Friday 19 May 2017

The Conveyancing Checklist - The Sharpest Tool in the Box

One reason not to use the latest legal technologies reducing conveyancing risk is that it potentially lulls the lawyer into a false sense of security. Lexsure’s intelligent checklist system COMPLETIONmonitor is sometimes met by such an objection.

The phenomenon known as ‘inattentional blindness’ is real. This is when you ask people to look for something specific and they develop a startling inability to see things in general — even things that would normally be glaringly obvious.

In one rather amazing experiment on ‘inattentional blindness‘ subjects are shown a video of a fast-paced ball game and asked to count how many times the ball is passed back and forth. Partway through the video, a person in a gorilla costume wanders into the middle of the screen, beats its chest a few times, and then wanders off again. Here’s the amazing part: between 33 and 50% of subjects don’t notice this happen. Perhaps this bears repeating: up to half the people instructed to pay close attention to a video fail to notice a six-foot-tall, chest-pounding gorilla in the middle of it.

Here’s a thought experiment: You have a hundred property lawyers dealing with an identical leasehold purchase. Suppose you give half those teams a checklist. Now suppose the test paperwork includes a complication that isn’t on the list. Which half is going to do better at noticing the problem? I’d bet it’s the group without the checklist.

So, have we proved that checklists are a bad idea? That doesn't seem to stack up with the evidence; there's significant proof that checklists work, to the extent that certain insurers are prepared to bet on it, and offer reduced PI for firms that use software such as COMPLETIONmonitor.

In that case, how is it that Lexsure have bridged the gap between risk of omission and inattentional blindness? Simple. they have 10 years of group discussions behind their technology, allowing a flexible and truly comprehensive  checklist to evolve, with detailed input from hundreds of expert conveyancers working on many weird and wonderful cases.

The function of the conveyancing risk mitigation checklist is as much psychological as practical. It is a first step toward accepting our fallibility in word of increased conveyancing risk — a kind of gateway drug to humility. With its lagging standards, conveyancing urgently needs checklists.

Simply dismissing the value of a checklist  is like saying ‘I would rather use a blunt knife than a sharp knife because I can cut myself’. In reality, cooks know that a sharp knife is less likely to cause injury, because it goes where you point it. It does what you tell it to do, which means you can focus on what you want the outcome to be.

The challenge of a sharp knife is that it puts ever more responsibility on the person who uses it. It will do what you tell it do, so tell it well.

You can opt not to use the sharpest checklist technologies but you may find that your existing processes are akin to a blunt instrument that in the long run could be a lot more dangerous.

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