The Trusted Adviser
October-November 2019 | Volume 12 · Number 9

Digital Closings May Change the Closing Landscape

ATG Will Help You Change Along with It

Henry Shulruff photoThe Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, is credited with the observation, "Change is the only constant in life." That holds true in the title and settlement industry: As the original disrupter in the Illinois title insurance market, ATG understands the importance of change and the impact it can have on the market and your practice.

Today, ATG is both driving change and adapting to change to ensure that lawyers will have the tools to provide meaningful legal and title services to their clients.

ATG has distinguished itself as the company that serves lawyers and its clients. We put you and your role first. Many of our competitors have a different view of lawyers providing title services. They see it as a necessary but expensive reality — and only because the Chicago market dictates the necessity. Those competitors also view the lawyer's role as expendable over time.

Make no mistake: But for ATG, lawyers would be out of the real estate practice. This distinction is at the heart of the journey we have taken together.

Adapting to Change

In the digital age, new technologies are emerging that will undoubtedly require us to evolve in the way we conduct our business. Much has been said of the recent announcement by Quicken Loans that it had developed the capability to conduct paperless "eClosings" or "Digital Closings" in all fifty states. As the second largest mortgage lender in the country, this is big news. Others will follow. It is a change that the title and settlement services industry must embrace in some fashion. As they say, that train has left the station. The change is being driven by government sponsored enterprises (GSEs) and lenders who are implementing new technologies to speed the process from application to closing and to improve efficiencies in the execution of mortgage documents.

Once digital closings have entered a marketplace, closings are conducted in three ways:

  • Traditional Closing - All documents are signed at closing.
  • Hybrid Closing - All documents are signed digitally except those requiring physical signatures.
  • Full eClosing - All documents are signed digitally, either in person or remotely.

To have a full eClosing Remote Online Notarization (RON) must be in place. Today, 22 states have passed legislation that accommodates RON. Neither Illinois nor Wisconsin are on that list, but RON legislation has been introduced in Wisconsin, and is likely in Illinois in the near term. As that legislation develops, ATG will have a seat at the table, ensuring that the process preserves the very important role lawyers play in the process.

Hybrid eClosings have been fairly common in the Chicago market for some time; we have conducted many with Guaranteed Rate, for example. In those closings, the borrower receives most of the documents ahead of the closing for review and execution. Documents requiring "wet signatures" are executed at closing. (Read this National Notary Association article for a good explanation of how Hybrid eClosings work.) The process is efficient and the response from our agents has been positive.

In those markets where ATG is the closing agent, we will adapt to these changes as they occur and resist them if we anticipate a negative impact on lawyers and the clients they serve. ATG is at the forefront, engaging with the GSEs and lenders, and working beside them as they propose and implement new ideas. And as the market for these services evolves, so will we, where appropriate. Know that ATG will provide our agents with the needed tools — but we will always keep in mind how changes impact lawyers and their clients.

Some have opined that the proliferation of digital closings will be the end of the lawyer agent. It won't. It will, however, be the beginning of a new era in the closing process. It offers a more efficient method of distributing and executing documents. Those who fail to adapt and keep up with the changing technology will be left behind. That won't be us. ATG will continue to educate customers, improve technology, and give agents the tools they need to compete in the digital-closing era. The key to the success of ATG and the real estate bar is to continue to distinguish the lawyer as the advocate for the client in ways that brokers and lenders cannot.

Driving Change


In September 2019, ATG released ATG GO, the most innovative title examination solution and title order platform available for lawyer agents in the Chicago market. Our new technology provides a streamlined ordering and examination process, state-of-the-art scheduling, and encryption protocols for added security. ATG GO allows agents to synchronize and share documents securely via the document cloud. By removing email from the transmission of wire instructions, ATG GO removes one of the most critical weaknesses exploited by hackers and cyber criminals, helping you protect your clients from the ever increasing threat of wire fraud and data theft. ATG agents can use ATG GO on a desktop, tablet, or phone, all with the same time-saving features and iron-clad security.

ATG agents in Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Lake, and Will Counties: Register for ATG GO at ATG GO is available in a desktop version and the app for tablets and phones is available in the App Store and on Google Play. Learn more.

SB 2262

The battle wages on over a lawyer's ability to help clients choose the title company that best suits their needs. While the proliferation of broker-owned captive title agencies continues to expand, several are engaging in coercion, requiring lawyers to select the broker-owned captive title agency in exchange for the referral of a legal client.

Most recently we have heard reports that a national disrupting discount real estate brokerage has entered the Illinois market with a new title company and may be employing similar tactics. While the broker-owned companies have the right to compete, the coercion of lawyers and the quid pro quo are both a violation of anti-kickback statutes and an infringement on the relationship between lawyers and their clients.

ATG is supporting a bill that directly addresses this abuse of power, i.e., referring clients in exchange for a lawyer abdicating to the brokers' mandated title agency. The bill was introduced by Senator Harmon and will be heard in the upcoming veto session of the Illinois Legislature. It addresses this issue by explicitly including the following as grounds for regulatory action under the Illinois Title Insurance Act:

(18) has referred a consumer to another producer of title business on the express or implicit condition that the producer of title business to whom that consumer is referred use a particular title insurance company or title insurance agent.

We ask that you please contact your representatives in the Illinois Legislature and ask them to support SB 2262. See ATG Advocacy in Action: Capitol Contacts for contact information. Here is a sample letter for your use.

SB 1317

The Illinois Land Title Association (ILTA) continues its work on redrafting the Illinois title Insurance Act. Last year, ILTA was able to make considerable progress on drafting a bill that addressed some of the shortcomings in the current bill. By the time the legislative session came to a close, ATG could not support the bill. There were too many unanswered questions about the impact the bill would have on attorney agents and the clients they serve. Of paramount importance was the uncertainty of the effect of an "optional" rating bureau, and lack of clarity on the impact the bill would have on the Service Company Model (agencies and companies that provide typing services for agents).

ILTA has reassembled its drafting team and has been listening to the industry concerns at a series of town hall meetings. Just as last year, we will participate in the process and we will make sure that IRELA, ISBA, and CBA have a seat at the table. If ILTA is able to come up with a bill that works well for lawyers in the title business, we will support it. If not, we will as we always have, work directly with the Legislature to make sure that any change promotes the use of lawyers in real estate transactions.

Learn More

We invite you to join us for more in-depth discussions on these issues and many other topics critical to the future of the real estate lawyer at our largest and most anticipated ATG Legal Education event of the year:

15th Annual Harold I. Levine Real Estate Institute
Insights into Technology, Regulations,
Cybersecurity, and Other Issues Confronting
Your Real Estate and Trust Practices

November 7, 2019 | Drury Lane Theater, Oakbrook Terrace

Get insights from top minds in the real estate, trust, and estate planning arenas into technology, regulation, cybersecurity, and other issues confronting attorneys.

More Details/Register

Thank you for your ongoing support. Contact us if you have any questions,we value your feedback.

Henry L. Shulruff
ATG Senior Vice President - Business Development

[Last Update: 10-31-19]

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