Sunday Business Post 31/May/2015
Focus On: Support For The Legal Profession: Solicitors have new online approach to closing searches
03:55, 31 May 2015 by Killian Woods
ENKI’s co-founder and chief executive, Barry Darmody Picture: Feargal Ward
Founded in 2012 and established earlier on this year, ENKI is a service that is making life easier for solicitors.
Acting as an online conveyance service, it allows users to requisition searches during specific stages of the conveyance process. While at the contracting phase, full-closing searches can be downloaded using ENKI, with the ability to order the planning search also available.
Based completely online, ENKI is looking to change attitudes from within the sector about conveyance processes. Until now, a lot of searching was done offline in government registries by law searchers. ENKI’s co-founder and chief executive, Barry Darmody, talked through benefits that solicitors involved in conveyance will see firsthand by using this new system.
“We’re offering the first full online platform to carry out these searches, which gives the solicitors a lot of flexibility in terms of when they order the searches and how the searches are refreshed, and how they can manage the whole controlling process for conveyance.”
Darmody was one of the lead designers behind ENKI and said working in the industry gave him insight into some of the monotonous daily tasks that could be replaced with new simple solutions.
“My background is in conveyancing and this whole area. I previously ran Rochford Brady Group and they would be the biggest law searching company in Ireland. Prior to that I ran a company called Law Link, which was sort of the first online legal portal platform for solicitors.
“Back when I started in Law Link in 1996, I began with aspirations of delivering what ENKI can provide today. It has taken nearly 20 years to deliver the product that we have today, and I suppose we have learned a lot of things along the way.”
Looking at the time inefficiencies within conveyancing, Darmody said that performing a closing search is a laborious task that software like ENKI can offset.
“When I was in Rochford Brady Group, a few of the things that would keep me awake at night would be the whole closing search process – the number of human touches that were required, the difficulties that could arise from abstracting this data and putting it all into reports.
“The whole fact that a closing search is ordered on the day that the property is due to change hands means there is a very limited amount of time you are given to conduct the search. This was one of the biggest concerns we had running that business. Every day we had hundreds of searches to do and it was difficult to manage resources.”
In developing ENKI, Darmody focused on addressing these numerous issues at the core of conveyancing. After researching the best approach to developing this online law search facility, he found that the key solution to solicitors’ problems was to facilitate them with the ability to order their searches far in advance.
“What we did was to develop a system whereby a solicitor could order the search as far in advance of the closing as they wanted, that would take all the pressure out of the pipeline.
“ENKI allows solicitors to order a search at pre-contract, so that gives them a full due diligence pack of the property at a very early stage and we then monitor that search for them right up until the closing date. Therefore, the solicitors never have any closing dates and there is no information coming at them that causes the deal to slow down or go off the boil.”
Since launching, ENKI has successfully engaged with solicitors on a nationwide basis, bringing a new lease of life to the conveyance sector of legal professionals in Ireland. Darmody said developing this service was a natural progression from one of his previous projects, Search4Less.
“I worked in legal information services and then left the industry and worked in financial services until 2012. When I was working there, I spotted a gap in this whole area with respect to company information searches, which is a separate service we offer called Search4Less. Today that service has 600,000 users and I suppose the natural progression from setting up something like Search4Less was to develop ENKI.”
Darmody said the timing of ENKI’s rise coincides perfectly with rising trends within the property market, giving solicitors a new outlet for carrying out closing searches as the volume of legal work in the property sector picks up.
“We started to time it to coincide with the rise of the property market. When this area gained momentum and started to get stronger, we wanted to make sure that we were in a position to leverage our experience and use the lessons we learned from the last property boom to eliminate a lot of the key issues that the old process suffered from.
“We believe that the software we have gives more control to the solicitor and allows them to focus on the title aspects of property conveyance rather than worrying about the logistics of getting the searches.”
As well as the ease of use and practicality of ENKI, another reason for the uptake in this kind of service is solicitors – and legal professionals in general – more willingly engaging with technology. Darmody said solicitors are now more likely to seek out technology solutions to their problems and conveyancing is no different.
“Certainly over the last number of years, what we’ve noticed, is that solicitors are getting a lot more proficient in their use of technology and particularly online technology. I suppose one of the things we encountered in the late 1990s was that there’s a lot of layers and that you had to deal with a lot of administration staff. Today, solicitors are doing it for themselves and they are more open to embracing that type of technology than they would have been in the past.
“In the past, there would have been someone in the office to get those searches done for them, whereas now they like the idea that they can go in, requisition the searches, and that they can do a quick overview early in the process. So, in that regard we can already see that the whole sector is getting more enthused about technology.”