LONDON — The recent British Legal Technology Forum 2017 — Europe’s largest event with more than 1,400 attendees and emceed by Richard Susskind — peered into the future of the legal industry by hosting a provocative talk on Blockchain technology.
I spoke at the event on how Blockchain has the potential to disrupt the legal industry greatly over the coming years. The initial focus for those in attendance was to “level set” or explain Blockchain technology or Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT). In short, Blockchain tech allows for a decentralized accounting of information into a “database” or “ledger” which is not owned by one entity, rather is stored by a multitude. Initially the concept seems counterintuitive, but in reality, it is vastly more secure, redundant and transparent than traditional transactional models of recording events or data, e.g. bank accounting, credit cards purchases or even legal verifications, such as notary publics. (You can read more about the fundamentals of Blockchain here.)
Thomson Reuters’ Joe Raczynski
As with most discussions, I built on the premise of the Exponential Growth of technology and the Trinity of Forces. These are core concepts to nearly everything happening around us now with technology; they are a set of unique influences that allow for this new technology to emerge today. These three pieces — infinite cloud storage, infinite processing power of computers and artificial intelligence — are enabling Blockchain to explode as a new Internet technology.
It may be valuable to trace Blockchain’s recent timeline:
2016 — The legal world began to wrap their collective minds around the technology. I spent time with chief information officers (CIOs) and practice heads at law firms, discussing the basics of this technology. They became evangelists to their attorneys and helped them to engage practice area experts on an awareness campaign to better understand Blockchain.
2017 — This is the year of pilots or proof of concepts (POCs). Law firms have begun setting up practice areas on the topic; and some top firms are accepting Bitcoin (Blockchain’s favorite crypto-currency) as payment. As a firm accepts Bitcoin, they are positioned two ways. One, it creates a buzz with the public by indicating that the firm is forward thinking; and two, and more importantly, it helps their internal staff understand how the technology works.
2018 — I believe there will be actual use of the technology for some firms. In discussions with the insurance industry and financial corporations, it’s clear that by next year they will have already built working prototypes. Law firms should be right behind them with smart contracts.Legal Use Cases
In the presentation, the attendees were taken from understanding the technological concept of Blockchain and its immediate timeline to reviewing actual use cases. I cited 10 use cases for Blockchain in Legal. Honestly, there are probably hundreds that will unfold over time, but for this talk we dove into the following:
In the next piece, I will investigate the coming age of the BoT (Blockchain of Things) and its impact on our personal and professional lives as it intersects with the law.
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