Not involving expert conveyancers sufficiently was one of several fundamental failings that led to the collapse of the Law Society’s Veyo project, which has cost solicitors £7m, a review has concluded.
According to the society’s chief executive, Catherine Dixon, external consultants said there was not one single decision or mistake which resulted in the demise of the online conveyancing system.
Chancery Lane brought in strategic consultancy OC&C to conduct a ‘lessons learned’ project following the decision last December to pull the plug on Legal Practice Technologies (LPT), its joint venture with Mastek that was developing Veyo.
Ms Dixon said OC&C found that several factors contributed to the flop:
- A failure of governance in that the structure was overly complex and communication on occasions poor.
- The staff in LPT lacked certain expertise, including experience of running a software start up company.
- There was not enough input from expert conveyancers into the project.
- The joint venture agreement, with Mastek as both a shareholder and supplier, did not guarantee value for money.
- The vision for the project shifted over time.
She continued: “All the senior staff who worked at LPT and the Law Society on Veyo are no longer employed and the Law Society is embedding the lessons learned, identified by OC&C, into its processes.
“The Law Society is deeply sorry that it failed to deliver the Veyo project as promised to its members and for the fact that monies were invested in this project which will not be recoverable.”
The society is not releasing the full OC&C report, with Ms Dixon explaining that “in order to ensure it could speak to all those involved, OC&C had to agree to keep the conversations and details of the individuals involved confidential”.
However, it has made available a summary put together by OC&C of five core principles which should be observed by the Law Society for all future commercial ventures:
- Understand risks and plan accordingly. This included understanding customer needs based on robust evidence and avoiding “single large investments”;
- Establish clear and robust governance structures. This included ensuring that those providing governance have the appropriate skills and are “not just purely representing the Law Society’s interests”;
- Install a capable team with the required skills;
- Execute effectively and communication regularly. This included ensuring greater transparency to the society’s council and to members; and
- Follow a clear process for product development.
Rob Hailstone, who runs the Bold Legal Group and has been one of the most outspoken critics of Veyo, said there were still a number of unanswered questions, such as how the market had in fact changed so as to justify the end of Veyo, adding: “There must be something to show for £7m plus – why can’t the source code be obtained from Mastek?”
He continued: “The findings from this fiasco should not just end up producing a pretty standard ‘guidance for commercial ventures’; it should be a wake-up call for the Law Society generally about how it conducts and runs its business (including CQS)…
“No one wants a witch hunt, but to say all of those responsible have gone is a complete cop out. Someone at the top should take personal responsibility.”