The Legal Services Board (LSB) is encouraging more legal services regulators to promote the uptake of Blockchain technology – a Blockchain is a continuously growing list of records, called blocks, which are linked and secured using cryptography. The LSB research has found that only 2% of legal service providers have started using Blockchain technology with only 5% planning to do so. This uptake has been largely limited to the financial services sector.
The recent LSB’s ‘Talking Tech’ podcast discussed the implications of Blockchain technology. Vice dean of innovation at UCL’s Faculty of Laws, Dr Anna Donovan, said: “Blockchain provides significant opportunities to enhance consumers’ access to legal services, particularly once we reach widespread adoption. This will mean that consumers can have their legal needs met in a more direct, faster and potentially cheaper manner (in comparison to current models). Whilst this technology is currently the focus of the financial services sector there are huge opportunities across the legal services market, including, for example, in conveyancing and probate. At the moment, a small number of legal services providers are offering services to their consumers that leverage smart contract technology, whilst others are developing complementary dispute resolution mechanisms. At the moment investment is largely coming from financial services, where there is capital to invest and where the nature of financial services transactions lends themselves to this kind of technology. To help the adoption of DLT within the sector in a sustainable manner, one that reaches the right balance between innovation and consumer protection, regulators are well placed to use their convening power to support multi-disciplinary research, increase understanding across the sector and, where appropriate, provide best practice guidance, training and information.”
Dr Helen Phillips, Chair of the LSB, said: “The potential uses of Blockchain technology are both enormous and exciting, and it’s vital that the legal services sector seizes the opportunity to use it to improve access to justice. Distributed ledger technology has the potential to drive considerable time and cost savings for both providers and consumers of legal services. It increases transparency, builds trust and speeds up transactions, all of which will benefit consumers. The financial and banking sector has made significant strides in exploring the benefits of Blockchain and I hope the legal sector follows suit. It’s important though that we all understand the risks and potential pitfalls of these innovations, and the LSB is looking carefully at the role regulators must have in protecting users of legal services. We need an approach that balances fostering innovation with consumer protection. Legal regulators must not ignore the opportunities and I look forward to working with partners to understand and agree how everyone can benefit from new technology.”
It has been announced this month that NatWest has teamed up with experts in the property sector to develop Blockchain and distributed ledger technology to create an end-to-end mortgage to home buying experience. The Blockchain process will use NatWest mobile banking and will create a seamless customer journey by sharing information throughout the process. The technology will ensure that buyers will have full transparency of the process throughout, will enable key stakeholders to see the progression and ensure greater collaboration and communication during the home buying and selling process. It is hoped that this collaborative approach and sharing of key information will speed up the buying process, create greater transparency and increased certainty for all stakeholders and provide the consumer with an enhanced home buying and selling experience.
The group, known as Coadjute, is made up of Dezrez Estate Agency Software, eTech Surveyor Software, Search Acumen Property Data, Conveyancing Data Services Property Data, LMS Panel Management Software and of course Redbrick Solutions Conveyancing Software. Martin MacDuff, CEO Redbrick Solutions, said: “Our clients sit in the middle of the process and often have to deal with frustrated consumers who are trying to complete a complex process that they only complete a few times in their life. Our case management software assists users in speeding up the process and providing a better service to those consumers. To have better transparency across all stages of the process would increase this exponentially. This trial opens up the possibility of radically improved communications between the estate agent, lender, surveyor and conveyancer and the creation of a shared view of processes, meaning the customer knows exactly which step in the process they are at and what remains to be done; importantly they will get the same status regardless of which business they speak to”.