Linklaters, one of the biggest law firm in the world, fourth highest-grossing, is to launch a new smart contracts consortium to bring together “key players in the world of smart contract technology, blockchain and legal tech companies.”
“We know that the ability to work with and harness technology will play an ever-larger role in future lawyers’ professional lives which is why we are investing in technology and giving our lawyer the training to use it,” Richard Hay, UK Head of Fintech at Linklaters, said in a statement.
The global law firm has partnered with the Accord Project in order to “enable the legal industry to move from manual, paper-based processes to a natively digitised and data-driven environment.”
The Accord Project is an open source consortium of sorts working on “data schemas, models, templates, a smart legal contract programming language and a contract execution engine that embody the Accord legal standards.”
Templates. “We really could be on the cusp of seeing the adoption of smart contracts for complex commercial cross border transactions,” Hay says in a statement. “We’re at a critical juncture for the industry,” he further adds.
Bond Dickinson, a Cross Atlantic top 20 law firm, has also joined the project, stating at the time: “The commercial and efficiency-based benefits of [smart] contracts are clear.”
Accord closely collaborates with Hyperledger, but they say the project is blockchain agnostic and have recently partnered with the Trusted IoT Alliance, a consortium of some big names, such as Cisco, with a number of ethereum based start-ups participating.
While Cooley, an elite law firm for tech companies specializing in IPOs, has joined the Ethereum Enterprise Alliance (EEA). Aaron Wright, chair of the EEA Legal Industry Working Group, said at the time:
“Lawyers are poised to serve as the catalysts for blockchain technology, and the Legal Working Group will serve as a neutral space to explore blockchain-based legal technology, develop standards for “smart” legal agreements, support emerging enterprise use cases, and tackle important policy issues raised by this new impactful technology.”
The Lawyer says a race is on to employ and deploy smart contracts which could automate many functions, certainly at the lower levels but even for somewhat complex cross-border transactions.
With blockchain technology now making some significant advances in supply chains where a number of pilots have said they have significantly increased efficiency and lowered costs, while ethereum in particular disrupts VCs and IPOs, among other things, there are plenty of opportunities for lawyers.
Opportunities which go beyond their traditional remit of just giving advice, with an influential think tank calling for the blockchenization of the legal system.
Judges on the blockchain. No one thought books on Amazon would be a thing either. The inefficiencies of the legal system are apparent to anyone who deals with it, and really, once you become sufficiently experienced, much of what you do is a template.
A template that can be reduced to code, and thus automated. There will, of course, still always be a need for human judgment in some cases, but the amount of those cases can be reduced with the employment of technology.
That would mean a reduction in costs, and far more importantly for some clients, it would mean a considerable reduction in the time it would take for a case to reach a final decision.
Whoever cracks the code first thus, might race quite fast, and while others play catch-up, they might be moving even further ahead in this break-neck space where a week amounts to a year.
But whether that would be an established giant like Linklaters, or a lean start-up from a basement garage, remains to be seen.