Technology is fast becoming a centrepiece of the development industry – with the rise of virtual reality and integrated technology in projects – and the legal services industry is now following suit.
Off the back of upcoming legislative changes in New South Wales and Victoria that are making property contract settlements mandatory by 2019, industry leaders in the legal services field are now focusing on how various technologies can be used to help save time and money for property developers, without compromising on quality.
According to Rhett Oliver, Partner at Colin Biggers & Paisley, the biggest technology trends for the legal field that developers are going to benefit from are online property creation, exchange and management platforms, ‘smart contracts’ and cloud computing/online collaboration.
By the end of this year all property settlements have to be managed online in Western Australia, and the same will go for settlements in NSW and Victoria by June 2019 – and this is leading to online property exchanges becoming a staple technology as well.
Online property exchanges are enabled by online contract creation, exchange and management systems via which stakeholders – purchasers, co-purchasers, developers and signatories – can create, issue and sign legally binding contracts regardless of where they are in the world, provided they have access to the internet.
CBP Exchange – developed by Colin Biggers & Paisley – was the first automated online property creation, exchange and reporting platform developed by a legal practice in Australia and, since its implementation in 2015, both lawyers and developers have seen a drastic improvement in the way real estate in large projects is bought, sold and leased when this technology is utilised.
“Earlier this year, a purchaser signed a contract in Brisbane and her co-purchaser signed in Beijing, and when the developer signatory then signed the contract a fully signed copy of the document was emailed to all parties just minutes later,” Mr Oliver said.
“Online property exchanges are truly revolutionising the way the real estate industry operates, and it has eliminated the need to print, sign and return contracts manually – resulting in better quality control, tighter security, faster turnarounds and far less cost for developers.”
In the now almost obsolete era of paper contracts, the huge amounts of time and money spent by a developer and its lawyers in creating, printing, collating, issuing, executing, copying, delivering and administering contracts is now instead spent bringing a project to life via marketing and promotion – and that’s why online contracts are becoming an increasingly popular technology.
A long history of legal cases has confirmed that e-signatures on on-line contracts create completely legal and binding agreements, and this has resulted in automated online contract creation technologies (such as CBP Exchange) and e-signing technologies (such as DocuSign and HelloSign) becoming acceptable to banks, developers and their legal teams.
In jurisdictions such as Queensland and Victoria where a developer must prove that a disclosure document has been given to a purchaser before a contract is entered into, online systems can be of particular benefit to ensure that contract actions occur in the proper fixed order. In all instances the ability of systems such as CBP Exchange to ensure that a finalised contract's pages cannot be altered or "lost" adds a further layer of security that is so difficult to achieve with paper contracts.
In an effort to increase productivity and efficiency, cloud computing and online collaboration tools have permeated almost every aspect of the property development, real estate, construction and legal industries – and again with good reason.
With developers’ schedules getting busier as their projects progress, it can be hard to arrange face-to-face meetings and to collaborate with a legal team logistically, but with cloud computing and online collaboration these issues are eliminated with a simple internet connection.
Even the simplest cloud computing system (like Google Drive) allows multiple people to work on the same projects, tasks and documents and this works to limit any unnecessary double handing and to maximise efficiency – saving the project both time and money.
When using cloud computing and online collaboration technology in combination with an online property creation, issue, signing and management system, developers are successfully making the contracts process more efficient and this will progressively standardise and simplify legal processes generally.
As technology continues to advance in the legal services industry, the contract process is becoming more efficient for both developers and their legal team – and this trend is showing no signs of slowing in the future.
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