The Evolution of Online Searching

Stephen Wood
CEO – InfoTrack

These days obtaining searches from within a firm is not new, and certainly not exciting. In fact, every law or conveyancing firm now conducts searches online, along with all property enquiries required for a conveyancing matter, using one information broker or another. However, this has not always been the case.

I started at Lawpoint in August of 1989. I was 24, full of exuberance and passion, and ready to conquer the world, even though I was not quite sure how to do it. Edward Griffin, entrepreneur and CEO of Lawpoint, gave me a job as an account manager even though he thought I was too young. For those that remember, in 1989 there was no internet, and the only information online that was relevant to law firms was approximately 33% of titles at the NSW Titles Office.

Lawpoint had a property enquiry service allowing our clients to order their certificates across NSW from one platform, but this was simply an outsourced service that had Lawpoint printing the certificates, attaching cheques and sending them to the relevant authorities across NSW. There was very little else available online for law and conveyancing firms which also meant that the cost to set up, develop a service and become an “Information Broker” was horrendous, limiting the players in the market to Lawpoint and later, CITEC Confirm.

Beyond the challenges of selling services to prospective firms, establishing whether they had invested in a computer (pre-Windows and 3.5 inch drives had only just been released) was just the start. We then had to install a serial card in the old XP or XT Computer, purchase a modem (we used to provide clients with a Netcomm 1234 modem for $799.00) set up communications software, find a spare telephone line or “piggy back” on the fax line, run a telephone extension, connect to a Telstra network known as Austpac, train the clients on how to use the service, and then watch the old cursor race across the screen at the breathtaking speed of 2400bps!

In the following years, information from Government departments slowly came online. The NSW Titles Office increased the availability of electronic titles to nearly 96%, and then added imaged plans and dealings. In time, the other titles offices did likewise, and eventually authorities followed as a Government mandate stated that all departments were required to provide access to relevant information. In 1995, the Corporate Affairs offices in each state became the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC), who provide information on business and company names nationally, went online with their information, and the Insolvency and Trustee Association (ITSA) introduced online national bankruptcy searches. Then in 1998 the internet exploded into the world, which brings us to the current day where now we simply launch a browser, log in to an information broker’s website, and away we go. One would think we have come a long way, or have we?

Some 20 years later, and having moved out of the searching market for 10 years, I returned to the industry and joined InfoTrack (previously LEAP Searching) in January of 2010. This was a big decision for me, and not one I took lightly, however I was lured back in to the searching industry by Christian Beck, the CEO of LEAP Legal Software. I spent six months deliberating over this decision, and researching the market and its competitors. I was disappointed to find that since my departure, there had been little or no innovation, regardless of the period of significant consolidation in the marketplace. In fact, most of the services and user interfaces provided had not changed at all over this time. This was a big factor in my decision to re-join the market and take the job at InfoTrack.

Over the last three or so years, I have worked with a great team of people to develop what I believe is the best, fastest and most innovative searching system in the market by a long way. I say this not only from my huge sense of pride in what we have achieved here at InfoTrack, but more importantly from what the many clients who have moved across to InfoTrack from our competitors, have told us. InfoTrack now has more than 3,100 law and conveyancing firms as clients and is growing by approximately 70 clients a month. Yes, we are competitive with pricing, but this growth has come about due to the quality of the InfoTrack system, the quality of our old fashioned support services, and our promise to save our clients time when conducting a search. Clients have told us that InfoTrack has saved them up to 30% of the time normally associated with searching in comparison to their previous search providers.

Our steady growth also comes from our constant innovation within the industry. From the second quarter of this year, law firms and conveyancing firms will also have direct access to electronic settlements via InfoTrack. We will be one of only four brokers authorised by NECDL to connect you to e-Conveyancing through the PEXA system. Once this electronic conveyancing network is up and running, the inefficient paper-based conveyancing we use currently, will be gone. This will also mean less reliance on the phone or fax, the status of all documents involved in the transaction will be visible, and you will save the time associated with travelling to and from settlements, plus the other administrational tasks that go along with this. This is just one of the many new products and services that we are proud to provide our clients with.

Tom Walker from T H Walker Solicitors and Conveyancers says, "Using InfoTrack as our Searching Partner streamlines the way we search, helping our firm make more money and better service our clients." Most of our clients tell us a similar story. In fact, we are so confident that firms will not use a better service, that we will gladly credit back all the InfoTrack fees after 30 days, if a new client does not agree. In two years of offering this, we are yet to have single firm take us up on it, a statistic we are very proud of.

Einstein argued that the definition of insanity was to do the same thing over and over again and expect a different outcome. I constantly draw on this analogy with firms who are resistant to change and improving their practice. Firms generally see searching as something that just happens within the firm, it works, results are obtained, the costs are billed and passed on to clients and ultimately recovered… well, hopefully. End of month “write offs” continue to be a bug bear for a lot of firms, and as such they are reluctant to change due to worrying about adjustments, learning a new system, and the risks associated with it. Changing information brokers can be as simple as moving from one website to another, and subscribing to the service. However, while InfoTrack, and indeed all the other brokers have no upfront or ongoing fees, trust me when I say that not all information brokers are the same.

If you have not yet had a look at InfoTrack, I strongly recommend you do. I believe you will never look back, and InfoTrack will deliver on our brand promise to you and your firm. We will save your firm time and return searches and certificates back to you faster, leaving you to focus on making money.

Stephen Wood is the CEO of InfoTrack and has been working within the Legal profession across Australia since 1989. He can be contacted by email or mobile 0418 400 225.