What’s The State of Blockchain In The Legal Industry? 9 Experts Share Their Insights

  • 12 April 2019
  • Sam Mire

Call lawyers ambulance chasers, opportunists, or even the slime of the earth (hey, some people feel strongly). But don’t accuse them of being distracted by the bright lights of tech hype and hysteria.

Lawyers historically haven’t been the earliest adopters of technology. Their approach to blockchain is no break from tradition — many law firms have been slow to digitize their records. Good luck convincing them to take a blind leap into blockchain-powered record storage.

This apprehension exists in every industry. It will take public breakthroughs to generate any favor within the legal industry towards blockchain. While there’s hardly any live blockchain use cases in law, there are results on the horizon.

Several legal businesses are exploring, investing in, and implementing blockchain applications. Smart contracts and automation are at the heart of many of these projects. Look for firms to make blockchain technology more effective and more affordable than a paralegal. Once this happens, the rest of the industry will fall in love with blockchain quick.

1. Charley Moore, Founder and CEO of Rocket Lawyer

Charley Moore“Blockchain holds much promise for the legal industry, but we’re only starting to see the extent of its applications. Today blockchains mainly serve as distributed ledgers for cryptocurrency transactions. However, Rocket Lawyer and others are working to build and deploy smart contracts that leverage blockchain technologies for Legaltech. Smart contracts are self-executing and tracked on a digital ledger, making this a safe, secure and efficient way to do business. The business use cases for smart contracts are vast, ranging from hiring a worker to buying goods or services, so we expect to see adoption pick up as more businesses use them for myriad legal transactions.”

Listen to our podcast interview: Rocket Lawyer’s Founder On The Future Of Blockchain And Legal Services 

2. Casey Kuhlman, CEO of Monax

Casey Kuhlman“The legal industry has been slow to digitize so far. Right now, blockchain technology is becoming more prevalent in the profession, with growing awareness of how this technology can change the game for both legal practitioners as well as legal technology companies. But adoption has yet to reach an inflection point. We, and others at the intersection of blockchain technology and the legal industry, have been diligently laying the foundations for a drastic uptick in usability and adoption in the coming years, and I’m confident that at the end of 2019 we will see a very different landscape.”

3. Andrew Rossow, esq, Attorney, Adjunct Cyberlaw Professor and Editor for GritDaily

Casey Kuhlman“First and foremost, while it seems that blockchain technology is new, it has been around for quite some time, with companies like HP, IBM, and Walmart exploring its potential for many years.

Second, as attorneys, it's important we recognize that the nature of the legal industry is changing fast. Today, law is becoming more “programmable,” and looking to new technologies helps keep us grounded as an industry.

Third, what our legal community should focus on is smart contracts. Smart contracts are the Blockchain’s version of a traditional contract. However, for all intents and purposes, a smart contract is nothing more than just “code” that executes the terms of the contract on its own (e.g. distributing or collecting money) based off the traditional “if-then” model.”

4. Peter Buck, VP of Product Strategy at NetDocuments

Peter Buck“Technology adoption does follow an S-curve, which can describe, and sometimes predict, the performance of a company or a product over a period of time. In the context of blockchain, the S-curve describes a process of exploration, platform investment followed by innovation.

Blockchain in legal is in the platform-building stage, while regulatory and operational considerations are resolved. We are eighteen to twenty four months away from solutions at scale. The good news: infrastructure companies are creating the foundation for business to build new trust solutions. Microsoft supports Ethereum on Azure, Amazon provides blockchain as a service, and Integra is building APIs for secure blockchain publishing.

The energy around blockchain in legal is creating new connection points between law firm, client and suppliers. I just recently talked at a BYU Law School event regarding the importance of distributed trust in the internet era. Law students and professors are hyper-focused on the legal and regulatory mandates to weave blockchain trust mechanisms into the legal business relationships. Reverting back to the S-curve model, we are in the infrastructure stage but our institutions see business value.”

5. Hando Rand, CEO of Agrello

Hando Rand“The awareness of blockchain has really emerged from the major streaks of cryptocurrency crowdfunding, which has received significant legal attention. Still, blockchain as a database model and technology has been quite overshadowed by the idea of crypto assets and cryptocurrencies. The legal value that can be achieved with blockchain has not yet penetrated the mindset of the legal professionals.”

6. Daniel Tarr, Associate at Duane Morris LLP

Daniel Tarr“The legal industry is still in the early-adoption phase for blockchain.  Many firms have lawyers focused on the use of blockchain outside of the legal industry, but far fewer firms have adopted or considered blockchain technology internally.  Lawyers are naturally averse to new technologies and it seems most firms are waiting for someone else to adopt, integrate, and vet blockchain-based legal solutions.  There are some products that have been developed for contract drafting and discovery, but the current adoption rate is low for these technologies.”

7. Todd S. Kartchner, Vice-Chair of Litigation at Fennemore Craig, P.C.

Todd S. Kartchner“Blockchain is impacting both the way firms serve their clients and the manner in which they run their practices.   Because most major companies are researching and investing heavily in this technology, blockchain will rapidly become an integral part of doing business in many industries.  Some attorneys are already developing the requisite expertise to properly advise their clients about how to best use blockchain while protecting and enforcing their legal interests.  Similarly, some law firms are also investing in blockchain to better serve their clients, including, for example, exploring the use of internal blockchain ledgers to better secure and protect client information.”

8. Kenneth Grady, Adjunct Professor and Research Fellow at Michigan State University

Kenneth Grady“Blockchains are in their infancy in the legal industry, if we focus on use. As a topic that is analyzed and discussed, they receive attention that exceeds their eventual role. Part of that attention goes to blockchains use outside the industry, where it is good for lawyers to be on top of the technology. Overall, however, we are in a phase where hype greatly exceeds reality.”

9. Nick Gibson, Managing Director, Operem

Nick Gibson“Currently, there are a very, very small number of companies, including Operem, that have formed in the past year or so to address the natural fit between blockchain technology and intellectual property. But the potential heavy users of this kind of technology tend to be the large multinational companies (MNCs). And those heavy users are only just now starting to seriously consider how they can apply blockchain to the management of their own intellectual property.

I’m happy to say that many of the meetings Operem has been having over the past six months with MNCs have been the first serious discussion these companies have had around how they might use blockchain, and their reactions have been very positive.”

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About Sam Mire

Sam is a Market Research Analyst at Disruptor Daily. He's a trained journalist with experience in the field of disruptive technology. He’s versed in the impact that blockchain technology is having on industries of today, from healthcare to cannabis. He’s written extensively on the individuals and companies shaping the future of tech, working directly with many of them to advance their vision. Sam is known for writing work that brings value to industry professionals and the generally curious – as well as an occasional smile to the face.