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Law Society invests £5m+ in online conveyancing project

Law Society [1]

The Law Society: Council members “debated and argued over” cost

The Law Society has invested over £5m in a new online conveyancing system, to be launched next spring, which aims to revolutionise the home-buying process.

The society has the majority stake in a joint venture with global technology giant Mastek, which will operate the system through the brand name ‘Veyo’.

In its first phase, the system will allow professionals to better communicate with each other, clients and other parties, satisfy due diligence obligations more quickly and facilitate the conveyance of residential property through established protocols.

Details of the shareholdings have not been released, but Des Hudson, the recently retired chief executive of the Law Society and the chairman of Veyo, told the society’s national property conference last week that the total cost of building and launching the project was estimated to be £10m.

Elliott Vigar, head of commercial investments at the Law Society and chief executive of Veyo, said the portal aimed to process a quarter of conveyancing transactions by the end of 2015.

“We are looking for the vast majority of transactions which can go through the portal to go through the portal,” Mr Vigar said. “We want to be, in five years’ time, the ubiquitous process for conveyancing transactions in England and Wales. Everyone wins in terms of ease of use, transparency, security and communication.”

Conveyancers using the service will be presented with a dashboard that will show all active cases and their respective statuses, and each case will have a dedicated screen detailing the progress. A calendar will show scheduled tasks, key dates and reminders.

Veyo’s online ‘deal room’ will allow the two firms acting for the buyer and seller to collaborate and progress documents, with an automatic audit of all changes, with versions and approvals captured for each matter. The ‘chain view’ for each transaction will show the exchange/completion status of each property in the chain.

An inbuilt protocol tracks all workflows, and its anti-money laundering and identity checks will ensure compliance with lenders’ requirements.

Land Registry applications will be available from the launch date, with the integration of searches and HMRC transactions within Veyo planned for subsequent service releases.

Mr Vigar said Veyo, based at an office in Fleet Street, operated quite separately from the Law Society, with its own sales director and office manager.

He said Veyo would be open to all conveyancers, not just solicitors, and they would pay veyo an annual licence fee and transaction fee. Mr Vigar said details of the fees had not yet been finalised.

“We are not looking to price people out of the system. We want it to be available to everyone. It will work better the more people there are who use it.”

Mr Vigar added that an on-the-spot poll of 100-plus delegates at the national property conference indicated that most were positive about Veyo but there was still “some work to do on a minority” to explain the benefits.

While 23% of delegates believed there was a ‘great need’ for Veyo and 39% thought it would be useful, 29% said they believed it was not really useful and 9% said they thought it was not useful at all.

Addressing the conference, Mr Hudson said: “We intend to build and implement an end-to-end conveyancing system which is designed to transform the way you do conveyancing.”

He described the existing conveyancing process as “rich in risks and meagre in rewards” and said veyo aimed to “fatten” solicitors’ margins.

Mr Hudson said the society’s ruling council had “debated, argued over and challenged” the cost of the project “at considerable length”.

Answering a question from Rob Hailstone, founder of the Bold Legal Group, who raised the prospect that Veyo might trigger a “race to the bottom” in terms of prices, Mr Hudson did not rule out the possibility that some conveyancers might construct a model based on high volumes and low prices.

“We intend to give people a range of options and choices,” Mr Hudson said. “My hope is that people will use it to make their margins more appropriate.”