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Digital conveyancing is here to stay, says early adopter lawyer
Peter Ambrose, MD of The Partnership, UK property solicitors

14 Oct 2020 / technology Print

Digital conveyancing is here to stay, says early adopter

UK property solicitors The Partnership has concluded a fully electronic conveyance after the Land Registry authority approved the use of electronic signatures for transfer documents. 

The client electronically signed the transfer form on their mobile phone, followed by a remote witness signing.

Electronically signed deed

It is believed to be the first electronically signed deed in England and Wales.

The initiative means that clients no longer have to manually sign paperwork and then return it to their lawyers by post, before it was sent on to the UK Land Registry, a process that typically took up to a week.

Speaking at a DocuSign seminar this morning, solicitor and managing director Peter Ambrose said that he hated paper with a fiery passion and has been trying to get rid of it for years.

Ambrose said that conveyancing lawyers need to accept the inevitability of the new technology and that the security levels offered give him particular confidence.

The technology acts as a witness and the certificates issued upon signing offer a security impossible with wet signatures, Peter Ambrose explained.

Stolen money

“We’ve seen first-hand clients who have had money stolen on the back of wet signatures, so we know the pain of wet signatures,” he said.

The property lettings business has now fully embraced e-signatures, he pointed out, despite scepticism as recently as five years ago. 

“Anyone who thinks that electronic signatures are just a flash-in-the-pan and that it’s just a bit trendy… they are very much mistaken.

“The future of electronic signatures in e-conveyancing is 100% guaranteed,” he continued.

“My advice to anyone that’s doing conveyancing today is to get on board, protect your clients now. Don’t wait for them to be the next victim of fraud.”

Defrauded 

He said the idea of his clients being defrauded of money keeps him awake at night.

“We deliver everything, where we can, electronically,” he said, describing manual document exchange as a week-long ‘torturous’ process, with the logistical problems of assembling witnesses exacerbated by lockdown. 

“We don’t use email. Email is for thieves,” he said. “We have found [electronic signatures] revolutionary,” he said, in terms of speed and efficiency, especially for people living abroad who cannot get wet signatures to lawyers.

The firm is also working with banks on electronic signatures on mortgage deeds.

Efficiency improvement

Scott Bozinis of InfoTrack, which supplies the e-conveyancing software used, told the webinar  that lawyers often feel they are too busy to give themselves time to have an efficiency improvement. 

Extensive data is captured in the digital footprint of e-signatures which enhances the security of e-conveyancing, he said.

Bozinis continued that e-signatures are familiar technology at this stage but are revolutionary to the conveyancing world, with checkboxes that confirm that transaction witnesses are physically present in the room, as the contract is completed.

'Green' tech

He added that e-signatures are inherently ‘green’, and involve no driving around with paperwork and no environmental impact.

“This is what your clients want, and they will refer you. Your clients do not want to be printing and posting documents. 

“In a client-centric business we’ve got to all move to this technology,” he said.

Gazette Desk
Gazette.ie is the daily legal news site of the Law Society of Ireland