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Is Digital Conveyancing the Future of Property Transactions?

  • February 8, 2024

The paths of residential and commercial property transactions in the UK are at a moment of divergence. While residential transactions are declining, commercial property transactions seem stable, even on the rise. Yet property lawyers are reporting shrinking caseloads, with some firms handling 25% fewer cases in 2023. Improving the conveyancing process, particularly through the implementation of digital conveyancing could create a better, faster conveyancing market that encourages buyers and sellers to take the plunge.

The Current State of Real Estate in the UK

Figures from HMRC show that December 2023 saw the fourth consecutive month-on-month drop in the number of residential transactions, marking a 20% decline from December the previous year. Yet at the same time, commercial property transactions are increasing, albeit slowly.

Many commentators are predicting a smoother, less fractious property market in 2024 that won’t be marked by the mini boom and bust cycles we’ve seen since 2020. However, what’s stopping the market from taking off is the continued sluggishness of property transactions. The average time for conveyancing on a residential property is around 22 weeks and for commercial property can be slower  – a long way from the ideal transaction time of 8-12 weeks.

These long conveyancing times are a major contributor to the national fall through rate on property purchases of 34%.

Is Digital Conveyancing the Solution?

Property transactions, far more than property prices, are a great indicator of the health of the market. Making property transactions faster and easier has the potential to encourage both sellers and buyers and creating a more stable property market in the long-term. So, how can we achieve better and faster conveyancing and a system that works for both buyers and sellers?

One oft cited solution is digital conveyancing. Digital conveyancing involves implementing electronic transactions for the transfer of legal documents and funds and making land search details such as tenure, title, and lease length accessible instantly. Digitalisation would:

  • Make the current conveyancing system more streamlined and transparent
  • Go a long way to achieving faster conveyancing times
  • Reduce the likelihood of error and the need for extensive checks and land searches
  • Make the system more accessible and make long-distance transactions easier

Countries such as Norway have achieved great success with digital conveyancing systems, in some cases reducing transaction times to a matter of days. However, making such a system possible in England could prove more difficult. Bringing conveyancing solicitors, the land registry and real estate agents into alignment would require robust data security measures, compliance regulation and technology implementation. It is also likely to be costly.

It seems unlikely that the government will agree to the high-level conveyancing rule changes that would make wholesale digitalisation of the system possible. Meaning that without industry-wide desire for reform the technology is likely to be implemented patchily, with some sectors such as commercial real estate more reluctant to embrace change.

Another possible solution is providing buyers with more upfront information regarding property, in the form of a return to home information packs (HIPs), Scotland’s home reports or even Buying and Selling Property Information (BASPI) questionnaires. Transaction times when HIPs were introduced were around 12 weeks and Scotland has seen a 60% reduction in fall throughs since adopting home reports. And, consumers are happy to pay for this information, with 65% willing to pay £300 for information that would speed up their transaction times.

What Should You Be Doing to Prepare for Digital Conveyancing?

As we’ve heard recently, a stable market means many conveyancing firms are looking to drive recruitment. But how can you make sure your latest recruitment drive considers the future of conveyancing?

  1. Attracting the right talent:
    Your hiring strategy should be focused on building and maintaining a talent pipeline that sustains your business long term. Focus on developing a strong, online employer brand that appeals to candidates, improving the candidate experience to make applying for roles smooth and seamless, and creating job descriptions that reflect the attributes and skills you need.
  2. Hiring for digital skills:
    Speaking of skills, when evaluating candidates be sure to consider their digital skills and abilities alongside their other competencies. Digital literacy will be increasingly important for the legal profession with or without the digitalisation of conveyancing. Skills-based hiring can also be used to pinpoint other key competencies like communication which are key in creating better and faster conveyancing.
  3. Retaining critical knowledge:
    Embracing the future of conveyancing will be impossible if business critical knowledge is lost. Improving employee retention not only keeps that knowledge in-house but allows you to pass that on to new employees though mentorship and professional development schemes.

Clayton Legal has over 20 years’ experience helping clients attract and retain legal talent across practice areas that include Property, Personal Injury, Family, Criminal, and Costs law as well as Legal IT and Civil and Commercial Litigation.

If you are building your legal team, we can help. Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here.

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The 3 Traits of A Great Commercial Property Solicitor

  • February 2, 2019

As the economy continues to grow so to does the property market too. A natural upside of this is an increasing demand for Commercial Property Solicitors; at every level of the practice.

Now, you might have arrived at this post because you are considering a move into property or because you are wondering how your skills and abilities stack up?

Here at Clayton Legal, we have been placing legal talent with our clients for twenty years, and after delivering over 5000 placements, we have a good handle on the skills and traits that our clients are looking for when it comes to commercial property solicitors.

So, let’s answer some of your questions.

Before we start, it’s worthwhile clarifying some of the finer detail of the role as a reminder.

Logically a commercial property solicitor role, as the name implies, involves working with all the legal aspects involved in both the purchase or sale of commercial property.

Depending on the practice size and geography the work could be divided into both the private and public sector. This might include providing legal services for organisations, property developers, entrepreneurs, the government and individuals. It is quite an interesting group of people to work with.

As a rule, the value of both land and property is shielded from the up and down movement of some other areas.

The thing about the property sector of the law is that it can be a thriving area to work in.

When it comes to day to day tasks, like many other law disciplines, a junior solicitor will work on creating accurate documentation and contracts and manage smaller properties. The more senior solicitors being responsible for the bigger deals and developments.

So, when it comes to your skills and abilities where should, your focus be.

Qualifications and Detail Orientated

I am not going to go on about this point. After all, you are a legal professional reading this! As a quick summary, your qualifications will be as follow.

  • Your undergrad law degree with LPC (Legal Practice Course), or a graduate diploma in law with an LPC.
  • CLC exams.
  • Depending on the firm you may be expected to have several years PQE under your belt too.

When it comes to any legal role, attention to detail is critical to performing well. Remember though that this question is still likely to be asked at some point.

As you consider your skills, ensure you keep notes and examples of how you can demonstrate how accurate you are and your level of detail. As a suggestion maybe through a specific process or system you have developed in your current role?

Communication Skills

Let’s be clear that being a good communicator as a legal professional will be critical to your success. The law is confusing to many lay people and that includes the clients you will be dealing with.

It doesn’t matter that they are a successful business woman or man – the intricacies and impact of the law can still be misunderstood.

No matter what industry you work in, as a service provider part of your role is to make the complex simple for your clients, so they understand; it’s what we are paid for along with delivering the result they want.

Unfortunately, it is easy to forget this.

Clear, concise, communication making the complex easy to understand are the hallmarks of any great communicator; especially needed in the legal profession.

Communication abilities spread across all levels from face to face conversations, presentations and documentation.

Fact: Anyone can improve their communication abilities.

As the first port of call, head over to Amazon and buy a few books. John Adair is a great author, or look at the Dummies series.

Then look on Google and sign up for a communications skills course. Swallow your pride and take action. The logical next step will give you a chance to utilise your new skills too.

Client Management

Clients in every sector have expectations, and rightly so. To keep a client happy involves work and understanding.

Tension arises with clients when expectations are not met in the eyes of the client. The fundamental lesson here I relate back to the point above; be a great communicator.

Through good communication, set expectations with your clients both verbally and in writing.

One of the hot topics this year in business is the role of customer service. The challenge is that in the B2B service sector in which we all operate, this often gets missed.

Choice for our clients is now everywhere and therefore any clients can decide not to work with us, in the full knowledge that there is another commercial solicitor round the corner.

The good news is it’s easy to get a good reputation for managing your commercial property clients well.

  • Communicate expectations and boundaries
  • Talk on the phone or face to face
  • Set timeframes and keep people informed
  • Resolve issues

These are all actions which are easy to action provided we put our ego out of the way.

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and during that time has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability. We have made over 5,000 placements from partners to legal executives, solicitors to paralegals and legal IT personnel to practice managers.

If you are building your legal team or looking for your next career move, we can help.

Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here.

If you would like to know more about recruiting trends in the legal sector this year download our latest guide here.

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