicitors
Martin Chaffey Associate Ashfords
Clare Hallet Partner and Head of Residential Conveyancing Frettens
Gail Williams Residential Conveyancer Gregg Latchams
Mark Hobbs Managing Director Howells Solicitors
Paul Hajek Managing Director Clutton Cox
Modern Law 45
We crossed the border to Edinburgh for our next roundtable, taking place in the Jurys Inn. Attendees saw bigger external influences as the main challenges, with Brexit and increasing taxation creating market uncertainty and stopping clients moving. Darroch called this a “self-fulfilling prophecy,” leading to issues with the supply and demand of properties, and he believed more new builds might remedy this.
into a transaction if the process is explained to them. It was claimed emails had created expectations of an instant response, and one attendee had heard about another firm’s policy to reply to all emails within two hours. While attendees agreed complaints often arose from slow responses, it was also suggested that pausing to think longer rather than rushing to reply was beneficial for everyone involved.
New legislation was restrictive, since, as was the case at other roundtables, fees were simultaneously being driven down. This led Darroch to describe the Scottish buying and selling process as “broken”. Graham believed the role of the conveyancer was to “hold the client’s hand” through the process, which led to the acknowledgement made elsewhere, that a conveyancer’s soft skills are “an unsung part of the service”, as Stewart put it, and attendees agreed that it was difficult to explain to clients exactly what they do.
Recruitment was perhaps even more of a challenge in Scotland than it was elsewhere, and one attendee claimed even they wouldn’t recommend conveyancing as a job. Another attendee had noted a change in attitude of young professionals, with fewer willing to commit to being a partner, which could perhaps force adaptions of progression structures in the near future. Taking on apprentices was seen as a big commitment with no guaranteed outcome, but that had not stopped firms using them to try and address recruitment gaps. Ultimately, conveyancing was believed to be a shrinking market, and some attendees felt the shrinking talent pool was simply a reaction to this.
It was suggested some newer Scottish legislation isn’t well understood, causing complications. While conveyancers thought most of this legislation was useful, they also felt a lot of it was politically driven. Aitken was concerned that the current planning system “doesn’t work to encourage development”, despite the government wanting development. Attendees acknowledged the scope for conveyancers to lobby the government together and become more proactive. The consensus was similar in Scotland that clients were more demanding, expected 24/7 communication and needed to be kept informed. This was made difficult by delays caused by third parties, with some lenders still relying on fax machines. Wright stressed the importance of “managing client expectations”, a sentiment expressed at other roundtables too, and attendees also suggested the formation of a dispute resolution group to prevent delays. In Scotland, price influences choice of conveyancer, but recommendations are also key, particularly as there are fewer firms in Scotland. The attendees felt the term ‘conveyancer’ was pejorative, focusing on only one aspect of the job. Property lawyer was preferred, and it was felt this should be made clear to clients as well. MacKay then made the same point raised in Bristol: “If professional colleagues don’t know what we do, how can we expect our clients to know?” However, Smith explained clients “really appreciate” the work that goes 46 Modern Law
The Scottish attendees were asked for their thoughts on the Registers of Scotland being more commercial. It was largely agreed on that Scotland’s Land Information Service was rushed and was still a work in progress, but also that it had potential for collecting vast amounts of property information. However, there was concern that the more information available about a property, the more work the conveyancer would have to carry out, putting further pressure on costs. The Registers of Scotland were identified as one area that would benefit from further digitalisation as technology continues to advance, and technology was expected to have the biggest impact on fees and costs. It was explained that because Scotland is a smaller jurisdiction, legislation for new tools such as e-signatures could be implemented quickly. However, attendees pointed out that firms in Scotland tend to be small, and therefore implementing and affording new technology could be challenging. Ultimately, attendees felt the biggest future influences on the Scottish market would be economic, with Smith stating that “the market controls conveyancing” and not vice versa. It was therefore agreed that there would be opportunities for firms that respond well to these, but that the public should be informed about the work conveyancers (or property lawyers!) do to make future changes work for everyone. Issue 34
Head of Product and Innovation, Millar & Bryce “Around the table there was general agreement relating to Brexit’s impact, and the uncertainty it is bringing to the market. Any form of uncertainty affects consumer confidence in addition to adding delays to funding decisions. It was noted that the number of residential property transfers decreased over the summer by just over 5% compared to the previous year, plus there were concerns about the overall shortage of housing supply. On the reverse side however, the weak pound has helped to attract inward investment in the commercial sector, with an increase in transactions relating to leisure, hospitality and other similar portfolios, for example. The Land Registration Act, which came into force in 2014, has put more responsibility onto property lawyers and, as such, debate over land reform and potential legislative changes has created a series of challenges for the sector. Overall, it continues to remain high on the agenda in the industry and within Scottish parliament. There was agreement that the completion of the Land Register is central to making property ownership more transparent, while also making transfers of ownership easier and less costly for consumers. With the Scottish Government setting a target to have all Scottish land on the register by 2024, there is much work to do to achieve this as currently less than 40% of the land mass of Scotland has been registered to date. Finally, with significant tax changes introduced in recent years, such as the replacement of UK Stamp Duty Land Tax with the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax, plus additional charges for second home or buy-to-let transactions, this has brought a series of challenges for Scottish conveyancing professionals to overcome.”
How are firms in Scotland encouraging new talent into the conveyancing sector, and how has interest in a conveyancing career changed over time? Gillian Wright: I don’t think young people are interested in conveyancing. I tutor at the University of Edinburgh, and I usually ask at the start of the year who is interested in residential or commercial conveyancing, but it is not very appealing to them and I don’t know how we can make it more appealing. Lindsay Darroch: I have to agree. One, I don’t think younger lawyers want to do it and two, I think that there will be a natural evolution, where less and less people will do it. Will there be three or four firms ultimately left doing conveyancing because our market is not as big as England’s? There are not going to be a huge number of factory firms. Ross MacKay: The amount of fluidity in the younger workforce is much higher than it has ever been. There are social reasons for that, not just professional reasons, but I think that filters through into each area of the sector. And, dare I say it, doing residential property work is hard work, and it is not an immediate attraction for young people coming into the sector. LD: That is a really good point; when I interview, especially if it’s for a more junior position, one of the questions I always like asking is “Where do you see yourself in ten years in terms of your career?” Those answers have changed over the last few years. Fifteen years ago that answer would have been, “I want to be a partner”, but now I find this only 50% of the time. I find that a lot of young people are not interested in being a partner; they don’t want the responsibility, they don’t necessarily want to make the commitment and they are aware of the work/life balance. It’s a really interesting change. RM: There is a shortage of younger people coming to work in our sector, but in a way we find that the more amalgamations, mergers and take-overs that happen, the easier it is to actually get by, because the people left are enough to service that market. We have a shrinking market because of economic factors, and the shrinking pool of property lawyers is roughly matching that. It is not deliberate, it has just happened naturally, and I think that will continue for the next five years. Colin Graham: More and more of us are using less lawyers. Most of my team are non-lawyers now, but fifteen years ago it would have been mostly made up of lawyers. We have twelve partners, and eleven of those are over fifty, so we have to adapt.
Scotland Attendees: Ann Stewart
Property & Professional Development Adviser & Support Lawyer
Colin Graham Partner Thorntons
Gillian Wright Associate Gillespie Macandrew
Lindsay Darroch Partner Blackadders
Douglas Williamson Partner Warners LLP
Gordon Aitken Partner Dentons
Ross MacKay Partner Coulters
Shepherd and Wedderburn
Brian Smith, Partner Clyde & Co
Modern Law 47
The Royal Station Hotel in Newcastle was the site of roundtable number four, welcoming representatives from across the North and Northeast of England. Both market uncertainty and the changing demands of clients were concerns for attendees. “The biggest challenge” is “getting the public to understand” conveyancing, claimed Clark, alluding to similar suggestions from other roundtables, and Campbell agreed, stating a common cause of client frustration is “clients don’t know what we’re doing until the end”. HIPs were put forward as a potential way of informaing them, but it was acknowledged that interference other parties had limited them in the past. The Northern attendees believed conveyancers should be more vocal generally, as they too felt the Law Society didn’t voice their needs. Attendees also agreed on the need to differentiate their firms to cater to a more diverse client base, but high volume firms were causing challenges in pricing. McKinlay explained that a conveyancer could “give brilliant service and be a bad lawyer”, as he stressed the importance of balancing speed and quality. This led to a consensus among the attendees that it was important to be direct with clients at times in order to manage expectations, and initial contact was seen as a key time to set these out. The attendees believed that clients were more emboldened, with some apparently telling their conveyancer how to do their job. This was compared to similar changes in other professions, such as medicine, where the availability of information on the Internet was changing expectations. Fletcher felt legislation was “southern-driven” and didn’t factor in “economic differences” in the North. Attendees suggested that the government isn’t legislating correctly for first-time buyers. It was claimed there are more agents in the North and that agents were driving a perception that conveyancing is slow. There was disagreement on whether agents should be copied into emails so they could understand delays, as some attendees felt this complicated matters. But there was also acknowledgement a minority of firms still closed for lunch or didn’t use email, and attendees recognised that conveyancing is a fragmented market, quoting the statistic that 94% of work is done by independent firms. Hall thought the overall perception of conveyancers was that they are “a necessary evil”, often seen as in the way of the client since “they want a house and they want it now”, echoing back to the need to inform clients. Lawson agreed, explaining “it doesn’t matter” how good a conveyancer is ”if they don’t update the client”. 48 Modern Law
Conveyancers in the North saw cybercrime as a danger, with McKinlay stating that firms “have to be paranoid” about their cyber security. Some firms had invested in cyber training for their staff, recognising the ease with which someone could mistakenly send money to a fraudster. Attendees also recognised that fraud is becoming harder to detect, for example with more fake documentation, and also harder to police as it becomes more international. Lawson described identity checks as “the first point of contention” with clients, who don’t always understand the necessity of them, and there was a suggestion that the Land Registry could do more to help with verification. Facetime or Skype were suggested as possible ways to verify identity, though it was acknowledged that technology is changing communication more broadly, particularly among millennials who are more reluctant to use the phone, which was posited as one reason recruitment is a challenge in the market. Hall recognised the improvement on carbon footprint that technology can provide, and he expressed his belief of a “tax on paper” in the future for companies who don’t go paperless. Hall believed electronic file storage was a very influential technology in this regard. It was suggested that automation was encouraging firms to think about processes that could be automated and make smaller changes to these without actually implementing the technology, and attendees believed human involvement would always be necessary. One firm noted that despite the advent of technology in conveyancing, they never scored higher than ‘satisfactory’ for keeping clients informed in their customer surveys. Attendees thought this could be because the service is being measured against client expectations and not reality, and there was some agreement that the level of human emotion in a transaction means there could never be a perfect system that pleases everybody. Attendees recognised an opportunity for the future of the Northern market, particularly post-Brexit, given its position between the northern powerhouse hub, Manchester, and Scotland. However, the North was said to be a divided market, and a need was seen for firms in the region to lobby together so that they are considered more by government and regulators to ensure that the North is not overlooked or disregarded during these changes. Issue 34
Managing Director, Ochresoft
What have been the biggest external influences on the regional conveyancing market, for example economic or legislative factors? Adrienne Lawson: Stamp Duty changes have got to be a big one.
“The conveyancing professionals around the table were all in agreement that more needs to be done collectively as a profession to educate consumers on what is involved in the conveyancing process. Many felt the wrong expectations regarding timescales are set by estate agents at the outset, who may not necessarily understand the intricacies involved with the specific case. In today’s digital world, consumers have become used to the ‘Amazon’ society, i.e. you find a product, complete the purchase and receive it the next day. All the attendees are working towards speedier transactions, yet felt that greater consumer education is required because conveyancing is not yet as simple as an online purchase. Such education would help consumers see that conveyancing is not a negative barrier between them and the home of their dreams, but a means to helping them protect their investment instead. Cybersecurity was expressed as a worrying challenge with suggestions that lenders should take greater responsibility in undertaking the appropriate ID checks at the outset, due to the infrastructure they have in place to do this. The topic of Home Information Packs was aired by the group, who suggested that if they included a detailed survey and searches that are automatically updated, they have the potential to support the process and improve the transparency of each transaction. Finally, there was a general feeling that the North region has not seen the market fluctuations of the South region. Concerns were raised about Brexit and the North East being the “bit in the middle”, stuck between Scotland and Leeds, with a suggestion that the North region needs to come together as a whole to work more closely together.”
Adam Fletcher: A lot of the legislation does seem to be Southern driven. You never see legislation that factors in the economic differentiation between the two areas. For example, a first timer buyer in the South buying at £1 million is not bothered but then that’s a dream for someone after thirty years on the ladder in the North. The legislations coming through are not focusing on the North. Anne-Marie Thompson: SDLT itself has become a real hot potato. As lawyers we say that we are not tax advisors, but we now have to consider some quite detailed tax legislation to be able to advise our customers. Clients naturally want to make sure they are not paying any more tax than they need to. But now we can’t get the transaction over the line without completing the return and accountants don’t want to touch SDLT. The rules are complex and they seem to get ever more so. AF: This is where the government are misinformed. It seems that landlords have become the ogres. No one is willing to tackle the new problem of how you are going to get first time buyers on the ladder. A lot of what we’re seeing is quick fixing, but I don’t think the government are legislating correctly to solve these problems. AM: We are left holding the baby because we can’t process a transaction without a Stamp Duty return, but if we don’t want to do it then the whole thing grinds to a halt. Paul Clark: That’s indicative of us having to do everything now, and it’s about covering our backs. The biggest external influencer that we’ve experienced is when a large estate agent firm bought a local agency. The staff in their office used to refer things to us, even though we were not on the panel, because we were a good communicator, and then suddenly they said they couldn’t do that anymore because they were policed so heavily. AF: It’s not like supermarket shopping, where if you have a bad experience you try somewhere else next week. On our high street there are more agents than ever before. Consumers are becoming smarter, but I would say to everyone that you need to publicise and talk about yourself earlier. Recommended for the Right Reasons is our campaign, and I think as a profession, those that are independent need to get that campaign out there because agents are not going to do us any favours.
Adam Fletcher Managing Director, Residential & Commercial Property Ridley & Hall
Alistair McKinlay Director & Head of Conveyancing Emsleys Solicitors
Adrienne Lawson Assistant Solicitor Mincoffs Solicitors
Anne-Marie Thompson Solicitor True Solicitors
Geoff Hall Head of Residential Conveyancing Gordon Brown Law Firm Jade Campbell Partner Lester Campbell LLP
Paul Clark Director Humble & Clark
Modern Law 49
The largest legal hub in the UK was the site of our penultimate roundtable, as we sought to find out how the City’s position had encouraged adaption and innovation in conveyancing, and how firms from elsewhere in the South were keeping pace. Doctors Chambers kindly provided their offices as the venue for this event, where attendees believed technology was the biggest driver of progress in the sector. Pathmanathan called new tech “scary” but “inevitable”, suggesting “a very high chance” technologies like blockchain could render conveyancers obsolete in the future, though Fullbrook believed “human nature” means “people want an update from a human”. It was also explained blockchain would require total buy in from the market, which was cited as a reason for the failure of Veyo, and there was also a lack of clarity on who would fund such initiatives. Some attendees rejected the idea that conveyancers would be made redundant by technology, claiming the human touch would always be required. However, recruitment was seen as a challenge even in the capital, with one firm receiving just eight applications for a job advert listed for three months. Knowledge management systems were seen as a beneficial currently available technology, as was AML software and anti-fraud platforms, but as in Bristol, attendees thought integration of different systems was key. A benefit of technology was that it allowed more frequent communication with clients, since, as Ford said, the client feels “conveyancers don’t communicate enough”. The risk of fraud was again seen as a barrier to e-signatures, but there was disagreement about the Land Registry’s role in progressing new technologies like this; some attendees believed innovation should be left to lawyers and business partners, while others acknowledged that the Land Registry has the most capability to develop new solutions. Achampong believed clients based their choice of conveyancer on “prior experience, firm reputation, and strength of referrer”, and was unsure how comparison sites could represent these factors, though he thought comparison sites were “almost unavoidable”. Agent referrals were a common source of new clients for the firms in attendance, but it was
50 Modern Law
explained that agents were also facing challenges to innovate owing to the threat of online agencies, leading to the prediction that referral fees would become a bigger influence on agent referrals in the future. Attendees felt the public saw all conveyancers as identical, and Achampong asked the question attendees from other regions had also asked: “Is there more we can and should be doing to explain the conveyancing process” to manage expectations? Carter agreed, describing the difficulty of getting clients to understand conveyancers are “protecting their interests”, because for them “it’s so emotional”, whereas the conveyancer is “not emotionally attached”. Crighton warned against “bombarding” clients with information, as this could lead to more confusion, and Gova explained how providing expected timescales to clients who “just need to be reassured” gave them that reassurance, and other attendees agreed about the value of timescales. Gova then described adaption to these new client expectations as “do or die” for conveyancers. Mandatory price publishing was called a potential “can of worms” by Crighton, but it was suggested that standardised definitions of conveyancing services could help consumers make a more informed choice. There were mixed opinions on review platforms, as these were seen to be out of the control of conveyancers, with one attendee describing conveyancers as reactive when it comes to customer feedback. A unique recruitment challenge in the South was the risk of home grown talent leaving for easily commutable jobs in London, but as in other regions, it was noted that flexibility was an effective way to retain staff. Tech was seen as one way to enable this, and it was also predicted that app technology could extend this flexibility to clients in the future. More broadly, it was predicted conveyancing would only become more clientfocused and that firms would consolidate to create a smaller market. The biggest Brexit impact was felt in the South, as this combined with increasing taxation and stricter AML procedures had discouraged some international clients. However, the conversation circled back to the topic of technology, with agreement from the attendees that it would enable new opportunities for conveyancers who were willing and able to embrace it.
Managing Director, Ochresoft
“Several themes were apparent in the Windsor roundtable. Firstly that technology is providing a positive way forward in delivering both efficiencies and safeguards, while enabling automation of certain tasks to free-up conveyancers’ time so they can handle more complex requirements. The collective agreed that technology should not be seen as a replacement for conveyancers, but an enabler; freeing up valuable time. In fact, one firm confirmed that since implementing automated weekly client updates, they have reduced inbound calls by as much as 40%. Another theme concentrated on the need to educate consumers due to a generally low understanding of what is involved in the legal process when purchasing a home. It was discussed that the value provided by conveyancers needs to be made clearer. Consumers shouldn’t view conveyancing as an obstacle between them and the purchase of their home; it should be seen to help protect them. It was agreed that providing greater clarity on what is involved would benefit everyone; clients will understand the complexities involved in the process, which will help towards setting realistic expectations (of both the time and fees involved) at the outset. Finally, recruitment in the South East was another talking point: finding experienced talent in the region is a challenge, following the departure of many back in 2007/2008. Instead, an emphasis has been placed on training, with investment in developing home-grown talent, including continuing investing in non-legal staff to fill apparent gaps. The challenge then instead shifts to retention as it is then easy for staff to commute to higher-paid positions in London once the training has taken place; the majority agreed this is an ongoing issue in the region.”
How are conveyancing firms in the South responding to recommendations around improving accessibility and transparency in the legal sector? Richard Carter: I’ve sat in on a couple of sessions with the SRA, and they are being pressured by the CMA and the Legal Services Board to do something. It might be like the Legal Ombudsman publishing complaints, just a list of 10,000 firms in an alphabetical list. The SRA seem to be saying at the moment that they are not going to be publishing by region, and there is not going to be a price comparison website. The list will give your standard price for whatever transaction we choose. Martin Crighton: We don’t publish our fees on our website, as it would be very confusing and cause a lot of problems. What I do understand and accept is the way in which we present estimates needs some work to make them simpler. Publishing pricing from SRA and CLC regulated businesses is just an absolute can of worms. RC: We did some research last year where we took one-hundred files and found out if our initial quote was what we ultimately ended up quoting, and in 96% of cases it was. Rob Sanderson: If you don’t necessarily want to go through with the CMA’s aim of publishing your fees, do you think as a halfway measure, one of the things we could do to improve accessibility and transparency is to agree on a dictionary of these charges, as a profession? Appan Pathmanathan: Would a glossary of terms really benefit the client? Clients are a lot savvier than they used to be. In regards to transparency, there are price comparison sites in conveyancing that have a massive influence. Companies are really moving these sites forward by generating thousands of leads every month. And there is transparency there, because if you look at these websites and you’re cross comparing, they all have standardised technology. One thing you can’t standardise, unless you have a ten page list of every possible cost, is that there are going to be additional fees. Quite often what you find is transparency with the initial fees, with firms telling clients that this is their basic fee, but then they hit them with a massive cost for something different or unusual that comes up. RS: It sounds like the impact of comparison websites is at least helping customers compare their costs of services and disbursements of one provider to another, because that site is using standard terminology. AP: And they are improving because a lot of price comparison sites are massively promoting reviews, so there is an element of comparison of quality as well as price.
South Attendees: Appan Pathmanathan Solicitor and Head of Business Development Smart Legal Gareth Fullbrook Associate Eric Robinson Solicitors
Jem Gova Solicitor The Sethi Partnership Solicitors
Kacy Ford Partner Girlings
Jonathan Achampong Senior Associate Wedlake Bell LLP
Martin Crighton, Managing Director Right Choice
Richard Carter Managing Partner Martin Tolhurst
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Our final destination on the Conveyancing Roadshow was Peterborough, where we heard from conveyancers based in the East and the Midlands. Some attendees felt there were too many firms in the region, and it was difficult to communicate with people in some larger firms, creating frustration for conveyancers and their clients. They also believed larger firms were using inexperienced staff to drive fees down, and this had forced smaller firms to digitalise in order to cut costs. However, Law suggested this might be because conveyancers have been slow to react to market changes, claiming they have a “victim mentality” and “tend to be quite old fashioned”. He believed this problem came from law firm leaders, and he questioned why lawyers were also managers when the two roles are entirely different. Law recommended that the profession was “more open”, and Lobozzo agreed, suggesting a “change of mindset” in the sector to become more adaptable. For conveyancers in the region, external factors outside of their control were having a big influence, with inconsistent lender requirements and unpredictable SDLT changes chief among these. It was again suggested conveyancers should be more proactive, rather than reactive, in order to affect change in areas of frustration. One of these frustrations was the increasing expectations of clients, and, as in other regions, conveyancers at this event thought consumers wanted everything more quickly, and this was attributed to the availability of online information. Dally referenced research showing “73% of clients wanted weekly updates”, and auto emails and chatbots were put forward as potential ways to deliver this communication. However, O’Reilly recognised that service is “not one size fits all”, and there was speculation among attendees on whether a Ryanair style model of offering a base price and charging for add-ons would address client needs, though it was pointed out that conveyancers often undervalue the work they do. In addition to price, attendees discussed increasing client reliance on independent service reviews, with some firms encouraging reviews in recognition of their importance. The conveyancers identified the underlying theme of the entire Roadshow, the need to educate the consumer, and the attendees at this roundtable also discussed the need for agents to be involved in this process.
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They didn’t feel that mandatory price publishing would help this, however, noting that upfront prices weren’t expected of other professions and echoing fears from elsewhere in the UK that this could drive fees down further and put more pressure on conveyancers. This pressure was touted as one reason why recruitment is a challenge in the sector. While all firms recognised the potential of alternative entry routes into the profession, with O’Shea calling two recent apprentices a “fantastic part of the team”, she also acknowledged some clients would “always want to talk to the conveyancer”, again referencing the high expectations clients possess. Ansell explained that social media could be used in recruitment efforts, as it “breaks down barriers” and allows a firm to show a more “personal side”, which attendees saw as important in order to attract talent. It was also suggested that directors sitting among staff and open plan office layouts could encourage a positive culture within firms. However, attendees also noted the importance of making young conveyancers aware of the stress in the role, particularly as Rickard explained that “nine times out of ten”, new solicitors who don’t understand the stress “don’t come back after a week”. The conveyancers in attendance claimed to have become more open to technology in recent years, but they did admit they believed the conveyancing sector was behind other areas of law. Conveyancing was seen as a volatile market, and therefore a large investment in technology was also recognised as risky. This was even more so the case since there was a feeling that it was difficult to keep up with all of the new solutions becoming available, and attendees believed this would diversify the market further as firms used technologies in different ways. The attendees did agree that future developments would be driven by the consumer, and that these should enable meaningful transparency in a transaction, with portal technology suggested as something that could promote this. Attendees were aware of the Land Registry’s technology initiative, and there was some anticipation that these technologies would filter down to firms. The discussion, and the Roadshow, ended on this note, amid what Dally called a “fun and exciting time” for conveyancers and ahead of what is sure to be a period of great change for the market.
What are the main challenges the conveyancing market in the East and Midlands faces at the moment, and how is it meeting these?
Regional Account Manager, SearchFlow “The attendees for the East and Midlands roundtable discussed a range of challenges facing the sector, from pricing concerns with large ‘factories’ driving down margins, through to the issue of attracting professionals into conveyancing. Described by Michelle O’Shea as the ‘dark art of conveyancing’ the collective were in agreement that consumers aren’t aware of the work involved in conveyancing. This led on to the conversation of transparency and online price calculators and price comparisons for conveyancing, where it was agreed that this simply doesn’t work for this service, due to the complexities and variances of each and every transaction. Regulatory changes were flagged as another challenge, for example, the implementation of the Stamp Duty Land Tax changes ‘overnight’ was an issue for many. Not only was the guidance complex, but it meant updates were required to case management systems, developers queried SDLT allowances already agreed, and clients had questions immediately after, providing no time to digest the detail. The consensus was that accountants are better placed to advise clients on such changes. It was agreed that in the last decade, conveyancing has had to innovate and digitise to keep up with general consumer trends. Tom Ansell of Brethertons said clients “want information at their fingertips” and in today’s 24/7 world the service industry is evolving to keep pace, which is no bad thing. Suman Dally from Shoosmiths agreed: “People want information quickly; they don’t want letters. People are used to social media and one-line transactions. Updates, such as emails, chat forums or texts are appreciated; buyers aren’t generally interested in the detail.”
Michelle O’Shea: For me, it is the people involved in conveyancing now. There are too many unqualified people doing the job, therefore transactions are taking much longer. Helen Lobozzo: It’s also to do with price flow. The fact that our price is heavily hit all the time means there is almost no way that you can have an old-school mentality, because you would never be able to drive your price down. Michelle Rickard: A big issue from my point of view is fees, because you do get the big boys that can drive their fees down, and again it is because they are using unqualified staff. Most of the time you are doing their job for them because they can’t answer the enquiries. They may have one fee earner that is qualified in a team, but they might have 300 cases that they have to look at. Tom Ansell: Aggressive price competition is certainly big at the moment, and the balance of being able to price correctly whilst providing a proper service and making sure you are receiving a sensible margin is difficult. HL: It’s almost got to the point where if you’re going to make conveyancing really lucrative, you’ve got to digitalise your systems to do some of it for you, because otherwise there’s no money in it. We’ve moved on from having one ordinary skilled person doing the whole transaction because of price. Simon Law: Is that necessarily a bad thing? As a profession we have been slow to react, and part of the reason why the DCLG have come out with nonsense, and why price and transparency is with the regulators, is because we have spent so many years trying to protect our position and we have not done ourselves any favours. There is a massive number of unqualified staff, and the problem is we don’t have enough people out there to teach them. The biggest problem we’ve got in the profession is that we protected ourselves too much for too long. The market has moved on and we haven’t moved with it. I have said it for years, that, first and foremost, we are a service industry; we need to provide a service to the customer, and the legal stuff happens in the background. We are moving forward, and the SLC are addressing training and education through the CLC, which will be a practical online training course. Events like this are an absolute must, where we get together and we agree on some ways of going forward. We need to be more open as a profession.
East & Midlands Attendees:
Suman Dally Partner Shoosmiths
Michelle O’Shea Principal Michelle O’Shea & Co
Simon Law Chairman The Society of Licensed Conveyancers
Helen Lobozzo Head of Residential Property Taylor Rose
Michelle Rickard Principal PDR Property Lawyers
Tom Ansell Head of Practice Area Brethertons Solicitors
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An Irish Perspective As part of the Conveyancing Roadshow, we interviewed Roy Arnott, Managing Director of Ireland’s largest provider of ancillary legal services, Rochford Brady, to hear what the main challenges are facing the Irish market.
What are the main challenges the Irish conveyancing sector faces at the moment?
As a region, we are continuing to recover from the crash in 2007/8. Forget what you saw in the UK; we experienced a real cliff edge in Ireland. It was like nothing seen in the UK and with it, it brought about many things. The banks were close to breaking point and were bailed out by the state; a series of non-performing loans were sold off to overseas lenders and venture capital firms and developers were made bankrupt and their assets seized.
As such, there has been very little built between 2009 to 2015, and this has resulted in a stock crisis. Banks have been recapitalised, yet only Bank of Ireland has made it out of state control. There’s a lot of things hampering building of new homes, including a lack of skills in the construction sector. Plus, lenders, by the very nature of what has happened, are being ultra-cautious. On top of this, planning is fraught too; for example, with low height limits and all funding required up front. It all paints a rather depressing picture. However, there has been a gradual uptake in transactions each year. During the last few years, the economy has been growing well. Unemployment is also at the lowest levels in living memory, so this should all start to feed through, and hopefully this will sustain the improvement in the property sector.
What have been the biggest external influences on Ireland’s conveyancing sector, for example economic or legislative factors?
Brexit – it has the potential to create a mess for Ireland due to the border issues. I watched a recent news item on Channel 4 where Brits were asked to draw the border between the Republic and Northern Ireland and it’s clear that many people have little idea! Brexit is bringing huge uncertainty; and in a recovering market this isn’t helpful. Uncertainty spooks markets and businesses go into defensive mode. Another aspect is that the largest banks, Bank of Ireland and AIB, are significantly exposed to the UK. They have large UK lending portfolios and so have huge exposure to Sterling and its spiral.
In your experience, how have the needs of your clients changed over the last ten years?
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There has certainly been a shift away from paper, and now a majority of work is conducted via web and email. As a nation, e-conveyancing is yet to happen, although a move towards this would be beneficial. What are the main influencers of choice of conveyancer for the 21st century client?
Quality of service and value are paramount, however there are many factors that people take into consideration when selecting a conveyancer. It’s very much relationship-based here in Ireland; people often choose by personal recommendation.
Has the impact of new technology been felt in Ireland?
In conveyancing specifically, the adoption of new technology has been gradual. For everyone who wants to order through an iPhone, there is still someone else who wishes to instruct by fax. The important thing is to embrace new technology, but to also support clients in communicating with them via their preferred means. That means, we have to be able to operate at all levels of the technology spectrum.
What else is in store for the future of the conveyancing sector in Ireland?
For us personally, we’re anticipating a strong start to the year. The market is improving and we’ve been able to adapt our business over the years in line with the needs of the market and our clients. As part of the country’s overall recovery cycle, we’re seeing movement overall. There’s less negative equity and there’s churn happening on mortgage books. I would say I’m cautiously optimistic about the future of conveyancing in Ireland. Let’s see what Brexit brings, however, for the time being there’s momentum and recovery is continuing. ROY ARNOTT, Managing Director, Rochford Brady, Dublin. Please visit www.rochfordbrady.ie for more information.
I would say I’m cautiously optimistic about the future of conveyancing in Ireland. Let’s see what Brexit brings, however for the time being there’s momentum and recovery is continuing Issue 34
A conclusion on conveyancing Angela Gordon-Lennox, Landmark Information, summarises the Modern Law Conveyancing Roadshow, pulling out the top topics discussed, where there is need for improvement in the sector and how these challenges can be overcome. Co-hosting the Conveyancing Roadshow with Modern Law Magazine has proven to be an extremely valuable exercise. With at least ten legal professionals around the table at each session, we have heard from over sixty property law experts from all corners of the country talk openly to us about the challenges and opportunities that are currently facing the property sector, and what impact this is having on the legal process. Hearing, first hand, from property lawyers has provided us with a clear view on a range of topics that are currently front of mind for those operating in this area; from everyday operational, task-based issues, to recruitment and managing talent in the sector, right through to looking at the way technology is supporting, and evolving, the conveyancing process as we know it. In particular, with e-Conveyancing back on the radar as the government seeks to find ways to improve the home buying and selling process, the role of data, software and online services will be pivotal in helping the industry in streamlining its current way of working. Reviewing everything from the use of case management systems to improve workflow across the entire ‘chain’, through to digital tools and services that deliver greater insight and due diligence on the property and area in question, these were all discussed around the table. We heard from firms regarding how they believe harnessing digital technology will have a positive impact on the home buying and selling process, whilst discussing some of the practical changes that need to happen in order to make e-conveyancing a reality. Some key themes certainly came through from each session, with one topic raised at almost every session, which was the importance of raising consumer awareness of what conveyancing is, so there is greater understanding of what the process entails, and its value to all involved. Education is key. There were concerns raised about the increasing pressures placed on legal professionals to ‘speed up’ the transaction process, with many suggesting that digital influences taken from everyday life, such as the ability to buy a product online with one click and receive it the very next day, is creating a culture of ‘consumer immediacy’. This ‘Amazon culture’ has created an expectation that all services should operate this way, and as such, conveyancing is deemed slow in comparison. It was agreed however that many forget it is a legal process, and no two transactions are the same. Consumers have become used to connecting with service providers at any time of any day, through their tablets or smartphones. There was a feeling from all that the expectation of receiving an instant response is placing great pressures on lawyers. Of course, every transaction is different, and as a legal process, it isn’t as straightforward as consumers may think. That’s why price comparisons or publishing set prices lists aren’t considered to be a viable option by many we spoke to around the tables. Subsequent research by the Solicitors Regulation Authority has suggested Issue 34
that just 6% of consumers choose a property conveyancer based on their price, and instead three quarters opt for their lawyer based on recommendation or referral. In contrast, the people around the rooms in each region said that price has always been a factor, and always will, particularly if people don’t understand the value of the service and the complexity of the work involved. And, while there are firms out there solely marketing their services using small introductory costs to entice customers, many are finding they are instead having to spend time solving problems that have been caused by conveyancers who may not necessarily have the most experienced staff as a result of the rates they are charging. Looking specifically at the role technology does and will play was interesting. There was a view that technology is allowing conveyancers to focus more on client care and increasingly automation of standard tasks will support the process further still. This includes sending automatic updates to clients to keep them posted on progress – with one firm suggesting that the use of such technology has already reduced inbound chaser calls by as much as 40%. Concerns were raised regarding smaller firms and their ability to adopt the latest technologies on par with larger firms, yet the majority suggested that adoption is the only way forward in order to compete, particularly with the risks facing the sector through increasing cyber-security threats. Finally, integration was discussed along with the importance of bringing together disparate systems and processes to make a more cohesive and streamlined transaction process, with attendees suggesting involvement from the Land Registry, private businesses and lawyers themselves could offer a way forward. ANGELA GORDON-LENNOX, Head of Product (Legal), Landmark Information.
Hearing, first hand, from property lawyers has provided us with a clear view on a range of topics that are currently front of mind for those operating in this area; from everyday operational, task-based issues, to recruitment and managing talent in the sector, right through to looking at the way technology is supporting, and evolving, the conveyancing process as we know it Modern Law 55
Moving searches forward.
Identified: risk from one or more kinds of flooding
Groundsureâ€™s Homebuyers Plus is a new residential environmental risk report, an enhanced version of the existing Homebuyers report. Based on Land Registry polygons, with new features, improved layout, intuitive design and clearer navigation, Homebuyers Plus saves time and improves workflow for conveyancers. To find out more, visit: groundsure.com/mlm or contact your preferred search provider.
+44(0)8444 159 000
Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should Our resident Tech commentator Charles Christian writes… ack at the turn of the century, as in the year 2000, London’s ‘Magic Circle’ law firms were all rushing to deliver ‘virtual dealroom’ systems to their clients. Today we’d call them client extranets and they are available as off-the-shelf packages, however back then, nearly 20 years ago, they required bespoke software development and two were reported to have involved the firms in budgets in excess of £1 million each.
Big money today – and even bigger money then – but what were they meant to achieve? The idea was that instead of the traditional way of handling M&A work due diligence (with legal teams, managers, and other interested parties closeted in offices for days on end, wading their way through corporate documentation), all the documents would be captured digitally, then loaded into an online workspace where they could be reviewed and, thanks to some neat (for that era – you can get it on a free app nowadays) software, it could be annotated, amended and approved. The big selling point was that it was meant to be so much more convenient, not least because lawyers in different time zones could work on it at their convenience, rather than requiring everyone to travel to London and be physically present at the same time, in the same office. Well, that was the theory. Unfortunately the software was so complex it required users to attend extensive training courses – one firm’s dealroom called for a three-day course in Maidenhead. Not surprisingly, the firms’ clients and advisors (and we are talking here about in-house legal teams, senior executives, accountants, stockbrokers, underwriters, etc.) said “No thank you” and continued to do things the “old fashioned way” with photocopies, highlighter pens, and couriers shifting documents from one location to another. It was a salutary lesson that just because you can do something (with the requisite tech) doesn’t mean you should. And this, it should be noted, was with professional users, not lay members of the public who could be excused for being unfamiliar with complex business systems! So now let’s fast-forward to the online legal service options law firms are offering their private clients, particularly for conveyancing… Online access to case management systems so the client can monitor progress and send additional instructions?
The better way to manage leads and onboard new clients Issue 34
Is the technology helping to solve a problem or make it worse? Indeed, if there wasn’t a problem in the first place, are you risking trying to fix a problem that wasn’t even broken?! Clearly very valuable for keeping the other side’s lawyers, plus the mortgage lender and the estate agents in the loop, but does the client actually benefit, bearing in mind the client probably does not understand the subtler nuances of the conveyancing process, including the different types of search reports? In fact, it’s my experience that many non-lawyers engaged in home buying and selling still do not appreciate the distinction between offer, exchange and completion. And that is without getting into some of the issues professional conveyancers regard as par for the course but which might unnecessarily worry a private client. Or, conversely, those issues where a client might think “So what?” but would be a red flag to a conveyancer. The issue here is, as with the Magic Circle firms and their dealrooms, is the technology helping to solve a problem or make it worse? Indeed, if there wasn’t a problem in the first place, are you risking trying to fix a problem that wasn’t even broken?! And that’s before we get it into the business of platforms, where increasing numbers of people are now using tablets rather than desktops and laptop PCs and so may not even be able to access facilities being offered. It all comes down to a message I’ve said before: there is no one-sizefits-all solution with technology. Firms must be prepared to offer a range of communications solutions that address their clients’ needs and abilities. Charles Christian is the Roving Editor of the Legal IT Insider newsletter and also blogs about Tech & Geek Stuff at www.urbanfantasist.com and on Twitter at @ChristianUncut
Capture all incoming enquiries
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The importance of instant Technology is changing the attitude of customers, and services have got to be more immediate and ‘on demand’. Legal services are no different, explains Yvonne Hirons, Perfect Portal, who discusses how instant quotes can help gain new business. ccording to recent research, client expectations have changed in line with technology. Home movers now demand answers in their time and are no longer prepared to wait. They have got used to an immediacy with an attitude of ‘on demand’. It’s a phrase that is now common across television, goods and services. It’s no longer convenient for us to wait around at home for a delivery or the boiler engineer; retailers like John Lewis now text us an estimated delivery time before calling us half an hour before delivering an order.
These client expectations are no different to searching for a law firm to use when moving house. Whilst some may not like to compare the legal market with a retail experience, the fundamentals are very similar, meaning it’s no different to searching for a law firm to instruct in a property exchange. When we search for an item using John Lewis, the likelihood is to progress directly to the checkout. If the item isn’t there, we’ll move on to the next website. So, when searching for a conveyancer, if there isn’t enough information available to ensure an immediate decision, there is a higher chance a consumer will move on to the next website to obtain that information. Imagine your client is at home doing their research to choose their conveyancer and they can generate an instant quote from your website; are they more likely to instruct you, or wait to hear back on Monday via email from multiple other firms? The chances of your firm winning that client from a web quote is much higher. In fact, the firms who provide instant quotes convert upwards of 20% more quotes than those who don’t. As a firm you need to evaluate how new business is managed and how you can improve your current tools in order to ensure the highest conversion rate. Home moving is a big step for many consumers, so it’s all about first impressions, starting with the first step a client takes when they are looking to move home; they search for quotes first and foremost, so by making the quoting process quick and easy, you will already be ahead of competitors when it comes to winning that business because they aren’t able to offer that immediacy. That initial step is very important; if you fail to deliver then the client will move on to the next firm, who can provide them with all the details required for them to make their decision. New research demonstrates that in the last year only 39% of home-movers
Imagine your client is at home doing their research to choose their conveyancer and they can generate an instant quote from your website; are they more likely to instruct you, or wait to hear back on Monday via email from multiple other firms? obtained a single quote, compared to 59% three years ago. The only reason they shop around is because they are unable to make a decision on a Saturday afternoon without the key information at their fingertips. Many of the larger firms already have this figured out, they are adapting to the changing client needs by using technology to win new clients. Firms that are members of the Derbyshire Legal Services Limited group, for example, all use Perfect Portal’s online web calculator to provide an instant quote to a prospective client for their conveyancing needs. This web calculator is available to a client 24/7 on their firm’s website. The client can input their details and get a quote instantly without having to wait to contact the firm during business hours or wait for a solicitor to get back to them. This gives your clients access to information at a time, and in a way, convenient to them. In the last year, 26% of recent buyers have obtained a quote online, an increase from the last three years, which proves the importance of having an online quoting tool available to clients. If you are there from their initial research into the process and give them everything they require to make their decision, then they will be more likely to use your firm again for other business. Making things convenient for your client, can be the difference in generating more business. Yvonne Hirons is CEO of Perfect Portal.
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Making the right investment ast year, “You Gov” found that one in ten Brits have lied on their CV, and that lies about education and qualifications are the most common. Why then, do companies scrimp on undertaking full staff vetting reports via a specialist company, particularly when appointing senior members of staff?
The investment made when choosing staff is huge. Bad decisions can cost companies dearly. Therefore, a full and detailed pre-employment report to include the following areas must surely be vital: • Confirmation of identity and address • Credit history • Confirmation of education and qualifications from the age of fifteen • Confirmation of previous employment with references • Personal referees • Due diligence report on background including social media activity
A DBS check (Formerly CRB) can also be carried out with the applicant’s permission or he/she can be asked to provide one. Hiring a new member of staff, particularly for key roles, is a massive investment by anybody’s standards. It can run into hundreds of thousands of pounds, once you calculate salary, taxes, running costs, company vehicles, benefits, office space, IT and facilities. In order to prepare good employee vetting reports, it is important to ask the right questions, design an appropriate application form and also get the appropriate consent forms signed for accessing certain information. With the above in place, there is no guarantee that all will go well, but making an informed decision on an appointment based upon comprehensive, real information is surely better than making an appointment and then later having to start all over again and possibly having been subjected to fraud. Chris Taylor, Commercial Director, SIRS.
The apprenticeship route for a modern legal sector eing able to offer potential and existing employees’ career progression opportunities linked to professional qualifications and standards is vital for businesses within the legal sector, particularly when recruiting those who have experience in the profession but may have stepped away in recent years, as well as up-and-coming professionals from Generation Y.
Apprenticeship schemes are just one of the ways in which modern law firms can offer a training proposition for the modern workforce. Apprenticeships are a route to gaining professional qualifications, whilst providing more flexibility than traditional study routes. Combining classroom-based or digital seminars and on-the-job training with live cases enables legal professionals to truly understand
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the subject matter, in a way that can be tailored to the individual’s skill level, while at the same time gain a true experience of what they are learning. Not only do apprenticeships offer the flexibility, experience and work-life balance that is often desired by many ‘Gen Y’ers’ and those returning to work (for example, working mums or carers), they also offer firms the opportunity to bolster the skills and knowledge sets of current employees. For firms considering offering apprenticeships as part of their training package, considerations need to be made into the logistics of delivering the training (in-house vs. outsourced), as well as the integration of training needs into working practice. KAREN PAY, Director of Human Resources, My Home Move.
Archers Law rolls out Eclipse’s Proclaim Practice Management Software solution firm-wide rchers Law, an established Teesside based firm, has selected the Proclaim Practice Management Software solution in a 6-figure investment with Eclipse Legal Systems, the sole Law Society Endorsed legal software provider.
With longstanding roots in the regional area, Archers Law has grown from humble beginnings on the high street to a modern law firm with a 60 strong team. Providing a full range of services to private clients and business organisations, the practice continues to build upon its foundations to offer a responsive, empathetic and reliable service, ensuring clients receive the highest standards in legal advice. Darren Gower
Archers Law has chosen to implement the Proclaim Practice Management Software solution across the firm including case management modules for Conveyancing, Debt Recovery and Probate. The system will serve to provide legal teams with a consistent approach to matter management, whilst the integrated financial platform will enable a seamless approach to billing and overall practice management. To further enhance client service, Archers Law will implement a number of Eclipse’s additional systems and integrations. The lead management system will provide true end-to-end management of all incoming enquiries, and will incorporate the online document delivery and acceptance tool, SecureDocs – serving to streamline
all client inception procedures. Following instruction, Archers Law will use FileView as a further option to keep clients and referrers informed, enabling staff to securely display case information on the firm’s website, therefore reducing the number of ‘update’ calls received. Additionally, Proclaim’s integration with the LRBG will allow conveyancing fee earners to access Land Registry services directly from the system, whilst the integration with BigHand will expand the functionality of Proclaim and enhance the current digital dictation solution, including speech recognition, which the firm already uses. Vicky Browning, Practice Director at Archers Law, comments: “Whilst our current technology is already in advance of some other local firms, we saw an opportunity when developing our business plan to invest further in our IT infrastructure, impacting specifically on enhanced client service and improved internal working practices. Our primary goal is to have a system that will expand with our commercial objectives and move us towards a paper-light environment internally. After a thorough selection process, it became clear that Eclipse’s Proclaim system will deliver on all accounts, providing us with unrivalled intelligence, detailed reporting and, most importantly, a centralised and consistent solution.” For further information, please contact Darren Gower, Marketing Director at Eclipse Legal Systems, part of Capita plc, via firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01274 704100. Alternatively, visit www.eclipselegal.co.uk
The rising number of flood risk cases O
ur Homebuyer Urban Flood Risk Report found that nearly one in seven UK homebuyers faced a potential flood risk when purchasing a home in 2017.
Our report analysed trends in homebuyer activity within the ten most populated cities across England and Wales, using our data gleaned from tens of thousands of home buying transactions during 2016 and 2017. Across these ten cities, homebuyers seeking properties in London (23%), Manchester (21%) and Cardiff (20%) faced the highest likelihood that their chosen home may be at risk from flooding. Comparing year-on-year trends, aspiring buyers in Liverpool, London and Birmingham were all more likely to be targeting locations at risk of flooding in 2017 than they were the previous year.
local variations, this data emphasises how flood risk is something all conveyancers and their clients need to be aware of as part of the homebuying process. It is interesting to see that homes in our biggest cities are some of the most likely to come with a potential flood risk. It is therefore vital that conveyancers keep up to date with the latest developments in assessing and managing potential flood risks and by doing so, they can ensure that a potential issue needn’t result in the collapse of a transaction.” Future Climate Info. To read our full Homebuyer Urban Flood Risk Report, head to www.futureclimateinfo.com.
Based on our sample, conveyancers based in Liverpool saw the greatest increase in the frequency of flood risk, with 10% of purchasers in 2017 encountering a potential risk compared with 7% in 2016. Both London and Birmingham saw an increase of two percentage points, from 21% to 23% and from 9% to 11% respectively. In contrast, reduced levels of flood risk were seen for transactions in Bristol, Leicester, Leeds and Sheffield in 2017 compared with 2016 – which could be influenced by fewer sales in at-risk areas. Commenting on the findings, Geoff Offen, Managing Director of FCI, said: “We’ve assessed tens of thousands of transactions over the last two years, and while there are significant regional and
Modern Law 61
10 MINUTES WITH
Edna Hammami Q A
Did you anticipate the industry to change this drastically when you started developing this platform?
Honest answer? No, not entirely. With Lord Justice Jackson’s Report on cost reforms that came into force on 1st April 2013, the key focus for us, when we started in 2016, was to find a way in which to create a more cost-efficient route for solicitors and law firms to deal with the escalating costs of personal injury cases. We heavily invested our time into developing a business model whilst staying compliant during the process of obtaining more business for law firms. We believe we have solved the challenge of landing legitimate cases for legitimate law firms. We embrace the change new regulation is bringing and being compliant in the early stage and client-centric makes it easier to win business and even more so, the confidence of the industry. Our mutual success of course will depend on whether or not law firms embrace the opportunity to take control of their costs and be prepared for change in 2019.
What has been the key positive or negative change in your area of the market?
Key negative: not negative for us but to the market; the reforms, which ban referral fees for personal injury cases, impacted how law firms have had to rethink how they secure new clients and convert that to an instruction. Key positive: the time for solicitors to reform their marketing practices is now. Personal injury law firms need to embrace change of the digital era if they want to stay in the race post April 2019. Although we cannot guarantee the number of claimants law firms will get via Legit Claims online claim portal, we do believe their marketing budget will be reduced by up to 90% of what they spent previously in order to get potential leads. It will be up to the law firm to put their business cap on and convert the ones they do receive into an instruction.
Who inspires you and why?
I find myself easily inspired, mostly by other people doing great things – whether it is a musical, a beautiful piece of art in a shop window or one of the great inventors of the 21st century like Elon Musk, inspiration can be found anywhere if you just look. I enjoy people who are passionate about their dreams. People who are forging ahead even against all odds; facing possible failure and the determination to turn it around into a success. There is nothing more inspirational than that.
Have you had/got a mentor? If so, what was the most valuable piece of advice they gave you?
Collectively, various mentors each have key ingredients that apply to us in different stages of our lives and at that particular period resonate with what is inside each one of us and collectively moulds us to become who we are. The advice in many forms is to never give up, find a way to make situations work in your favour.
If you were not in your current position, what would you be doing?
The first thing that pops to mind is motivational speaker. To be the catalyst and positive influencer that flips the switch that brings about change in individuals. Not just in business but in relations, people are assets and I could grow that asset to be more valuable to self and others. If we don’t create motivation for doing anything, we fail to live a life with purpose. The second thing that comes to mind is running my own bespoke garment business, with a twist. Edna Hammami, Director and Co-founder, Legit Claims.
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The better way to manage leads and onboard new clients Capturing new client details is vital if you are to maximise your marketing efforts and get files off to a clean start. Eclipse Capture enables you to do this faster, more efficiently, and more cost-effectively.
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