Joe Dewey and Shawn Amuial from Holland & Knight are writing a series of articles on blockchain technology and its potential application to the legal industry at Bloomberg. Below, the article sets out practical uses of the blockchain and its potential applications in the future.
But for even the most entrepreneurial firm, a successful approach to the blockchain is not necessarily intuitive. Consider another paradigm shifting technology — the internet. There are not many “internet” practice groups still in existence.
There are, however, lawyers across many disciplines who have a deep understanding of the technology and the regulatory regime imposed upon various stakeholders involved with the internet, such as internet service providers, content providers and social media companies. The spectrum of laws that now impact these industry players is too broad to list, covering everything from anti-trust laws to FCC regulations.
As a result, there are regulatory lawyers who specialize in net neutrality regulations, corporate lawyers who handle corporate affairs for companies like Facebook and litigators who litigate intellectual property disputes involving internet based applications and technologies. Will the same thing happen with the blockchain? To some extent, most likely. There is, however, something unique about the blockchain and its relationship to the legal profession inasmuch as the blockchain has direct implications on how contractual relationships are formed and enforced. As transformative as the internet was to society, it did not fundamentally change the manner in which people contracted for goods and services.
It provided tools to make contracting easier and more efficient, but it did not require any fundamental policy changes or significantly change how lawyers practice law. Even the nature of the internet is different than the blockchain. While the internet created a revolution in terms of information sharing and global communication, the blockchain embodies a system that can facilitate multi-person interactions without the need for any third party intermediary—including the government.
In reality, the blockchain will have a far greater impact on the social contract and the organization of society in general than the internet alone has had. So where does that leave those law firms that recognize the significance of this technology and desire to best position their firms. We don’t know all the answers (or frankly any definitive ones), but we will offer a few suggestions that merit consideration by law firm management.