In the UK, the Land Registry is steadily digitising how it works, including no longer accepting scanned or PDF copies of documents for property ownership changes from this November. To help address these changes Search Acumen has launched a conveyancing platform that uses NLP to extract key data for inputting into the new system.
Central to this approach is the key AP1 form, which is used along with supporting documents to legally change the ownership of a property. The Land Registry also has much more planned for its digitized future (see Road Map below).
Currently up to 80% of AP1 submissions involve uploading physical paper documents, ‘swallowing up unnecessary time and risking inaccuracies’ the company said.
Hence Search Acumen’s platform. It said that it expects to save over half an hour of processing time per transaction by using this NLP-led approach. Other time saving features of the platform also include the ability to coordinate directly with HM Land Registry case workers and automated calendar management. In fact, the company reckons that when used in conjunction with the rest of its conveyancing tools it can save lawyers up to five hours per transaction through more efficient processes.
Now, you might say: ‘Hold on, this won’t be popular as it impacts the billable hour.’ However, plenty of property conveyancing work – at least for less complex matters, e.g. standard residential sales – is done on a fixed fee in England. Hence, the faster you can do this while maintaining quality then the more profitable your law firm or legal conveyancing company will be, as you will be able to handle more transactions with the same number of people.
[Note: for readers outside of the UK, over here there is a special profession known as ‘licensed conveyancer’. They have the regulated ability to conduct property transactions, but are not ‘full capability’ lawyers.
Also, this is another reason why costs can be kept down for this kind of legal work, i.e. licensed conveyancers can qualify more easily and have a very focused role, this tends to mean less stratospheric salaries, which in turn follows through to the affordable prices for this kind of work that are needed by millions of people in the UK each year. AKA client demand in this case has significantly changed the legal market – which it doesn’t really do in most parts of the commercial legal market.]
Going back to the time-saving point. Search Acumen reckons that if you can save just half an hour on the AP1 form process alone, you’d get over 500,000 hours of reduced administration time annually across the sector as a direct result (see their workings out below).
Andrew Lloyd, Managing Director at Search Acumen, added: ‘Our residential platform will continue our track record of abolishing antiquated ways of working and empowering legal professionals to have greater control over transaction processes. It provides a single intuitive portal for the project management of residential sales and purchases and will play a crucial role in digitising key processes, most pressingly AP1 submissions ahead of November’s deadline.
‘The end-to-end solution uses advanced AI to automatically populate relevant data throughout the entire transaction process, removing a huge amount of high-volume, low-skill administration, filing and project management tasks. The result is that conveyancers have information more readily at their fingertips, leaving them to focus on more strategic issues and problem solving for clients.’
The half an hour time saving is based on analysis of Search Acumen’s performance against the equivalent human-led process. HMLR data shows there have been 1,003,916 transactions between Q4 2020 and Q3 2021.
Legal membership group Bold Legal Group estimates a simple freehold transaction takes around 10 hours of total legal time to complete, therefore:
1,003,916 X 10 = 10,039,160 (total legal hours for all annual transactions)
1,003, 916 X 9.5 = 9,537,202 (total hours for all annual transactions with a 30-minute saving per transaction)
10,039,160 – 9, 537,202 = 501,958 hours saved across the market each year
The Land Registry Tech Road Map:
- A pilot for receiving qualified electronic signatures and the first one being received.
- Multiple title register update applications can now be lodged through the Digital Registration Service in portal.
- Increased the potential users for the ‘sign my mortgage deed’ service by onboarding further lenders.
- Increasing speed of service through the ‘sign my mortgage deed digitally’ service through changing some original criteria.
- Pushed the ‘OC document availability’ Business Gateway API into the test environment.
- Launched a interactive public backlog for Business Gateways users to vote on what enhancements they want to see in the channel.
- Further development of the ‘view my applications’ feature in portal.
- Provided quality and better structured register data to enable the registered proprietor name to be validated pre submission in the Digital Registration Service in portal.
Working on now
- Extending the pilot for qualified electronic signatures to more users.
- Enabling applications that include Power of Attorney to be submitted via Digital Registration Service.
- Delivering the ‘Registered Proprietor Name’ Business Gateway API service.
- Increasing accessibility compliance for services like ‘contact us and applying for a portal account.
- Opening up a new citizen account to access Search for Land and Property, which enables multiple features releases includes paid services.
- Readying for release the ‘my documents’ section in Search for Land and Property which hold paid for information for 36 hours.
- Delivering ‘view my colleagues applications’ to the current ‘view my applications’ feature.
- Using better structured register data to increase speed of registration opportunities for the ‘sign my mortgage deed digitally’ service.
- Completing the register update application set and enhancing existing service journey and features.
- Further portal channel features which will increase self service, including a new home page design.
- Analysis on the services and features needed to develop end to end solutions for digital registration for Business Gateway users.
- Designing a new Developer Hub for Business Gateway users to enhance the integration experience.
- Building out the new citizen service so it is the only service citizens will need to go to view property information.
- Understanding all data requirements to enable further data to be made available to users.
- Developing the concept for statement of assurance.
- Looking at more opportunities to use better structured register data to improve user experience.’