20 October 2020

Key takeaways

  • COVID-19 has created a burning platform for technology adoption in the legal sector, accelerating the trend towards simplifying and automating processes in the cloud.
  • One example of technology-enabled simplification is Property Exchange Australia (PEXA), Australia’s national e-conveyancing platform, which has seen a four-fold increase in usage in some states.
  • According to PEXA Chief Customer Officer Lisa Dowie, e-conveyancing not only increases productivity and avoids delays, it can also help firms attract and retain skilled staff.

The last few years have seen Australian legal practices increasingly harnessing technology to drive efficiency and productivity. Now COVID-19 has accelerated that process, with firms adopting cloud-based systems to simplify collaboration across a range of practice areas – especially conveyancing.

“I think COVID-19 has exposed the fragility of paper-based processes,” says Lisa Dowie, Chief Customer Officer for e-conveyancing platform Property Exchange Australia (PEXA). “It's really highlighted the agility and flexibility that digital solutions enable.”

“Members have reached out to me saying how thankful they are that their businesses can be fully digital and online, and they don't have to worry about not meeting their customers' expectations.”

In the last six months, PEXA has seen usage increase four-fold in some states, with 75% of transactions nationally now taking place through the platform. This number is set to rise too – with the South Australian government recently transitioning all its property transactions online, and Queensland and the ACT increasing their adoption of digital conveyancing.

“In South Australia, a large proportion of settlements were all held in the one settlement room in Adelaide, at a particular time,” said Chief Customer Officer for PEXA Lisa Dowie. “Then that settlement room was closed suddenly one Friday morning [by COVID-19 restrictions]. In the last two months, our customer base there has grown by 17%.”

I think COVID-19 has exposed the fragility of paper-based processes. It's really highlighted the agility and flexibility that digital solutions enable

Flexible, productive and integrative

Like other online platforms, PEXA’s can help firms improve efficiency and productivity by streamlining and automating paper-based processes. Because there’s no need to attend settlement, rely on physical documents or organise bank cheques, firms save significant amounts of time with every transaction. And online processing helps ensure settlements are completed on time and with fewer errors.

“A PwC report from 2015 showed that 25% of paper-based property transactions were delayed,” says Dowie. “PEXA provides much more certainty of successful and on-time settlement.”

Using PEXA means firms and clients can access payments sooner with electronic funds transfer. And working digitally means practitioners can not only work remotely – they can complete transactions from anywhere in the world.

“We had someone at base camp on Mount Everest, logging on to complete a property settlement,” says Dowie.

Macquarie Bank research shows that integrating diverse technologies is a key focus for two in three legal firms1, and Dowie says PEXA is working with practices across Australia to help integrate their practice management and core business systems with the platform. So far, 26 organisations, including the RBA, are on board – and the benefits can be significant.

“Integration definitely improves the overall user experience,” Dowie says. “Already, it’s saved these organisations collectively up to 13 million clicks monthly.”

Creating business resilience

Adopting appropriate technologies not only helps legal practices become more efficient, it can also improve resilience in an evolving market. Dowie says using technology to simplify and automate manual processes can help firms attract and retain skilled staff by supporting remote working and flexibility, while freeing staff to focus on more satisfying work, rather than administration. Collaborating online with clients can help improve the client’s experience, and deliver a higher quality service at a lower cost.

With so many apparent benefits for law firms, why has it taken a crisis like COVID-19 to accelerate technology adoption? Dowie says the biggest barrier is most often behavioural, not technological.

“Unproductive practices like paper-based processes are long ingrained in the legal sector,” she says. “The real challenge is creating behavioural change.”

Call out: Lisa Dowie’s 5 tips for successful technology adoption

  1. Start small, rather than trying to transform your whole business
  2. Make technology part of your business plan and strategy
  3. Empower your people at the grassroots to drive change – since they’re the ones driving the new processes from day to day
  4. Expect teething issues and allocate enough time to follow a learning curve
  5. Embrace any offers of technology support. “We deploy PEXA specialists across the country, who coach firms on how to navigate change successfully,” says Dowie.

How Macquarie can help

The Macquarie legal industry banking team is here to help you with personalised support, delivered by specialists in your industry.

To find out more, contact your Macquarie Relationship Manager, call 1800 442 370, or visit http://www.macquarie.com/legal

Additional information

The information on this page has been prepared by Macquarie Business Banking, a division of Macquarie Bank Limited AFSL & Australian Credit Licence 237502 ("Macquarie") for general information purposes only, without taking into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on this general information, you must consider its appropriateness having regard to your own objectives, financial situation and needs. The information provided is not intended to replace or serve as a substitute for any accounting, tax or other professional advice, consultation or service.