The founders of a start-up Huddersfield law firm say their investment in proptech has proved crucial to business continuity during lockdown and helped the company achieve its best-ever month of new instructions.
Holden Smith, based in Denby Dale, has invested heavily in technology including facial recognition and document verification apps for use by clients during their transactions.

In June, the firm recorded 293 new instructions across its property, litigation, family and wills and probate divisions in June, a 357% increase on the 64 instructions recorded in April. It was forced to suspend most of its operations and furlough most of its staff throughout May due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Co-founder and director, James Smith, explained: “At the start of lockdown, when only essential journeys were permitted, having technology that enabled clients to verify their ID by scanning their face on our app, rather than physically bringing a copy of their passport or driving license into the office, meant things didn’t need to grind to a halt on their transactions.”

James’s co-founder, David Bancroft, said: “The same technology has also proven invaluable in supporting social distancing as we’ve gradually returned the team of 20 staff to the office. It helps minimise the number of people in the office at one time and prevents unnecessary visits for simple tasks like verifying documents. Instead, clients can simply upload originals to the app where we can carry out the necessary checks, keeping them and our team safe and comfortable.”

James continued: May was a difficult month, particularly across our residential property division, as the housing market came to a complete standstill due to lockdown, but we were able to continue with existing instructions thanks to having the right technology in place.

“However, June was the polar opposite and we achieved our best-ever month of new instructions. While it’s difficult to read the market with any certainty at the moment, the temporary stamp duty holiday announced in the chancellor’s summer statement seems to have had the desired effect and incentivised buyers, resulting in strong figures for our residential property team in particular.”

David concluded: “Our objective when we founded Holden Smith was to invest in emerging legal technology to create a much better experience for clients by speeding up transactions and giving them quick and easy access to their matter. The ongoing situation with the COVID 19 pandemic has proved those investments have definitely been worthwhile.”

Holden Smith was founded by James, 31, david, 35 and business partner, Jamie Megson, 32, in February 2019. The company recently opened its second office in the Crossgates area of Leeds and is set to open a third office in Elland at the start of August.

James is President of The Huddersfield and Dewsbury Incorporated Law Society and specialises in commercial and residential property, with clients including developers, buy-to-let portfolio investors, landlords and housing associations.

David previously managed a team of 45 people as head of residential property at a Leeds-based firm. He has over 16 years’ experience in the residential sector and works with a portfolio of high-net-worth individuals.

Jamie has 13 years’ experience in financial services, previously working as an independent financial adviser, now specialising as a mortgage broker.