As a result of the situation LMS made major changes, including bringing in a new CEO, overhauling its panel members, doubling conveyancing capacity and improving its case management process.
Speaking exclusively to Mortgage Solutions, LMS CEO Nick Chadbourne said the firm had failed to deal with the problems that were affecting much of the fee assisted legal services sector last year.
“We got it wrong and when things went wrong we didn’t handle it well,” he said.
“When things go wrong, all you can do is apologise, fix it and make sure it doesn’t happen again,” he added.
One of the business casualties of LMS’ poor performance last year was a long-standing deal with Nationwide which had been in place for more than 12 years.
Chadbourne was appointed in October after Nationwide had made the decision to end its contract with LMS and admitted it was a difficult pill to swallow, but that it may have been for the best at the time.
“Nationwide’s decision to end free legals and go to cash back last year was the right move for them and helped us and our panel out at the time,” he said.
However, LMS has since overhauled its panel and believes such serious service issues should be highly unlikely to occur again.
“We’ve added five more volume conveyancing firms and taken off or reduced the work of some firms who were not working out,” he said.
“So ultimately we’ve doubled our capacity between last year and this year.”
Indeed, Chadbourne said this extra capacity had already been tested and passed with some of its lenders conducting much more business than expected at certain points this year and no issues arising from the increased demand.
Digitise fund requests
On his appointment Chadbourne pledged to focus on improving technology at LMS and within the conveyancing sector to help improve service.
He began with a significant increase in investment in technology and by appointing a new IT director in February.
One of the first developments is to digitise the process where conveyancers request funds from lenders, which in some cases is still paper-based and conducted by fax.
Using the new process, the law firm sends a digital request to LMS which is then forwarded on to the lender to release the funds.
“Depending on the lender that could save anywhere between two and five days in the process,” Chadbourne said.
“We are also doing a lot less IT work in-house and now have it as an ongoing development process, rather than one-off projects.
“LMS had a policy of building it themselves and that tends to slow it down, so we changed that,” he added.
Chadbourne has also taken an overarching view of the way cases progress through its system and identified many areas to work on where delays occur, who is likely to be responsible for those delays and how the processes can be improved.
He noted this would take longer to be completed but was part of the ongoing development.
Close broker relationship
For brokers, Chadbourne, who previously worked in the intermediary market, pledged LMS would improve communications and no longer keep them out of the loop.
“Previously LMS dealt with lender and client and not really with the broker, but brokers want to know how they can help meet their client’s completion date or work towards it,” he said.
“We have to have a close relationship with brokers with better communications and are trying to make sure they get it on a medium that works for them.”
This could include direct access to its system through software plugins and application programming interfaces (APIs), or email or other methods.
“We don’t want them to need to remember four different logins or to overwhelm them with messages, but we want to give them access to the information when they need it,” Chadbourne added.