How does a regulator (CLC) prepare for disruption in conveyancing

The CLC is the regulator of specialist conveyancing and probate lawyers. Like any regulator, we need to deliver consumer protection in a changing world. And as a regulator with a proud history of supporting innovation in the delivery of legal services, we also support lawyers who want to find new ways of responding to changing client expectation and who harness new tools to do so. That’s why we held a round table with Legal Futures to look at the regulation of digital conveyancing.

Now we’re collaborating with Legal Geek and their network of legal tech entrepreneurs as well as others in financial tech and property tech. We want to explore with them how the delivery of legal services is likely to evolve. That way we can be ready to support innovation in the interests of both consumers and lawyers.

After just one evening of very lively discussion over pizza with a range of legal tech entrepreneurs, it became clear that there is a wide range of interesting challenges for us if we are to be ahead of the game. We don’t want to find ourselves floundering like TfL when faced with Uber, or the many cities struggling to cope with AirBnB. Neither services are fundamentally novel, but new ways of delivering them have thrown up unforeseen issues.

The arrival of a disruptor in the residential property market could pose serious challenges, especially if their approach was to get on with delivering property transfers in a new way that pays little or no attention to current legal processes for conveyancing or the consumer protection framework around that.  Such a ‘seek forgiveness not permission’ approach would not be astonishing. But even that could be less problematic than a new entrant that manages to corner a large part of the data that could be used to make the conveyancing process smoother and faster. Such a development could have a damaging anti-competitive effect that could be hard to undo.

We want to extend the dialogue so that we can identify light-touch interventions, appropriate for regulators to make will promote innovation and competition to encourage the development of new solutions. There are opportunities here to make huge improvements to the consumer experience and create major efficiencies while also reducing risks in the current processes.

Maybe this is the last place you’d expect to find a regulator, but we’re determined to deliver on our mission to support innovation.