The Law Society and Indian technology giant Mastek have decided to scrap online conveyancing portal Veyo, at a cost to the profession which has so far been confirmed at more than £3m but is likely to be much higher.
In a statement yesterday, the society said it was “deeply sorry” that conveyancers who had “waited patiently” for the product would not be able to use it.
A spokeswoman for the society could not put a price tag on the demise of Veyo but quoted figures from the organisation’s annual report for the period 1 November 2013 to 31 October 2014.
She said the report showed that the society paid £600,000 for a 60% stake in Veyo in May 2014, but it also paid Mastek £2,668,000 during the 12 months of the 2013-14 annual report and including a payment of £44,250 in the previous financial year.
No details were given of how the bigger sum was spent, or how much more was spent from 1 November 2014 until yesterday. She said that would be detailed in the 2014/15 annual report, which would not be issued until next summer.
Des Hudson, the society’s former chief executive and the former chair of Veyo, estimated last autumn that the total cost of development and launch of the portal, to paid by the society and Mastek, would be £10m.
Earlier this year Veyo won awards for its marketing as it sought to establish its name, even taking out pitchside advertising during the Six Nations rugby match between Wales and England. But the initial expected launch date of 31 March came and went.
Mr Hudson left Veyo in August and was replaced as chair of Legal Practice Technologies (LPT), the joint venture company created by the Law Society and Mastek to develop Veyo, by turnaround specialist Ian Gray. LPT’s directors include current Law Society president Jonathan Smithers and chief executive Catherine Dixon.
As recently as October Mr Smithers said Veyo was going through prolonged testing. “We have got to get this right,” he said. “We’re doing something new. The mistake would be to say we’re going to do something and not perform.”
Rob Hailstone, conveyancer and founder of the Bold Legal Group, said yesterday: “It’s a shock, really. Why was Veyo not stopped six or 12 months ago?
“The big question is how much money the society spent. It was a lot more than the £600,000 that has been mentioned [in yesterday’s statement].
“Solicitors who pay their practising certificate fee need to know the whys and wherefores. No business would have been allowed to do what they’ve done.”
In its statement, the Law Society said: “It is with considerable regret that we are announcing that we will not be making any further investment in Veyo.
“Other software providers operating in the conveyancing market are responding to our members’ needs and so we have decided to step back.
“We are committed to identifying unmet member need and innovation, but on this occasion we also have recognised the reality that the market has developed significantly since we started to develop Veyo and that the costs of continuing outweigh the benefit to our members.
“We are deeply sorry that those who have waited patiently for the Veyo conveyancing portal from our joint venture will not now be able to use it.
“We knew that the project carried risk, as all technological innovations do. Unfortunately it is no longer in our members’ interests to invest resources to make a product of the high quality our members expect and deserve.
“The timetable for getting Veyo to market was, in retrospect, over ambitious. We have made the very difficult decision not to invest further in light of developments in the market which mean that case management providers are likely to meet our members’ needs at no additional cost.”
In its statement, the board of LPT said the market for Veyo had “changed radically” since the joint venture was founded.
The statement went on: “New providers have committed to bring free products to market within case management software to deliver LTP’s vision for e-conveyancing.
“Case management providers are developing products such as Free2Convey, adding value to their existing offer and we welcome any development which means that conveyancing can be done more effectively.
“As a result, both the shareholders have decided against further investment in the development of Veyo.”
As exclusively reported by Legal Futures, Free2Convey was launched by the Legal Software Suppliers Association (LSSA) in September.
Free2Convey offers conveyancers a “deal room” to work collaboratively on contracts and the possibility to see a chain of transactions, two of the features of Veyo, but does not charge a fee.
Sudhakar Ram, group CEO and managing director of Mastek, said: “This was a hard decision to take, but is commercially the right one for all of us. We are pleased to have been involved in this partnership with the Law Society.”
Mastek’s accounts suggest that it lost £540,000 in the six months from April 2015 as a result of its involvement in LPT.
However, the company said losses in LPT had “already been written off” and the additional financial impact would be restricted to “regular expenses and wind-down charges incurred during this quarter”.
It went on: “The actual impact, which is not likely to be significant, is being worked out and will be presented along with our Q3 results.”
The Law Society’s 2013/14 annual report also revealed in July that Mastek made a £1.7m loan to LPT that was non-interest bearing and unsecured, with no set date for repayment. But repayment was expected to take place between 2017 and 2019.
Doug Crawford, chief executive of Britain’s biggest conveyancing firm, myhomemove, predicted in May this year that Veyo “will fail”.