Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Is Your Firm Ready for a SRA AML Audit?

The SRA have recently warned that it will be writing to a “large number” (400) of firms in the coming weeks requiring evidence of compliance with the 2017 Money Laundering Regulations. The likelihood is that firms with a focus on conveyancing will be targeted.

The regulator confirmed that in the last five years, sixty cases linked to potential improper money movements have been referred to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal. The stark warning is “Those who do not treat the Regulations seriously should expect similar treatment.”

Law firms making proper and full use of COMPLETIONmonitor’s AML Search and associated bespoke risk alerts have little to fear from an audit.

Delivering comprehensive reporting and dashboard functionality, COMPLETIONmonitor enables MLROs and authorised officers to quickly assess the overall effectiveness of the AML policies. The filtering functionality provides a firm with tools to identify, red-flag or block suspicious fraudulent and money laundering activity. Firms can configure and selectively apply scenarios to different client categories. The technology enables the firm to filter alerts based on various parameters, view certain background information on each client, delegate analysis and supervise alert resolution. Alerts can be configured on the basis of clients, counter-parties, regions, employees and departments.

For law firms with more than two or three staff and more than a handful of clients, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to satisfy the 2017 regulations and monitor compliance solely using paper-based records.

Lawyers can certainly not afford to be complacent – the conveyancing industry is a primary target and firms must be vigilant and prepared to demonstrate compliance or face serious consequences.

Property law solicitors who have not yet done so need to get their houses in order as soon as possible.

Lexsure offer COMPLETIONmonitor firms a free consultation twice a year on the various optional facilities within the software to assist in combating fraud and money laundering.

COMPLETIONmonitor firms can book a free online demonstration or training on the AML features here

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Reports on Title - How Much Time Could You be Saving?

Do you shut yourself off in a quiet room at the office for hours a week or come into work early to work on this critical and time consuming document?

Is it possible that you are wasting valuable time?  What a sad depressing thought. Surely there has to be a better way to generate a Report on Title.

Lexsure have created a calculator to help you add up all the hours and assess how much time the e-ROT might be able to save you.The table below shows how much time firms are spending based on feedback to date:

Use the calculator to get an approximation of time that you may be able to save,

Lexsure’s e-ROT Brings increased protection, consistency and efficiency to building the most important  - yet tedious and time-consuming - document in a purchase transaction.

The e-ROT webinars are taking place later this month and in March. You can book here.

Thursday, 7 February 2019

Conveyancers Up Their Game to Cope with Market Slowdown

Conveyancers have experienced their first significant dip in workload for a decade, providing further evidence of a marked slowdown in the housing market.

Firms are now having to shift gears.

For the last few years the primary concern of conveyancing practices was how to cope with the volume of instructions. Particular attention was given to improve efficiencies. 

Focus is now shifting towards how to create, win and convert more leads and enquiries. 

The two obvious places to look when it comes to increasing leads is  Google via ‘pay per click’ or paying estate agents/brokers for leads. Both options are extremely expensive. Firms will often expend lots of time and money before eventually realising that experimenting in these two areas yields inadequate return on investment. 

Ideally, word-of-mouth recommendations and repeat clients would support firms through lean periods. Yet for many, when the market takes a turn for the worst, repeat clients are rarely enough to sustain the firm without making redundancies. 

Progressive firms, mostly with Business Development Managers, take the time to scour the market and discover cost-effective ways to find new leads and instructions. 

These managers have been flocking towards LenderPanel.com who have witnessed a 400% increase in the last two months. 

LenderPanel.com is an online tool enabling borrowers and estate agents to know which firms have been approved by the lender to act. Approximately 80,000 searches were conducted last year by visitors looking to find and appoint a lawyer. Listings are displayed by location to those firms nearest to the borrower. 

The rapid growth in law firms listing themselves on the directory service is driven by firms wishing to reach borrowers at a key decision point in the conveyancing process. 

Most firms have spent significant time and energy to join a lender’s panel or retain their status. It is essential, especially in tougher times, to capitalise on your panel membership. 

For as little as £10 a month you can gain a significant competitive advantage !

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Does Brexit Spell the Exit for Firms on Lender Panels?

The Bank of England's governor has recently warned the cabinet that a chaotic no-deal Brexit could crash house prices.

His worst-case scenario was that house prices could fall as much as 35% over three years.

If such a prediction comes to pass it will be destructive for conveyancing firms.

Lenders will not swallow their losses happily. For conveyancers, that means a tsunami of file reviews because lawyers are an easy target for a lender looking to offset a loss – or pass it on altogether. Any failure by the lawyer to comply with the letter of their mortgage instructions – typically based on the lenders’ handbook – will be pounced upon.

Many firms will be removed from lender panels or fail to find a PI insurer, which amounts to the same thing. There will be fewer conveyancing law firms. Strong risk assurance embedded in your firm’s everyday practice can put those worries to rest.

Ask yourself whether you have ever considered a pre-lender compliance audit. Many firms make enormous efforts to ensure their client Ts and Cs and website copy are compliant, but don’t take the trouble to check on lender compliance. Yet the consequences for a firm tripping up on lender Handbook requirements can be fatal to a law firm.

It’s not just about peace of mind. A lender compliance audit can bring real value to your firm. A third-party firm acting in the same way a lender would can uncover issues and knowledge gaps that you can address to make your conveyancing processes more rigorous.

In this day and age of increased accountability and regulatory requirements, audits should be welcomed, not feared. If you’d like to find out more about how Lexsure’s lender compliance audit can assist your firm please contact support@lexure.com

Monday, 17 September 2018

Proving Conveyancing Quality to PI Insurers

In the lead-up to PI insurance renewals, Lexsure are offering firms the ability to commission a lender compliance audit which can be used to evidence to professional indemnity insurers the quality of their conveyancing. The independent assessment reviews files based on the UKF Handbook Requirements as of the date of the mortgage offer on file.

Until now, Lexsure restricted the availability of their audit facility to lenders and insurers but are now making the facility available directly to firms.

Everyone knows that conveyancing is the highest-risk area of legal practice with lenders dominating the instigation of claims. Firms that are confident of their quality and compliance with lender requirements should be able to evidence to their PI insurers that they are managing risk properly.

In carrying out an audit, the assessor (non-practicing solicitors with over 20 years conveyancing experience) utilise Lexsure’s proprietary technologies which incorporate the relevant UKF Part 2 requirements based on the date of the COT.  

With PII renewal season in full swing SRO’s, COLPs and Heads of Department would be well advised to take advantage of an external audit so that they can prove the quality of their lender compliance to assist in obtaining insurance. Firms should not shy away from ‘lifting up the carpet’. If there are areas for improvement then it is well worth finding out and dealing with it sooner rather than later.

Thursday, 13 September 2018

Lexsure offer conveyancers a version of the ‘Pepsi Challenge’

The Pepsi Challenge signaled a major shift in the cola landscape. In 1975, Coke dominated the cola market having held the number 1 position for decades. 

Pepsi was the underdog looking to prove something. They were hungry and willing to mix it up. Pepsi came up with a bold revolutionary strategy to do just that.

That idea was the Pepsi Challenge. Pepsi went inside malls around the USA and invited people to do a blind taste test between Coke and Pepsi. The challenge was designed to be a direct response to critics who allege that Coca Cola and Pepsi Cola are identical drinks, with no meaningful differences. The results were remarkable; people picked Pepsi over Coke by a significant margin.

Leading law tech company Lexsure are offering up to 50 firms to conduct, free of charge, their own version of the Pepsi challenge. Will Lexsure’s ENQUIRYgenerator technology outperform a firm’s conventional method of raising additional enquiries?

There are the two options as to how the challenge should operate: 

Single-Lawyer: Without any advance warning, the COLP or head of department should select a file where a conveyancer has recently reviewed a full set of documents and raised additional enquiries in the normal fashion. Then ask that fee earner to run through the same set of papers using Lexsure’s ENQUIRYgenerator. Compare and contrast. 

Two-Lawyer: Take a live purchase file where all the paperwork is in ready to be reviewed with the intention of raising enquiries. Make a copy of the file. Identify two conveyancers within the firm of equal experience and competence. One fee earner will review the file as per normal and the second will use ENQUIRYgenerator. So that this is a true test, neither lawyer should know that the file is being reviewed by another. Once again compare and contrast side-by-side. 

David Myers of Lexsure recently said at a webinar. “Law firms are understandably skeptical when it comes to adopting new risk management technologies. Frankly, it would be hubris to expect lawyers to accept, at face value, the assertion that technology can offer significant additional protection. It’s for us to prove that new processes are worth the financial cost and cultural change. Firms should have the opportunity to assess the output of new technologies on its intrinsic merits based on results.” 

ENQUIRYgenerator enables conveyancers to efficiently build case specific, targeted conveyancing enquiries based on a file review. The intelligence of the system grows daily due to the collaborative nature of the software whereby lawyers add novel enquiries into the database to be utilised in future cases with similar characteristics. These new questions can be inspired by recent case law or legislation (Dreamvar being a good example).Lender-specific and location-specific questions can also be added and indexed. 

Law firms wanting to take up the challenge by way of a free trial should contact support@lexsure.com 

Sunday, 9 September 2018

No Summer Slowdown When it Comes to Lender Handbook Changes

The three month period between June and September 2018 witnessed significant activity when it came to lenders changing their Handbook instructions. Conveyancers may have taken a well earned break during the summer but lenders did not rest when it came to altering their requirements for panel firms.

Here are some of the facts and figures:
Sections Changed
Separate Change Events
Barclays Bank UK PLC
HSBC Bank plc
Nationwide Building Society
Santander UK plc
Skipton Building Society
Virgin Money plc

A full list can be found here:

The total number of sections varied in the summer period was 253 with 47 lenders making changes.

Email notifications via the LENDERmonitor Notification Service was sent to over 650 lawyers.

The highest open rates were by top-200 law firms who, in this regard, display a healthy appetite towards lender compliance.

60% of LM04 pre-COT date range searches in the said period revealed lender changes. The most searched lender was Nationwide Building Society.

Some of the more significant changes related to crucial issues such as :
  • Ground rent escalation clauses 
  • Minimum unexpired lease terms 
  • Gifted deposits 
  • Redemption statements 
  • Reporting incentives 
  • Flying Freeholds 

If you are yet to sign up to the Notification Service you should give it serious consideration. Click here to find out more.

As we approach the Autumn period don't ‘fall’ down when it comes to following your lender client’s requirements. It’s easy to get tripped up and miss a change. Surely you don't want to cause serious and irreparable damage to your firm in failing to follow instructions?