The working practices of property lawyers have changed little since the 19th century. Many aspects of the conveyancing process remain offline – documents are still on paper and the data entered manually. The commercial transaction process is laborious, slow and expensive, and both the client and firm are losing out as a result, a maddening thought in today’s world of digitisation, artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain.
We held a roundtable with Search Acumen to discuss what data means for commercial conveyancing. A discussion that started with the growing sophistication of property searches ended up at a vision of the commercial law firm of the future, shaped and staffed very differently from now. Those who are scared of ideas like blockchain should look away now.
In our discussion, Law Society vice-president Christina Blacklaws also emphasised the risk of solicitors not grasping this opportunity – that others will come along to dictate the future, leaving lawyers on the sidelines and part of a vision somebody else is creating. There have been many examples of lawyers not taking the initiative and suffering as a result; maybe here, with a process to which lawyers are so central, there is a chance to reverse this trend.