Last month a high street solicitor wrote to the Journal protestng at the "diktat" from Halifax/Bank of Scotland that panel conveyancing solicitors will have to sign up to the ARTL automated registration system to retain their panel status - and at the lack of support for his stand from the Society, which questioned the timescale for implementing the decision but otherwise took the view that it was a matter for the bank, which had to safeguard its position from the risk of fraud.
The solicitor in question asked if he was a lone voice, and it appears that the answer is definitely not - more correspondence in support has been received for this month's issue.
This must have come as something of a surprise to those involved in the ARTL project – which includes the Society as well as Registers of Scotland. After all, on the face of it something that virtually guarantees completed registration in a Land Register sale within 24 hours, at less cost to the client in registration fees and negligible cost to the solicitor in terms of IT outlay, ought to have a lot going for it.
One correspondent suggests that despite what is claimed for it, ARTL is “clunky” and creates extra work. If that is true – and I am not in a position to judge, though having seen it demonstrated I am a little surprised – I can well understand the resistance to adopting it unless and until that is cured.
Much of the objection, however, appears to relate more to being told how to run one’s business by the “failed banks” Bank of Scotland/Halifax as part of Lloyds Group, which is where the decision complained of has come from. I can sympathise with solicitors not taking kindly to being told how to run their practice against that background.
Looking at the matter more broadly, however, I wonder if we should be a little more willing to embrace change. Only last week we had the announcement of massive public spending cuts, the like of which we have not seen for decades. Being realistic, no public sector body is going to be exempt, and efficiency savings are going to be pursued with a zeal that will far outstrip anything seen to date. It follows that every such organisation will be under pressure to maximise use of automated systems such as ARTL (or legal aid online, or lodging of court motions etc etc), and solicitors will in turn find their options increasingly limited if they seek to carry on doing business in the old ways. Nor can we realistically expect commercial organisations to be any less efficiency minded. That's my take on the way things are going anyway.
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