Stepping into an e-conveyance does not mean that you have entered into a cyber-spaceship and the only way out is in a spacesuit and oxygen tank. Rather, according to John Ahern, CEO of InfoTrack, it’s more like getting on an electronic bus. If you want to get off the electronic bus at any time during a conveyance, you can do so by simply pressing the button. The driver will let you off at the next familiar stop and you’re free to hop back on and off as you choose.

John Ahern sat down with Legal Practice Intelligence to talk about e-conveyancing as well as InfoTrack’s recent e-conveyancing roadshow across NSW. The roadshow included regional NSW as well as Sydney metropolitan locations and was focussed on demonstrating InfoTrack’s e-conveyancing platform. John was keen to show practitioners that e-conveyancing technology is finally here – not ‘coming soon’ or ‘in BETA’ but ready to use.

While on the road, John clarified some confusion about the term e-conveyancing. His view is that e-conveyancing, like paper conveyancing, is a term that describes all stages of a conveyance.

An e-conveyance can be split into four distinct stages: Pre-Exchange, Exchange, Exchange to Settlement and Settlement. You might notice that these four stages are identical to pre-electronic conveyancing.

The PEXA platform is a digitisation of the fourth stage – settlement. What InfoTrack and its technology partners offer is a digitisation of the first three stages and integration into the fourth stage.

While e-settlements are heading down the road of becoming mandatory, John Ahern says he cannot envisage such a legislative approach for the first three stages in a conveyance. If conveyancing professionals adopt a digital approach for the first three stages, it will be because it makes business sense to do so.

E-Conveyancing in regional areas

John Ahern was delighted with the response to his e-conveyancing message in the NSW regions.

Electronic processes help overcome the impediment of distance between client and conveyancer in country NSW. They also help overcome the distance between one conveyancer and another. On the roadshow, John Ahern learned from participants that in some parts of NSW there had been a downgrading of Australia Post mail services. Digital processes are helping to overcome reliance on Australia Post.

This is not to imply that every single regional conveyancing practice is going high tech. On the roadshow, John Ahern was confronted by a lawyer who told him to his face that e-conveyancing was a “wank”. Amazingly, in the same conversation, this lawyer also said that he would give it a genuine try. That’s how seriously regional NSW is taking e-conveyancing!

The electronic bus ride

The use of InfoTrack’s electronic contract processes is taking off. This was after a slow start admits John Ahern. What has caused take-off? One of the key messages from the roadshow was that “you can get on and off the electronic bus” as John Ahern puts it. If you start an electronic contract, it does not mean that you are trapped in a virtual world with no escape.

You can get off the electronic bus to print and manually sign a contract. You can get off the bus to manually obtain a council certificate and then get back on the bus to continue electronically. You can get on and off the electronic bus in all the familiar places. There is even a button in the InfoTrack electronic workflow to initiate a manual settlement.

According to John Ahern, once practitioners get on the electronic bus they are staying for a longer ride. “This can only be the case if the electronic processes are truly delivering efficiency and other business benefits”, explained John Ahern.