I first started working around real estate law and conveyancing in 2009. At that time, the Land Title Office had been accepting electronic filing (e-filing) documents for a number of years, which had replaced the process before, physically land filing all documents at the appropriate registry. There were a number of lawyers when I started who refused to e-file. They were used to land filing. I couldn’t understand it. For a real estate office in North Vancouver to help someone buy a house in Kamloops, you could hit “submit” from your office or you could literally pay someone to go to the Kamloops registry and stand in line to file the application in person. It seems like a pretty easy decision which one of those is more conducive to making money and not wasting time. But nevertheless, change is hard. A few years after that, around 2013, land filing became obsolete, and some lawyers never practiced real estate law again.
7 years later, I still work in a real estate firm. In March, the Land Title Office advised lawyers and notaries alike who practice real estate law that e-filing (which requires the used of Adobe Acrobat DC) is being replaced by Web Filing. I have known about this since I returned to work after exams in April. I knew this was coming. But I have done nothing, until today, to try and learn how to use the new system. I only tried today because I read some of these blog posts and realized I’m being part of the problem. Well that, and our e-filing applications started saying “this version of the form is being phased out” as of Thursday of last week, so I knew the end was near.
Why is it that although I know change is made for a reason, whether that’s to increase efficiency, help solve common mistakes or help make people’s lives easier, I still find it more of a hassle than a help? I have been using the same process for 10 years and I know that process inside and out. Until that notice on my application that the end was coming, I had been feeling completely fine about not learning the new system. Of the 300 deals we have done over the past few months, only one was done through Web Filing. So, I wasn’t alone. The majority of firms were just like us: used to what we were used to with no desire to change until absolutely necessary.
Taking this class has made me realize how many areas of law could be helped by apps and more importantly, how much time could be saved. The number of times I’ve had to answer questions about what types of transactions GST gets paid on, it almost makes me upset thinking there could be a way for someone to find the answer themselves in a few short questions. COVID-19 has created opportunities for delivery of legal services that were unheard of prior. The Land Title Office, during the pandemic, has allowed for videoconference signing with clients. There are many additional requirements but it’s still possible where it was not before.
Between applications for easy access to information and lawyers being forced to embrace change and get uncomfortable more often, I think firms with staff and lawyers more able to respond quickly will have an upper hand. Eventually, it will either be change, or get left behind.