Top 100 UK law firm, Hugh James, has this week, completed the UK’s first-ever property deal using the revolutionary new Qualified Electronic Signature (QES), which was recently approved by HM Land Registry.

The landmark transaction forms part of a national Land Registry pilot, to test the new QES process, which has been described as a “gamechanger” in signing documents. Whilst this is currently a pilot only for residential transactions, it’s hoped a similar solution for commercial transactions will follow shortly.

Qualified Electronic Signatures are different to other electronic signatures. They do not require a witness, as they include an independent identity check as part of the process. The digital approach streamlines the deed signing process, providing greater assurance and security than a wet signature whilst being quicker, more sustainable and potentially cheaper. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the need for a digital solution for signing conveyancing documents, without the need for witnessing.

The completion of the very first property transaction, using QES, was conducted by Richard Jones from the Hugh James Commercial Property team, together with the firm’s Specialist Digital Transformation Manager, Nicola Evered. The property transferors and transferee were present in the room. As long-standing clients of Hugh James, they were delighted be the first in the UK and to support Hugh James and HM Land Registry in moving technology forward. They were observed remotely by Michael Abraham (QES Product Manager); Patrick Milne (Lawyer) and Andrew Gonsalves (Business Analyst) of HM Land Registry.

In all, the transaction took 24 hours, from QES signing, registration at HM Land Registry and the transfer of title becoming legally effective – something that, without QES, would usually take place in a period of between 6-8 weeks.

Commenting on the significant occasion, Hugh James Associate,  Richard Jones, said today:

“It was hugely exciting to be a part of such an important event, which enabled us to discover how the process works in practice and what the experience was like from the customer’s point of view. There were plenty of learning points, which will be fed into the final stages of the project before being rolled out nationally. It’s a significant step forward for something that everyone in the UK will experience eventually, as we move towards self-verification of deeds like tenancy agreements, mortgage documents and business contracts.”

Leading the digital transformation project for Hugh James, Nicola Evered added:

“This was an opportunity we grasped immediately, and we welcome the chance to be at the forefront of such an innovative step-change for the entire industry. This has the potential to dramatically speed up transactions and make the whole process more streamlined. There will come a time when we’ll take a new instruction from a client, prepare the documentation, and issue the deeds for signing all in the same day. It’s exciting for us, our clients and future customers – and we look forward to continuing to support HM Land Registry with this project through to full implementation.”

Michael Abraham, Product Manager at HM Land Registry said today:

“We were delighted to attend the first signing of a transfer using a Qualified Electronic Signature. We hope that the insights provided by this pilot scheme will lead to the development of technology and practice that results in future solutions delivering great user experiences and reduced costs, without compromising any of the assurance offered by using Qualified Electronic Signatures.”


·       Hugh James is a full-service, top 100 UK law firm, and the largest firm in Wales – offering specialist legal and financial advice. It has award-winning offices in Cardiff and London.

  • The Hugh James Commercial Property team works across the public and private sectors and serves clients including UK Housing Associations, education institutions, large housebuilders, developers, investors and portfolio occupiers. The team provides support in a wide variety of areas, including complex and high value acquisitions and disposals, contract and lease negotiations, urban regeneration and mixed-use developments, and strategic property portfolio advice.
  • The Hugh James Residential Property team advises individuals on a wide range of residential property matters including sales, purchases, re-mortgages, transfers, shared ownership, help to buy and equity release.
  • Hugh James is among six law firms taking part in the HM Land Registry pilot, together with leading software developer, DocuSign.
  • More detail on Qualified Electronic Signatures (QES) can be found on the Land Registry website.
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