Altis Legal in 2018: Focusing on the user while looking to the future
A collaborative venture between ESPC, the Law Society of Scotland and Barcroft Digital Ltd, Altis is an online platform for Scottish conveyancers. Launched just a few years ago, Altis has made considerable achievements and the platform has been developed significantly since then. Mike Barcroft, the original developer behind the system and current Chief Technology Officer, looks back at the achievements of the past year, and discusses what’s next for Altis Legal.
“It’s quite an easy thing to do, to put a product together with no clients and say it has various features, but to have a system that works well, and in the way that clients want, is a completely different thing. Over the past six to nine months, we’ve gone through a process of listening to users and making sure it works the way they want it to,” Mike reflected when looking back at the how the product has changed and developed in the past year.
As well as adding features that users are asking for, the platform must also look at long-term changes that might push them to implement developments to ensure the product keeps up with the industry. Mike commented: “Sometimes we have to start developing something in the system that clients absolutely aren’t asking for right now, but we have to make a judgement that they’re probably going to need it in two years’ time, so we have to do it.”
In 2015, despite being a start-up and relatively unknown, Altis won the tender to work with the Law Society of Scotland on a conveyancing platform. Working with the Law Society opened doors for the company, meaning they were able to engage the Registers of Scotland to implement a system, which, while not designed to exclusively work with Altis, would be developed with Altis in mind.
The integration with Registers of Scotland went live in mid-2018, which was a huge achievement. Mike said: “Users are now able to send all the data on their Altis transactions to Registers of Scotland with a single click, and it saves them about half an hour every time, which is big step forward.”
In 2018, the first set of Altis users went fully digital. Mike said: “Neilsons Solicitors and Estate Agents, for example, took the step to abandon all their other systems and put 100% of transactions into Altis. They had been testing the system and having a close look at it for two years, and with an awful lot of knowledge, decided it was fit for purpose and they would put everything into it.”
Early in 2018, Altis users saw the launch of its pre-purchase tools, an additional section to Altis called PIP (Purchase Instrument Panel), which allows users to co-ordinate their pre-purchase negotiations and activity; successful offers can be converted into full purchase transactions, whilst unsuccessful offers can simply be archived with no charge to the firm. Mike said: “The team at Altis have enjoyed the feedback received regarding PIP; it’s a significant change to this part of the process in firms and users have been really engaged with telling us where they’d like to see it going next”.
Benefits of Altis
It is not surprising that firms are recognising the benefits of using Altis and going fully digital. As well as significantly reducing risk and saving time for users, the platform offers a number of key advantages for law firms. It makes the staff induction easier as case files are presented in a standardised and intuitive layout. Also, as the transactions are digital, Altis knows how many files have been dealt with, which ensures no steps are missed when processing a transaction. Furthermore, it can provide a forecast for what a branch is going to earn each month, and it reduces both uplift and storage costs for firms who use paper-based systems.
Another benefit of Altis it is allows for staff to work remotely. This is particularly convenient when travel disruptions means staff are unable to make it into the office or if firms would like to allow their staff the flexibility to work from home.
2018 was a notable year for the legal technology industry, largely due to the GDPR legislation which came into force at the end of May. As Mike commented: “GDPR came around and shook everyone up a bit, but more than anything else, firms have become far more security aware and we had to evidence that Altis would ensure firms were compliant in the way the Law Society guides. We are very much in sync with the Law Society on what we should be doing, but we had to evidence that to users.”
What’s next for Altis
An increased focus on security has led there to be an industry-wide push on refraining from sending emails with confidential attachments. Altis is planning to be ahead of the curve by introducing products in 2019, that will allow users to avoid sending any emails with attachments, essentially allowing a secure method of transmission for anyone involved in an Altis transaction, even when only one side of the transaction uses Altis.
Automated searching will begin to be available in the first quarter of 2019, which will allow for an enhanced experience for users. We will continue to develop and rollout search integrations with providers as demand and feedback from its user base grows.
2019 will see the continued improvement in day to day experience, with a highlight on reducing the time and effort required for a user to appraise themselves of the transaction and its current status. The use of thumbnailing, OCR and scanning technologies all play a part in this, creating a searchable and easily readable electronic file. Mike said: “Our goal is to create a situation where users genuinely want to go paperless with Altis to make their own working day easier.”
Altis Legal is always looking ahead to ensure they are ready for industry changes in the future. Mike commented: “We’re putting a lot of time into preparing ourselves for the future, so we try to balance the features we have coming up with making sure we’re well equipped for what happens in 2020 and beyond.”