Home » Blockchain, Web3, and the Law: Is the legal profession making the most of these new opportunities? | Ankura

Blockchain, Web3, and the Law: Is the legal profession making the most of these new opportunities? | Ankura

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Blockchain and other distributed ledger technologies (DLTs) that underpin virtual assets are being adopted in the business world for a variety of purposes. In the financial sector, DLT is being used to provide decentralized financial services without a centralized intermediary, bypassing banks, traditional exchanges, and brokers in a development known as Decentralized Finance (DeFi). I am creating a type organization.In agriculture, Japanese tech company Fujitsu helped set it up rice exchange, the world’s first global blockchain-based rice trading platform. actually, forbes magazine has identified 15 industries that could greatly benefit from blockchain technology.

This trend has come to be known as Web3 or Web 3.0, the latest version of the World Wide Web based on DLT. Even law firms, which are slow to adapt to innovative technology, are adopting Web3. Most are looking at how it works and its implications for laws and regulations so that they can advise clients operating in this new environment.

Some law firms have adopted their own to streamline operations, make them safer and more transparent. To facilitate this, Global Legal Blockchain Consortium Develop standards governing the use of blockchain technology in law. but, Using DLT in my work quite different from Just advise clients about DLT. Generally speaking, legal professionals seem to be in the slow lane of the Web3 ecosystem. Is there any chance they will accelerate adoption for their own use?

What is Web3?

First, some background. Web 1.0 was the early days of the World Wide Web, characterized by static websites with little or no user interaction. Web 2.0 came about 20 years ago when his website evolved to allow users to interact with her website owner and other users on her social networking platforms such as Facebook. It was the second stage. Web 2.0 data is highly centralized and controlled by a relatively small number of large technology companies such as Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Meta, and Microsoft.

Web3 is based on blockchain technology, decentralization of control and data, and crypto assets. Its proponents claim it offers less Big Tech influence and better security, privacy, and scalability.Web 2.0 still dominates, but Web3 is gaining momentum.

Web3 has its critics. Under the headline “Web3 is just a fresh offering of the same old crypto nonsense,” FT columnist Jemima Kelly wrote:: “In fact, Web3 has become the latest marketing term used to endorse and repackage the overlapping ideas of cryptocurrencies, non-fungible tokens, and ‘decentralized finance’. These all seemed like great innovations until the whole market started to falter. ”

Law firms as providers of legal advice on Web3

Even if Web3 is just a marketing term, there’s no denying that DLT is on the rise. An example of the knowledge gained and disseminated in this area by law firms is provided by Clifford Chance, one of the UK’s top five law firms.his 400 lawyers around the world tech group – Including blockchain and cryptocurrency specialists – “offering strategic technical law advice to help clients stay ahead of the curve and keep pace with change”.

“There is no doubt that blockchain brings many advantages to businesses such as decentralized transaction verification, transparency and reliability, immutability, high availability, high security, model simplification, faster transactions, and cost reduction. No,” said the group. “But it also raises a wide range of new legal issues. So to fully map the design challenges that a commercially viable blockchain solution must address, such a multidisciplinary We need legal expertise.”

Clifford Chance’s Tech Group advised a global bank on implementing a blockchain-enabled remittance platform that uses cryptocurrency-like functionality to conduct efficient cross-border remittances. Advised the British Bankers Association on its policy work on blockchain, including preparing a response to the European Securities and Markets Authority’s discussion paper on the application of his DLT to the securities market. He also advised an international insurance industry consortium on building a reinsurance platform using blockchain and smart contracts.

For a broader idea of ​​how the legal industry can inform and advise clients on Web3 on these issues, see the second edition of the Law Association. Blockchain: legal and regulatory guidance, It was published earlier this year. The 236-page report tells what lawyers need to know about blockchain, crypto assets, DLT-based platforms and products, decentralization, and smart contracts. We explain how we are changing the law and how it affects litigation.

Sir Geoffrey Vos, master of The Rolls, wrote in the preface: These requirements come at a time when central banks are nearing the launch of their own digital currencies that “use cryptocurrencies mainstream,” when there is “widespread adoption of digital transferable documents,” and from traditional software programs. Occurs when a transition is seen. For example, from Microsoft Word to smart his machine readable documents.

The Law Society is the professional body representing lawyers in England and Wales, but the majority of the report was written by Tech London Advocates’ Blockchain Legal and Regulatory Group. The TLA is a gathering of technology leaders and its blockchain group is made up of lawyers and technologists from the UK’s leading law firms, legal consulting firms and academic institutions.

Law firms adopting Web3 in their operations

While it is clear that law firms know enough about Web3 to provide useful legal and regulatory advice to their clients and assist in litigation, how many law firms actually use Web3? It’s not clear if they’re adopting the technology to run their own business. There is a lot of evidence that some companies are going this route. However, law firms have traditionally been slow to adopt cutting-edge technology. The suspicion is that they are again lagging behind in blockchain adoption.

There is no shortage of advice for law firms on how to use this new technology. Part 2 of the Law Society report explores how blockchain-based processes are applied in areas such as data governance and protection, smart contracts, intellectual property, tax, ESG (environmental, social and governance), and dispute resolution. I am emphasizing that it can be used. For example, he provides an in-depth analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of smart legal contracts (SLCs), examples of his successful SLC projects to date, and the impact of decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) on the legal profession. DAO is an open source interface that works through smart her contracts for users to interact with their digital assets. Therefore, in most jurisdictions, DAOs are just software and create uncertainty for lawyers, not companies or other legal entities.

There are many technology companies ready to help law firms build blockchain-based infrastructure and applications. New York City-based ConsenSys is one of them. “Lawyers can leverage blockchain technology to streamline and simplify transactional tasks, digitally sign and immutably store legal contracts,” the briefing statement said. Blockchain in the legal industry.

“By using scripted text, smart contracts, and automated contract management, we can reduce the extra time spent preparing, personalizing, and maintaining standard legal documents,” he adds. “These cost savings are passed on to our customers. In addition, blockchain democratizes access to the justice system by reducing consumer complexity and reducing significant legal fees.”

Many manual tasks can be performed automatically, significantly reducing the amount of time spent creating and amending legal documents, and lowering the hourly rates attorneys charge their clients. Reduced fees may increase demand for legal services.

One of the best indications of blockchain intent by legal experts is Global Legal Blockchain Consortium, mentioned earlier. It is made up of 300 law firms, large corporations, technology companies and universities. Among its members are leading law firms such as Baker McKenzie, DLA Piper, Dentons Canada, Hogan Lovells and Freshfields.

The consortium was created to develop standards to govern the use of blockchain technology in law in relation to data integrity, data security, data privacy, etc. in contracts, documents and communications. Interoperability between large corporate legal departments and law firms. Use blockchain to power legacy systems and extend their useful life.

Will law firms take longer to adopt Web3?

All is going well. But many law firms aren’t convinced they should rush to adopt Web3. While they’re unlikely to admit they’re technically lagging behind, many industry commentators have stressed that this is the case. “Modernization of the legal industry lags behind”, is how ConsenSys sums up blockchain adoption in the sector.

notarizeis a US company that offers an “easier, smarter and more secure” online notarization alternative to notarizing paper documents, and says it often doesn’t want to change. Notarize gets a lot of business, but it’s ranked 24th out of 500 on the Financial Times list. “Fastest Growing Companies in America in 2022” – It says, “Some law firms are resisting blockchain technology.”

These companies fear obsolescence, but hope that a good chunk of the population will prefer to do business as they always have. “If Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 are any indication, avoiding the impact of new technologies is at best reluctant to adopt, and at worst costs millions (and sometimes billions) in losses. It’s a recipe that brings out the best,’ he warns Notarize.

Johnny Fry, CEO of Consulting Firm Team Blockchainsays the adoption and use of technology in the legal sector risks slowing down the process.

Writing for the London business paper CityAM, Fry outlines the benefits blockchain technology brings to legal departments, but lists four obstacles that stand in the way.

  • technical indifference. “Historically, the legal industry has been under-invested in technology,” says Fry.
  • The importance of evidence and documents. Since most documents are still hard copies, lawyers are focused on using them rather than creating or searching for blockchain-based alternatives.
  • Blockchain is not accepted or trusted in many countries Decentralized approach due to legal concerns about lack of central governance.
  • Blockchain is difficult to scale up. limited to speed It is where a peer-to-peer network of participants can reach consensus on the state of the digital ledger of transactions, which is why this technology is not more widely used.

barriers have been removed

There is no denying that the third point regarding legal uncertainty is holding law firms back. But things are changing. In November 2021, just one year ago, Law Commission for England and Wales Releases Advice to Government It concludes that the current legal framework “can clearly promote and support the use of smart legal contracts without the need for legislative change.”

Furthermore, “Current legal principles can be applied to smart legal contracts in much the same way as to traditional contracts, although there are gradual and principled developments in common law in certain circumstances. Several types ‘s smart legal contracts may give rise to new legal issues and factual scenarios, but existing legal principles can accommodate them.”

In conclusion, the question is not if law firms will start using smart legal contracts and other Web3 technologies in a major way, but when.

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