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Nicola Laver

Editor, Solicitors Journal

Conveyancing firms will close, warns CLC

Conveyancing firms will close, warns CLC


Conveyancing law firms will shut shop, and the role of the conveyancer will change as much of the administrative side of the role becomes automated, according to a white paper published by the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC).

It also predicts that with the ‘internet of thing’, properties will maintain up-to-date logbooks with little human intervention.

In its discussion paper, Conveyancing in 2030 – looking to an electronic future, the CLC – which regulates specialist conveyancers including a handful of solicitors – predicts that the conveyancer’s role will change and the focus will shift to advisory work.

This will mean conveyancers and staff will need to invest in training and soft skills; and “bank” time and costs savings which they will “reinvest” in improving the quality of service, upgrading technology and ensuring cyber security.

The paper identifies a range of issues the CLC says regulators, lawyers, technologies and others involved in the conveyancing process will have to grapple with to ensure consumers benefit.

“Technology will radically improve transparency for consumers about what they are buying and the progress of their transaction”, states the paper.

It also predicts: “The number of active conveyancing law firms will continue to fall as consolidators continue to grow, estate agents offer a combined service, and the investment needed for the technology prices some small firms out”.

Key questions include whether government should mandate the move to electronic conveyancing (rather than await incremental change); whether the law firm model will need to evolve to survive; and the extent to which regulators might need to regulate technology itself.

Data will become central, the report predicts, “delivering a ‘single source of truth’ on a property”.

But it asks: “What needs to change to ensure all parties can trust the data? Who will validate the information and who becomes responsible if that data is incorrect or something goes wrong?”

In her foreword to the paper, CLC chair Dame Janet Paraskeva said we are “probably just a few short years away from a fully digital conveyancing system”.

She commented on publication of the paper: “I think many lawyers will be heartened by the prediction that there will be a greater focus on advisory work as the market changes and that it can be used to create a point of differentiation.

“However, while we can predict certain shifts in the market with confidence – in particular the inevitable move to electronic conveyancing – how they play out over the next decade remains uncertain.

“With so much work going on to improve and reform the process, we think now is the right time to take a wider view on what this all means in the long term and how we can ensure that the home buying and selling process works best for consumers, service providers and ultimately the UK economy.”

However, the report noted that Brexit makes it hard to predict where our economy will be in 10 years.

Dame Paraskeva said she hoped the paper will fuel discussion, commenting that with “with change coming it is vital that we as a regulator and the community we regulate are thinking about how we make sure we are ready for what future developments may bring”.

The CLC asked for interested parties to contribute to the discussion.