Did you know that El Salvador adopted bitcoin as the country’s official currency earlier this month? How about that non-fungible tokens (NFTs) generated $2.5B in sales during the first half 2021?

With digital currencies and transactions more prevalent than ever before, the financial world is on the precipice of significant change. We’re in the early days of how legal will be involved, and last week Shearman & Sterling’s legal and business services teams joined Thomson Reuters for a panel discussion on topics including blockchain, cryptocurrencies, NFTs, and the future of the transactional practice.

As Joseph Raczynski, manager of Technical Client Management at Thomson Reuters, noted: “It’s critical for law firms and Thomson Reuters to be informed and ahead of the curve on these technologies. Often, we focus on the present, but those that take a moment to also look up will be best positioned to adapt, embrace, and pivot to change for what is coming.”

Raczynski and Shearman & Sterling colleagues discussed the history of bitcoin, including the mystery around who founded the digital currency; how bitcoin and blockchain work; and applications for bitcoin today, such as an initial coin offering (ICO) to raise money for startups.

They also explored the environmental issues raised when mining bitcoin and ways to mitigate them. They noted that as digital dollars are recognized by countries globally, government regulations will follow. Finally, they discussed the rapidly expanding NFT world, particularly around art and the creation of the metaverse.

Meredith Williams-Range, chief knowledge and client value officer at Shearman & Sterling, concluded: “Shearman & Sterling’s FinTech team has been advising on NFTs and cryptocurrencies for a number of years. Today, we had the opportunity to expand our legal and business services teams’ knowledge in these areas. The more we know as a team, the more exacting we can be when executing the firm’s and our clients’ strategies on these topics.”

This guest post was written by Jessica Platt, global client director for Thomson Reuters.