To AI or not to AI

Artificial Intelligence (AI) really does feel like it’s everywhere within the Conveyancing Industry at the moment. A tidal wave of companies claim they are now using the ‘best’ AI technology to improve and streamline the conveyancing process with the hope that transaction times will be reduced.

So what is AI?

“[AI] refers to the development and deployment of advanced systems that can perform tasks traditionally requiring human intelligence. AI systems are designed to learn, reason, and make decisions autonomously, often by leveraging machine learning algorithms and big data. These systems can analyse complex patterns, adapt to new information, and exhibit intelligent behaviour in various domains, such as natural language processing, computer vision, robotics, and more…” (Chat GPT)

The Conveyancing Industry looks to be leveraging Optical Character Recognition (OCR). AI plays a crucial role in OCR by recognising characters, patterns and structures within the image to extract and interpret the text. This is a technology that converts printed or handwritten text into machine-readable text and has obvious advantages for converting older deeds and other documents in Conveyancing.

Generative AI is a further artificial intelligence technique being used in the legal sector. This application specifically generative models and can be trained on large amounts of legal text to generate human-like responses, draft legal documents, assist with legal research, or even simulate legal scenarios. These models leverage natural language processing and machine learning to analyse and understand legal concepts, enabling them to provide valuable insights and support to legal professionals in their work.

This all sounds incredibly impressive and progressive but what does it really mean for the Conveyancing Industry?

Well, it would certainly seem to have its advantages ranging from saving time, eliminating biases and automating repetitive tasks. The disadvantages would appear to be the substantial cost of implementation but more importantly the lack of emotion, creativity or human judgement. We as conveyancers often need to take a view based on the circumstances we are faced with given our client’s position. How quickly can machine learning cover all eventualities?

We should also consider the ethical problems associated with AI. A main issue causing concern centres around consumer data privacy as AI can gather data on people even without direct access to personal information. So, the question is, how can consumer privacy be protected and how do we as conveyancers deal with the obvious risk associated with potential data breaches?

There is currently no body of law governing the development or use of AI in the UK. Developers and users must instead abide by an existing fragmented regulatory framework. This does provide some governance but definitely lacks coherence is what is a very complex landscape. This in turn increases both risk and the cost of compliance for businesses and is disincentivising. It also heightens concerns that without direct governance AI systems may fail or worse be misused in ways that are detrimental to individuals or even society as a whole. It is now more important than ever to stay informed about the specific regulations and guidelines relevant to your AI applications to ensure we are offering the best possible data security for our firms and our clients.

The Government is addressing this issue and there is intent to develop a more comprehensive regulatory framework for AI. In March this year a consultation on a policy was published, entitled “A pro innovation approach to AI regulation”. This policy paper sets out five objectives:

  • Safety/security,
  • transparency,
  • fairness,
  • accountability,
  • contestability.

As Conveyancers we must always review the risk and liability as we will be held liable for errors and accordingly have very expensive indemnity insurance premiums. Insurers have made it clear that AI must be closely supervised, and that evidence of this supervision recorded. Consequently, it may be that AI does not currently deliver the level of efficiency savings that conveyancers had first hoped for.

We are seeing more and more software which use optical character recognition engine to convert legal documents into machine readable text. The AI then extracts key data and links it with a source of information. Data must then still be validated, and sense checked. So human intervention is currently still essential.

Are we therefore really gaining ‘real time’ if the document still needs to be reviewed and the data doubled check for accuracy? Is the AI currently being utilised more a sophisticated data extract tool whereby key information can be summarised and basic logic applied to generate an interpretation of the legal document.

Whatever our feelings are on AI one things for sure, it’s here to stay and is now becoming common place in both business and everyday life.

We at ntitle wholehearted see the great benefits of AI technology. However, we understand its current state of maturity with its current constraints in what is a very nuanced and complex area of law. We also look forward to receiving greater regulation and governance into the relation to data protection.

In the meantime, while we will leverage the undoubted benefit of AI technology, we will also continue to utilise our brilliant team of qualified title investigators to do the hard work and provide that award winning end to end service.

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