Why AI could hold the key to revolutionising legal work on UK property transactions

Search AcumenBy Andrew Lloyd, Managing Director, Search Acumen

This year has shown us that more than ever technology is an essential part of how we work. Integrating transformative technologies such as AI and machine learning should be front of mind if we are to build on the progress made to date around streamlining and improving efficiencies in vital legal real estate processes.

We first applied a digital first approach to property searches through ForeSite, our commercia real estate platform, becoming the first company to create a fully digitised search process. We transformed the previously manual task into accurate and reliable data-led insights that could be gleaned instantly, at the touch of a button.

While there has been a lot of talk and hype around AI, very few are walking the walk and putting words into actions for the benefit of conveyancers and commercial real estate lawyers.

The development of our innovative machine learning tools is an industry first, which shows how applying technology in daily workflows can radically improve tasks that are often frustrating, frequently mundane but absolutely essential to get right without delay.

Using AI to speed up everyday tasks

The first of these tools uses AI to support property transactions by interrogating and cleansing address data submitted by legal firms. In just a few seconds, our algorithms scour through the large address files and cross references them against over 30 million UK postal addresses, patching up any errors and flagging inconsistencies for further analysis.

The result is consistently accurate and can then be matched against external records from HM Land Registry, Local Authorities and other sources. This innovation reduces hours or even days of administrative time spent error-checking and correcting property addresses.

By reducing the need for human intervention, our introduction of AI enables forward looking law firms and their clients to avoid the risk of lengthy delays to this vital part of the legal process. Incorrect address data can be a major issue, in particular for complex transactions with hundreds or thousands of addresses, as an isolated error can hold back the entire process until it is resolved.

The second AI tool that we have developed helps our Customer Support team by accelerating the processing of daily requests. As a business we receive thousands of emails from Local Authorities and other external sources. Whilst we have previously achieved a good level of traditional automation with these communications, using the AI tool allows us to take this process to another level. It is trained to be capable of categorising, sorting and combining all of these emails and attachments in the same way that a person would but achieving that result in just seconds. We can then ensure an even faster and more reliable delivery of search results to clients in a usable format, by minimising internal processing needed on top of lengthy local authority waiting times.

The importance of digitising data and integrating technology into workstreams

Our initial investment into AI at the end of last year was made with the wider purpose of continuing to lay the foundations of a business that is ready for the future. We designed it with our business needs and clients in mind, rather than adopting a pre-existing model. Several months on, the need for digitisation has never been stronger.

We are at a tipping point in the property industry and while we have seen several innovations arise to facilitate property transactions during Covid-19, collaboration will be key in harnessing these, giving consumers and businesses a faster, simpler and more reliable service.

Rather than replacing jobs, the introduction of AI and machine learning to property transactions enables lawyers and support staff to get back to their role as expert consultants and provide first-class service to their clients.

This is the first stage in our transition to becoming a business with AI and machine learning at its core.  Having also been part of the world’s first blockchain trial for property transactions, we are committed to equipping real estate lawyers with the tools and techniques to embrace the digital age and make the due diligence process fit-for-purpose.

We would urge law firms, industry bodies and legislators to take advantage of the capabilities offered by data, AI and automation for a more integrated and efficient property sector fit for the 21st century. Automation is our bread and butter and it is only right that we lead by example in automating our own processes. Voices sound, actions thunder.


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