How the pandemic has marked a turning point in the use of e-signatures

During the first national lockdown the housing market saw a period of reduced activity, closely followed by a boom fuelled by pent-up demand and the introduction of a stamp duty holiday. Data from the property portal Zoopla suggests pipeline sales are now up by 50% on the same time last year.

Demand in all parts of the sector, coupled with furloughed staff and other access restrictions imposed by local authorities, has resulted in delays for searches and therefore longer transaction times. Further statistics recently revealed by Zoopla indicate transactions are taking over 100 days from sales agreed to completion. The log-jam could be exacerbated further, as people rush to complete before the SDLT holiday cut off.

Conveyancers are facing some of the busiest times they have ever seen, with further lockdowns and remote working adding to the challenges faced on a daily basis. Increased stress at both work and home, can potentially lead to mental health issues. Since 10th March 2020, the mental health charity LawCare has reported 28% of all support contacts, including calls, webchats and emails, have had a Covid element. There is no-doubt the Pandemic has added to the pressure conveyancers are experiencing as part of their busy daily lives.

The industry has responded to a lack of resources by recruiting for more staff. The job site Indeed saw a 100% increase in conveyancing job roles advertised in September.

As well as recruiting more staff, technology has a role to play to reduce the pressure conveyancers find themselves under. One example is the increased use of electronic signatures.

Since July 2020, HM Land Registry (HMLR) started to accept electronic signatures, removing the requirement for paper and wet-ink signatures in the conveyancing process. While solicitors were unable to meet with clients face-to-face, the timing couldn’t have been better. This has removed one of the obstacles towards a digital conveyancing chain, resulting in smoother communication with client plus the potential to speed up transactions.

At Index we responded by launching the integration of our Index Platform with HelloSign – a Dropbox business company – which enables the exchange of electronic signatures. HelloSign is conveniently accessed from the Index Platform to send and sign documents safely through email.

The HelloSign integration now means law firms and their clients can sign, send and save critical business documents quickly, easily and most importantly: securely. The result is faster exchange of documentation, speeding up the conveyancing process and enhancing customer experiences at the same time.

Sarah Edwards, Partner, Beyond Conveyancing commented:

“We have been using HelloSign for a couple of months now and it has made a huge difference to our turnaround times for the return of signed documents from clients; it is really easy to use and has been particularly useful now that more clients and solicitors are based at home.”

At Index, although we appreciate technology is critically important to gain efficiencies, we recognise the challenges law firms face in evaluating and adopting new processes. With legal staff necessarily focused on client work, resources to research and implement the most appropriate technology can be limited. Therefore, it is important to partner with sector experts who know technology inside out. Employing the right people behind the tech, is ultimately what makes it work.

With a network of local offices throughout the UK, our staff are always on-hand to offer support and guidance on integration. Our bespoke approach means the technology is always right for individual firms and fit for its intended purpose.

Embracing technology and ensuring firms engage with the right people to make it work, offers the greatest rate of success for implementation. In this way, something as simple as taking advantage of the use of e-signatures has the potential to increase efficiencies and reduce pressure on staff during these challenging times.

For further information contact your local Index office on 0121 293 1185 or email ian.marriott@indexpi.co.uk

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