We’ve all likely heard about bitcoin and cryptocurrencies, but how about cryptokitties?  Apparently, virtual cats can be bought and sold on platforms using blockchain technology, which securely tracks digital transactions.  Virtual cats aside, blockchain has tantalizing potential for a number of legal applications, owing to its unique abilities to create records that are resistant to hacking and other tampering.

That was the subject of a recent talk given by Mick Atton, VP and chief architect at Thomson Reuters Westlaw at Hofstra University’s Legal Tech Boot Camp 2018.

Smart contracts, or sets of terms and conditions that can be automated, are an example where blockchain technology could be applied.

“An example of this may be serial renewal of a lease for real estate,” explains Atton. “There might be some termination clauses in commercial agreements in which you can automate the execution and invoke. These are repeated functions that don’t need a human to curate and manage.”

Law firms are also interested in blockchain’s ability to record events for long duration. This might include irrefutable intellectual property claims or even criminal charges relating to a certain case or criminal procedure.

And beyond these few examples, there is a wide range of practice areas where blockchain technology can become a major player, from supporting the changing nature of legal work to enabling new lines of business and differentiating service offerings, Atton says, adding that those players that are embracing new technology are already providing a new way of thinking about legal processes.

“Perhaps one of the most novel ideas of blockchain was brought to me by a law school student,” Atton adds. “It was around this idea of fashion law and the ability for blockchain to record copyright of high-value fashion items, such as designer handbags. I had never considered an idea like that before.”


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