The bill for the Law Society’s failed conveyancing software project Veyo is likely to be £7m, its chief executive has revealed.
In a wide-ranging interview with this website – which will be serialised over the coming days – Catherine Dixon said that she and president Jonathan Smithers pulled the plug because “the amount of time and further investment needed to get Veyo to a successful launch was too great, particularly in light of the change in the market”.
However, in terms of accountability for the failure, she indicated that internally the only consequences would be a ‘lessons learned’ process that was underway, given that all those involved in developing Veyo were no longer involved at Chancery Lane. Ms Dixon herself only joined at the start of 2015.
Even though Mr Smithers, a conveyancer himself, has been a Law Society office-holder since 2013, she pointed out that he had only become a director of Legal Practice Technologies – the joint venture company with IT giant Mastek that was meant to be delivering Veyo – in February 2015, as did she shortly afterwards.
Not long after, Veyo’s chairman – her predecessor Des Hudson – and chief executive Elliot Vigar left their positions, and an independent review was commissioned to look at whether Veyo was ready for launch. “Jonathan worked really hard to try and make the product a success,” Ms Dixon said.
The problem, she explained, was that the original vision of Veyo as a portal which would provide innovations such as the chain view and a secure deal room – which she described as “pretty sound” – morphed into creating a case management system.
This has now been overtaken by the Free2Convey product being offered to clients of members of the Legal Software Suppliers Association, with its launch is due next month.
So how did this happen? Ms Dixon, of course, was not there at the time, but she said: “My understanding is that when they were looking to start developing the portal, there was a recognition that particularly for those firms that didn’t have case management systems, there would have to be some sort of enabler to help you to access the portal and therefore part of Veyo was starting to build that case management system platform…
“On reflection perhaps that focus on case management was wrong… I’m genuinely really sorry for the people that were waiting for Veyo.”
Given these events, what confidence can Law Society members have that the lessons of Veyo really will be learned? She said: “We’ve got a brand new management team in the Law Society, people who have come in from other organisations where they’ve got a clear track record of success – particularly with commercial ventures.”
Further, she pointed out, the society has commissioned a review of its governance, and last week appointed Dr Nicola Nicholls LVO to lead it.
The review will consider, among other issues, securing wider member involvement, the role of the society’s council, the right structures to support the council, “the representativeness of the council as the profession changes”, and the role of the office-holders.
Dr Nicholls is a former director of private equity firm Charterhouse Capital Partners and a former non-executive director of BPP University. She is currently chair of the Woodland Trust.