New Virtual Closings for lawyers – the next thing on the way

Innovation In Unlikely Places – Introducing V-Close by Vanguard Law Group

Sunday, 26 June 2011 13:42

Change is often the end result of something. Once in a while, change is introduced to create not only new results, but an entirely new direction.

Enter V-Close, the new virtual document signing service,  for clients needing to sign documentation for a Real Estate purchase or sale transaction, born not only from the evolution of technology, but of an understanding of the preferences of the market for convenience, over all other benefits.

Innovation in Unlikely Places

Sanjay Soni, Managing Partner with Vanguard Law Group, recognizes the irony of the wave of change coming from a law group. In fact, the company’s tag line reflects the tongue in cheek nature of the birth place of this evolution: “Innovative Law Firm? Oxymoron? Not Anymore!”

Soni explains: “People are used to technology and access to information in certain parts of the economy, and in certain services. They are not used to it when it comes to legal services- in fact it is quite the opposite. “

“When people think of law firms, technology and innovation is not what comes to their head. We are going after a market that we think is quite untapped.  Technology is around you all the time, every day- but when you think about having to go into a lawyer’s office that is not what comes in to your head.”

Much like in the Real Estate and Mortgage Industries, for Soni clients are not only who you do business with, they are why you are doing business at all, and refers to this as the impetus for the advances they have made “My philosophy is very simple: Unless you get clients, you don’t get paid…We wanted to bring a customer centric focus to a law firm… How do we do this? How do we make clients feel like they are getting value out of what they pay for, and really mean it?”

So then, in these client-centric industries, it is about understanding the value of an offering, and making the client aware of it.

What is V-Close?

Education and understanding are some of the cornerstones of communication- necessary for any productive relationship. For Real Estate and Mortgage Professionals, the question might be, why this service, and how does it work- so that they can support clients in weighing their options.

It’s simple really. For a fee comparable to traditional document signing, you essentially sit in your living room, or whatever location suits you, at a designated time, and await the arrival of the Commissioner of Oath.

Says Soni,” The way it works is that we have a secure video link between ourselves, and one of our remote commissioning agents. All of our commissioning agents are Commissioners of Oath, registered with the Attorney General’s office to Vanguard Law Group. “

“They have very modern laptops with dual flat screens. They go into a client’s home after an appointment has been set up. They will turn on their computers and establish a secure wireless link with our central office here in Mississauga, and at that point the clients can see me, and I can see them, and we go over the purchase or sale documents together. Once I’ve finished the explanation of a specific page, we get the clients to sign on a physical piece of paper that the commissioners have with them at the time of signing.”

Demographic Spread

One challenge that Realtors and Mortgage Professionals encounter is a one-size-fits all attitude to technology, as well to servicing the needs of their clients from different generations.  Different generations have different needs, understanding, comfort level and expectations when it comes to technology.

What is common among clients though, is the appeal of an idea that they are empowered to pick and choose service in a location and a time that puts them first.

What is unique about this product is that it appeals across generations, for different reasons, as Soni points out, and the limitations from a demographic point of few are few. “We look at every individual who is over 19 as a customer, which is kind of neat. As long as you are selling, refinancing or purchasing a home, we have the service for you.”

This is demographic reach in action, with seniors happy that they don’t have to venture out of their homes (often a challenge for the most hale and hearty with Canadian winters), and for Gen X & Gen Y, they are drawn in by the technology itself.

“This is for every client.  We’ve seen that the older demographic may not be into computers so much, however, they are into convenience. They actually understand the value of this to their time.  The trade-off from the technology perspective is really their busy lives, and the convenience that this offers. “

“For the younger demographic, they may be first time homebuyers, so they may not realize the hassle involved with going into a lawyer’s office, but they get it from a technology perspective. “

Convenience is the catalyst

Pick an industry, any industry, and you will see clear evidence of evolution driven by delivering customers what they want. And in this age of instant information and convenient access to just about everything at hours that suit consumers, it only makes sense to be open for business when business is there.

To really understand a clients’ needs and wants, one must almost break down processes, working backwards, to understand its’ genesis- rather than just simply trying to market the end result.

As Soni agrees, when you start and finish with the client’s needs, the possibilities are profound.

“I think there is much broader application with what we are doing than just the legal industry… We’re not springing into different areas, but I had a meeting with my accountant the other day to sign paperwork, and the thought went through my head, why am I in your office? I’m signing this paperwork- I can be signing this on the bottom screen, while I can see you on the top screen.”

“There are tremendous implications here, if people think about what they do, and they break down the process of what they are doing and look at what the technological substitute might be, I think there is very wide application in the Real Estate Industry. Anywhere where you need to sign a piece of paper, it should be in an electronic format- and if you need to consult with someone, then you can basically do what we are doing.”

Soni says too, that they have begun to build upon their own design.” We have realized that we have the infrastructure in place- we can actually now create a draft will, based on a checklist, and send it to the customer and then go over the final doing exactly the same process- so now you can do a will at the same time as you are signing mortgage documentation.”

Bricks and Mortar Optional

Part of introducing and selling change, is dealing with objections- and objections and scepticism are not uncommon, especially in the areas of technology- as many consumers are afraid of things like fraud, identity theft and of compromising personal information.

Soni suggests that one must recognize these objections, and address them gently, offering alternatives, and assures too that in theory, there are no differences between a traditional document signing, and a V-Close.

“There is no difference on the other side. If they need to ask questions, they ask questions. If identification needs to be taken, it’s taken by the commissioning agents.

Everything is recorded, which actually enhances the process. From a fraud perspective, it is actually better, we think, than the process today. The Commissioner is key in all of this… We can basically replicate the experience from the office in your own home.”

What’s in it for Realtors?

In this competitive industry, Realtors are always trying to boost value in their relationships with their clients, as a means of standing out from the crowd. Soni says that V-Close offers an opportunity to do just that: “The value add for the agent is to say- You are busy people…Here is a law firm that not only has the technology, but will actually make it easier for you, where you don’t have to take any time off of work, or you don’t have to take any time in the evening… the experience that they have will be

unrivalled by other experiences that they might have- and that is simply based on their busy lives, and the conveniences that we offer.”

Service comes down to facilitation and ease, and Soni gives an example:”Last week- we had an actual signing in two cities at the same time. Father and Son were both on title on the home. The father was in Ottawa, the son was in Toronto. We had two Commissions at the same time, one in Ottawa, one in Toronto- and then I linked them in on my screen. They signed in two cities at the same time, and I did the explanation to both of them. ”

In client-centric business, sometimes there are challenges in meeting clients needs, and in coming up with new ways to over deliver- in ways that the client does not even expect.   What this opportunity represents is a chance to give more to your clients, by anticipating their needs before they do. In knowing about the options, and presenting them with a solution that they don’t expect, perhaps because they don’t even know the technology exists, you communicate your own value, and set your service apart.

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