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Clifford Chance

Clifford Chance
Innovation Insights<br />

Innovation Insights

AI innovation drives welcome change for how Clifford Chance is approaching real estate diligence for complex cases

As a go-to firm for complex cross-border global matters, our real estate lawyers advise on the largest and most challenging transactions in the market, frequently involving extensive diligence exercises with tight deadlines. The traditional method of property diligence is reliant on manual review and is time-consuming, especially when dealing with large property portfolios.

But what if you could review more properties in a shorter time frame, using less manpower and at a lower cost? Clifford Chance is embracing that challenge through our partnership with proptech innovator, Orbital Witness.

The search for efficiency

Imagine the daunting task of conducting due diligence on a portfolio of 2,000 to 3,000 properties within a two to three-week timeframe. Typically, the approach would be to sample a percentage of the portfolio. However, this is not only labour-intensive but also leaves a significant portion of the properties unsampled, with limited or no diligence, risking the thoroughness and accuracy of the client's underwriting.

Clifford Chance has addressed this by embracing cutting-edge technology to augment the sector expertise of its lawyers. Working with Orbital Witness, we have been able to efficiently conduct diligence on even the largest property portfolios, achieving high-quality results in a fraction of the time.

Matt Taylor, Partner and Head of UK Proptech, explains the benefits: “on a large-scale portfolio, the savings were huge: it was estimated that more than 350 hours were saved with the task completed around 70% quicker than if Orbital Witness hadn't been used.”

Serving complex cases, at scale

A good diligence exercise will always be tailored to the client's strategic aims for the property, but large-scale diligence will often benefit from a multi-stranded approach.

The first strand might focus on title analysis – an area of the diligence process Clifford Chance has been able to optimise at scale using Orbital Witness. Now their real estate lawyers can visualise, analyse and understand even the most complex property sites and portfolios in an instant, conducting large-scale searches and producing a portfolio analysis of the ownership status of all the properties within the schedule. This allows for rapid verification of property schedules and identification of critical issues, such as charges or restrictions on title.

A second strand might look at leases within the portfolio. Clifford Chance's tools will identify clusters of similar leases allowing the review exercise to focus on a smaller number of base leases. Orbital Witness’ latest GenAI product, Orbital Copilot, now fills the technology gap by producing a full detailed report of the base leases, in a transparent and user-friendly interface that allows quick verification and further interrogation by their lawyers. Clifford Chance can then use other tools to mass review any differences between the relevant base lease and its cluster.

The integration of Orbital Witness into the firm's wider tech stack has yielded impressive results for Clifford Chance and its clients. The technology's advanced features, such as property visualisation and AI-powered document analysis, enables Clifford Chance lawyers to conduct detailed reviews of entire portfolios, something that would have been impractical with traditional methods.

Matt Taylor continues: "The use of Orbital Witness provides our clients with a competitive edge by significantly reducing the time needed for property diligence, and also enhances the accuracy and depth of the analysis. This lets us deliver a level of assurance and speed of turnaround that was previously unachievable, translating into improved insights and increased confidence for clients."

The legal technology landscape is poised for further innovation

Orbital Witness has some exciting developments on the horizon. Developments such as AI-powered property search review will streamline another element of diligence, allowing lawyers to focus on assessing and mitigating issues rather than laboriously identifying them in the first place. The business is also making headway in its vision to integrate insurance products into their technology, providing a safety net for the conclusions drawn from AI analysis, offering additional reassurance to clients and reducing the need for further manual verification.

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