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In a significant move towards aligning conveyancing practices with the demands of the 21st century, the Law Society has unveiled a draft conveyancing protocol. This initiative aims to empower residential and commercial solicitors, providing them with a roadmap for embracing digital processes in the exchange of contracts. Inspire Legal Group, a leading solicitor in North Yorkshire, can assist you with commercial and residential property.

Recognizing the evolving landscape influenced by technological advancements and the transformative effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Law Society’s draft protocol responds to the pressure felt by solicitors to modernise their business operations. The complexity surrounding the use of electronic documents in the conveyancing process has prompted the need for clearer guidelines, and the Society’s initiative aims to address this void.

The pivotal moment in any property transaction is the exchange of contracts, rendering the agreement legally binding between the buyer and seller. The draft code introduces three protocols, each catering to distinct aspects of the conveyancing process: the ‘hold to order’ of documents or deposits, immediate exchange, and the release of contracts.

The Immediate Exchange Protocol 2024 is poised to replace formulae A and B, while the Release of Contracts Protocol 2024 will supersede formula C from the Society’s existing formulae for exchanging contracts. These protocols are designed to usher in a new era, allowing conveyancers to leverage innovative technologies for seamless transaction processes.

While the traditional practice of exchanging separate wet-ink paper original parts of the contract persists, the draft protocol acknowledges the prevalence of alternative procedures. Methods such as PDF scans of a wet-ink-signed paper contract, electronic signatures, or contracts signed on electronic devices have become increasingly common.

To ensure compliance with legal requirements, solicitors utilising such digital forms of contracts are urged to validate their adherence to property contract regulations outlined in the Law of Property (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1989. The Law Society recommends referring to its practice note on executing documents with electronic signatures and practice guide 82: electronic signatures accepted by HM Land Registry for comprehensive guidance.

As the legal landscape evolves, the Law Society acknowledges that the draft protocol may require ongoing development, especially with the anticipated advent of smart contracts and fully digital qualified electronic signatures. Nevertheless, the current protocol is poised to offer a timely and effective solution, fostering clarity and efficiency in the conveyancing process for solicitors and clients alike. The Law Society encourages feedback and views from practitioners to refine and enhance the proposed protocol, ensuring its relevance and effectiveness in contemporary legal practices.

Natalie Foster – Owner

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