With more than 7800 lawyers across 61 countries, Dentons has cemented its position as the world’s largest law firm. But that title certainly isn’t what makes Partner Anthony Walsh tick.
Providing a competitive edge in an increasingly complex and interconnected market is a pivotal point of focus for Dentons as they help their clients navigate the brave new digital property landscape.
“Our customers are always at the forefront of everything we do,” Walsh says. “There’s a significant education piece in supporting the transition to digital property transactions and in giving the customer confidence that a digital future is the right one.”
With more than 10,000 property transactions under its belt, Dentons is well placed in providing guidance and support to some of Australia’s premier financial institutions - a role Walsh calls “a privilege”.
“We made a decision very early on that embracing technology and embracing PEXA was the right thing for our business and the right thing for our clients,” Walsh says. “And we’ve learnt a lot along the way which in turn has really enabled us to lead our clients through the transition from paper to PEXA for property transactions. You need to be able to address a broad range of enquiry, from the alignment of documents and processes enabling electronic transactions through to concerns around fraud and cyber security…by sitting at the forefront of change, we’ve been able to add a lot of value to our clients”.
In addition to PEXA, Dentons found great success in the use of e-Contracts in providing a client with the ability to e-exchange contracts for a substantial off-the-plan deal:
“We worked for 12 months through legal and IT to get electronic contracts off the ground and then we needed to sell it to our clients as a benefit for them…but when we did that first off-the-plan sale where the contracts were executed electronically, the customer experience was tenfold and the benefits were just astounding. There was a great story where one of our clients had a purchaser hop off a plane in another country and log straight onto their iPad to digitally execute their purchase contract. This really demonstrates our push towards improving the customer experience through legal innovation,” Walsh recalls enthusiastically. “That’s a massive process improvement and the perfect example of what PEXA and spin-off innovations can achieve.”
When addressing some of the challenges industry face is transitioning to digital, Walsh calls out legislative limitations.
“At the moment, legislation is limiting the ability to undertake a full end-to-end digital solution and we’re working with Government to change those acts that limit innovation. We see PEXA as an opportunity to embrace digital technology and digital signing because you’re dealing with the most important asset of mainstream Australia – their home – so legislation needs to line up with what’s best for the public and in our mind that’s a fully digital end-to-end property and lending solution.”
For now though, removing costly and inefficient dual-processing by providing certainty around e-Conveyancing is an appropriate step-forward.
“We’re certainly seeing more focus from our clients and the broader property market now that some of the Land Registries have established timelines for the phase out of paper property transactions,” Walsh states. “And as a lawyer these are great opportunities. It’s a great time for us as there’s a change to legal consequences and a change to process. By setting out dates for when transaction need to be completed electronically, we’ve been able to pick-up the phone and make sure everyone is aware and it’s made that conversation much easier to have. We’re not dealing in hypotheticals anymore”.
With 115 financial institutions on-board and more than 4000 legal and conveyancing subscribers, PEXA has certainly ascended beyond its nascent stage, in part due to the progressive attitude of firms like Dentons. But what about those that have yet to adopt e-Conveyancing as the norm?
“Look, if you don’t embrace it you’ll get left behind,” Walsh states. “As a firm, we’ve always tried to challenge ourselves to do things better, but the problem with law is it’s based on precedent so you’re always looking backwards. To succeed you need to look forward. You know the digital end-to-end solution is coming in terms of the lending process and the settlement process. It’s our job to help our financial institution clients truly achieve all the efficiencies available to them….and getting them ready for 100% digital property transactions is right up there at the top of the list.”