More than half of conveyancing firms (57%) lack “digital maturity”, a report has found, with one in five firms (22%) not accepting electronic signatures.
Tech firm InfoTrack based its digital conveyancing maturity index on responses from more than 200 law firms across England and Wales and said greater size did not necessarily equal greater maturity.
Pre-completion work was the least digitally mature part of conveyancing transactions, scoring 30%, compared to 43% for onboarding and 58% for post-completion work.
“In general, there’s a reliance on email for sending contract packs and managing enquiries, with documents attached manually.
“The low uptake of platforms that enable better collaboration between conveyancers is no doubt hampered by the ‘chicken and egg’ problem of not enough people using them.”
Only 22% of firms used digital dashboards to monitor and manage key dates across their live matters.
However, reports on title produced some “exciting data”, with 37% of firms using third-party software to compile them.
“The most advanced of these are automatically integrating data from searches and HM Land Registry to deliver highly individualised reports to ensure accurate reports are generated more quickly.”
When it came to onboarding, two-thirds of firms used digital ID checks, “a technology that was widely adopted throughout the pandemic”, but the rest of the process was “still lagging”.
Digitisation of source of funds checks was low, with only 40% using open banking solutions. Researchers said even fewer firms were digitising their client data gathering, with only 38% of firms using digital questionnaires.
Post-completion was “by far the most digitally advanced part of the conveyancing process” with a digital maturity score of 58%, and 29% of firms getting full marks.
Most firms (56%) used third-party software for their stamp duty land tax submissions, although a large number (43%) still logged on to the government’s website directly.
“And yes, your maths is right, that means that a couple of firms are still sending their applications in the post.”
High-scoring law firms integrated their case management systems with other digital services, giving them “a single source of truth” and with data supporting every part of the conveyancing process.
On electronic signatures, the researchers said: “Since the pandemic, the use of e-signatures has unsurprisingly increased significantly, to the point where it would be fair to say they’re becoming the norm.
“This hasn’t happened across the whole conveyancing process equally though, as you might expect.”
The 78% of firms which accepted e-signatures used them most frequently for client-care letters (69%) and transaction forms (48%).
Researchers said investing in your own technology was not “the key to success” because 80% of the highest-scoring firms did not build their own. “The 20% would probably disagree so the debate continues.”
Larger firms were more digitally mature than average, but the most digitally mature businesses were smaller single-office firms, with almost half of the highest performers (49%) only having one office.
Meanwhile, the highest scoring 10% of firms were “dominated” by those which were small to medium-sized.
“The big businesses will continue to look to unlock economies of scale with technology. Small firms will increasingly use technology to remain competitive. The number of less agile, less forward-thinking firms will continue to shrink.”
Sam Jordan, COO of InfoTrack, commented: “The overall industry average score suggests a lot of firms are still in the early stages of their digital conveyancing journey.
“However, we did see some exceptionally high results. The biggest concern here is some firms’ speed of adoption of technology in the pre-completion stage. It’s the bulk of the conveyancing work and the area that’s the least digitally mature.”