Review highlights multiple failings that led to £7m failure of Veyo

Dixon: Law Society is deeply sorry

Dixon: Law Society is deeply sorry

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.”

    Readers Comments

  • Bob Ronson says:

    Predictable whitewash – admit to governance being ‘a bit off’ and blame everyone who is isn’t there any more – lessons ‘having been learned’. The ‘great and the good’ of conveyancing at the Society were, I understand, involved throughout (there may lie the problem) as well as a practitioners reference group. Convenient that the report can’t be released for reasons of ‘confidentiality’ – or is it for reasons of selective summarising?

  • Bob Ronson says:

    …and what about the 8 months of effective Society control coinciding with all the senior staff bailing out (coincidence?) and the much vaunted turnaround specialists? How can anyone with an ounce of commercial sense sanction the liquidation of an established business, with a developed product and massive brand awareness. Couldn’t such experienced people, ably led by Ms Dixon and Mr Smithers on the Board turn things around in that time?

  • Bob Ronson says:

    Also – is there any danger of some investigative journalism to actually look into what happened and talk to people who were there rather than regurgitating the party line from TLS and posting Rob Hailstone’s questions – which though fair and reasonable never get an answer.

  • Tim says:

    Not publishing the full report is risible and using “confidentiality” as the excuse is pitiful. The “everyone has now left” line is truly lame.

    Who are OC&C and how much did the Society pay them for this report? Why use the profession’s money to obtain a report if you’re then not going to publish it?

  • Bob Ronson says:

    I strongly suspect that many of those who contributed to the report would be happy for their views to be made public – the Society less so…….

  • John Doe says:

    I’d like the same reviews applied to other commercial ventures, in particular the Riliance software arrangements. How was that decision made? Are members getting value for money?

  • Ed Austin says:

    The failure to publish the investigation into the waste of our money is just another example of how The Law Society treats its members with contempt bordering on derision.

  • Gary Taylor says:

    Well, well, well. Is it me or is the law society response reminiscent of what the big banks said when things got out of hand. A few bad apples who we have got rid off, and who are by no means a reflection on the organization as a whol…. LesLessons learned??

    Actually better still you could use examples like the governments Hs2 rail loan, or Gas going over budget.

    Point is, there is always someone who signs off on the budget expansion, and they report to someone else.

  • Dean Jones says:

    To say that the people involved were ‘got rid of ‘ is not strictly true. They left of their own volition and were more than likely remunerated very well for their ‘efforts’.
    I think it is high time a JR was brought to look at TLS in its entirety. Its business division is wholly at odds with its obligations to its members.
    It appears to be wholly self serving and nowhere near value for money compared to other commercial entities.

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