With the landscape around property transactions and conveyancing ever shifting, it is greatly reassuring that the major stakeholders in the world of residential property transactions are willing to cooperate to facilitate the necessary changes over the coming months.
The Land Registration etc (Scotland) Act 2012, the redevelopment of ARTL, the drive towards improved efficiency and communications, and even the recent debate on separate representation have all added to the ever-increasing pace of change. During this transition it is critical that every effort is made to update procedures and to develop systems and software to support these new processes as affordably and quickly as possible, in order to minimise failures.
It was with this in mind that ESPC recently hosted two meetings with representatives from solicitors’ property centres, search companies, Registers of Scotland (RoS), the Law Society of Scotland (LSS), estate agency and case management software companies, the Council of Mortgage Lenders Scotland (CML), and law firms. Professor Brymer (LSS specialist in e-conveyancing from the University of Dundee) also attended and the whole area of e-missives was discussed at length, including likely changes and developments to the law surrounding digital signatures and exchanging documents electronically.
Discussion on this issue will not be new to many readers of this publication, and indeed 12 years ago there was an article on this very subject (Journal, June 2001, 19), though understandably at that time focus was predominantly on the early development of ARTL. In the meantime both access to and comprehension of technology have improved hugely, and solicitors throughout the world have embraced new ways of doing business with ever increasing enthusiasm.
So perhaps it was not surprising that we found ourselves pushing at open doors when we started discussing a collaborative approach to developing shared protocols (the technical language used in a digital exchange), and to delivering solutions to the challenges facing the profession over the coming months and years.
Agreement was reached that the best way to proceed was through the existing LSS team, recently established to consider the whole property transaction process. Their aim is to focus on any necessary changes around the process itself, while in parallel, a technical team focuses on developing tools to support these changes, and establishing technical protocols for data transfer throughout the chain between platforms and between software packages.
In order to allow the technical side to progress as quickly as possible, it was unanimously agreed that everyone would publish their protocols on an open “Wiki”-style website (content for which is provided by users along similar lines to the pages of the very popular online encyclopaedia, Wikipedia), launched specifically for this reason (www.missivecentral.org). This has already begun to collect and share information in an open way and it is hoped that this will encourage greater collaboration over the coming months.
However, this is not purely for the technical teams. Missivecentral also facilitates and promotes discussion and debate from non-technical stakeholders and we would urge all interested readers to log on, read, contribute and keep up to date with ideas in a way that should mimic sitting in a room chatting with other stakeholders.
Just as the agreement to establish common missives reduced greatly the amount of unnecessary work in parts of the conveyancing process, establishing common protocols for technology will enable all software providers to build links from area to area quickly, efficiently and perhaps most importantly, affordably. This should allow everyone involved in the buying and selling process to benefit and to move between suppliers if they want, with greater assurance that systems will “speak” to each other.
The legal professionals involved in conveyancing will be in a much stronger position once open and transparent standards are set for the software. Creating this open environment will ensure your business is not tied to one supplier, when there might be a more effective option elsewhere. So if you have a software supplier, I call on you to use the power you have to ensure they are involved in this process.
This is an opportunity for the profession to take control and set out the parameters from the outset, to ensure that e-conveyancing in Scotland becomes a seamless procedure, regardless of the point in the process at which the information is accessed. We look forward to hosting further meetings and to progressing with a working party involving representation from each key stakeholder group.
And don’t worry if you are concerned that your IT skills aren’t up to scratch. ESPC is planning to run training courses in Edinburgh on “Wiki editing” for non-technical users, to enable as many people as possible to get involved in this key debate online. If you are interested in being trained on how to get the most out of this sort of interactive communication, please do not hesitate to get in touch.
The SPC network, set up over 40 years ago by solicitor estate agents and working closely with conveyancing firms throughout the country, can help facilitate this change and ensure that the needs of the profession are kept to the fore, but only with your help and involvement. With your support, the well established, trusted and authoritative SPC network can better represent your needs and I would encourage as much engagement with SPCs as possible over the coming months.
In this issue
- Sep rep: wrong, wrong, wrong?
- The extra e in estate
- You’re NOT fired!
- Controlling tendency
- Case closed
- “Discrimination Against Women in the Law”: a forum report
- Reading for pleasure
- Opinion column: Brenda Mitchell
- Book reviews
- President's column
- Best measures
- Man in the hot seat
- Cohabitant awards: do they add up?
- A breach too far
- Lawyer of many facets
- Last piece of the jigsaw
- Partnerships: a firm line
- One bite at the cherry
- Whither Whittome?
- Achieving pension regime change
- Steve Webb's potty time
- Scottish Solicitors' Discipline Tribunal
- Honours shared
- e-business: call the shots
- How not to win business: a guide for professionals
- A year in focus
- Ask Ash
- Law reform roundup
- New firm, same clients?
- Diary of an innocent in-houser
- From the Brussels office