Sunday, 22 June 2014

Do London Cabbies Foretell the Fate of Conveyancing Solicitors?

Earlier this month 10,000 black-cab drivers brought  the capital to a standstill by blockading Trafalgar Square. They were re protesting Uber, the American mobile phone app that locates the nearest available mini-cab and calculates the fare by distance and time.
Cabbies claim Uber’s GPS pricing system is effectively a taximeter, which only black cabs can use in London.As of this writing (June 22, 2014), action has been started by Transport for London (TfL) to secure a High Court ruling on the legality of the American company’s app.

Coincidentally,  digital disruption is stalking the conveyancing process as the Land Registry of England and Wales presses ahead with controversial plans to take over the management of the local land charges register, despite overwhelming opposition. This is of course Part 1 of what appears to be the inevitable privatisation of the Land Registry.
The blog Brains of Steel shows a Land Registry/GDS video of a prototype system complete with a number of screen shots. For those of you with pre-existing tendencies to bury your head in the sand, you’ll want to look away now as the screen shots give an indication of Land Registry’s modus operandi. It is a serious threat to many conveyancers. The concept of the “My Property Page” may be the beginning of self-service conveyancing.

Still don't believe conveyancing is an industry ripe for disruption? As with the case of London cabbies you're in illustrious company:
Barnes & Noble (founded in 1917) and Waterstones (founded in 1982) did not think Amazon, founded in 1994, would impact their business.Blockbuster (founded in 1985) did not fear Netflix, founded in 1997.Ironically, Blockbuster reportedly had an opportunity to buy Netflix back in 2000.Although Yellow Pages make handy doorstops these days, they may not have anticipated how much Google would disrupted their business. It only took a little more than a century from when Yellow Pages first came into prominence in 1886.

The list goes on with the likes of Wikipedia, Skype, WhatsApp, etc.

Most conveyancers that I speak to do not think the Land Registry should be privatised. Yet quiet, passive-aggressive whining in the corner is both annoying and ineffective. At least the cabbies took collective action.

Don't just hold back your support.  Organize your peers as AP Bassett are attempting to do. High Street Lawyers are spearheading the Save The Land Registry campaign in  a coordinated effort to stop privatisation. I'm not going to bet my  house on the collective efforts, but it will certainly outperform just a few voices in the wilderness.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Enabling the Benefit of Doubt

Several years ago, I was invited to meet with a well-known entrepreneur who had launched a conveyancing venture. The business was having trouble converting online leads into instructions and he wanted frank and open feedback on how to improve the process.

After about an hour's conversation, we shook hands, with both of us "looking forward" to the next chat. It didn't happened and we never did business.

During the chat, he had a particularly adverse reaction when I brought up the value of seeing clients face-to-face and the virtues of offering a highly personalised service.  I asserted that one side-benefit was ‘creating a better tolerance level from the client’ as the meeting takes a relationship onto a stronger foundation.

"Why should you need tolerance?" he countered, implying that my statement smacked of some sort of resignation that conveyancing was an uphill battle of managing client expectations. In the moment, I chalked up an adverse reaction due to his being from outside the industry.

I then replayed the discussion in my head after the meeting, wishing that I could have better justified my statement or found a more-articulate way of making the point. The fact is, conveyancing is an uphill battle, and like it or not, it can often be confrontational as suspicions kick in between the seller and the buyer and the estate agent.

If, as a conveyancer, you have a transaction that is seamless, smooth and according to timeframes, that is more likely to be luck than judgment, more the exception than the rule. There are far too many variables outside the control of the lawyer to give assurances as to how seamless the process can be.

A significant part of making conveyancing more effective is creating the environment where you will be given the benefit of the doubt, building the trust of your client or, dare I repeat the word, enable ‘tolerance’. Often, creating this environment is as important as the work itself.