Blockchain & Bitcoin: Lawyers Need to Get It or Get Out

Posted on 05-09-2018 by
Tags: blockchain , Bitcoin

Blockchain has the transformative potential of common law.


Bitcoin ... you tried to ignore it, but you’ve run out of time. The clock struck midnight with this recent headline from the New York Times:

Bitcoin Sees Wall Street Warm to Trading Virtual Currency

According to the article:

The parent company of the New York Stock Exchange has been working on an online trading platform that would allow large investors to buy and hold Bitcoin ....

 But it’s not just Bitcoin; it’s the blockchain too. The article goes on to say:

Many corporations and governments have expressed interest in the technology that Bitcoin introduced, particularly a form of database known as the blockchain.

So if corporations, governments, and Wall Street are warming up to Bitcoin and blockchain, this means that everyone better start warming up, especially lawyers.

Blockchain: An Evolutionary Leap in the Law?

The LexisNexis white paper Money Moves From Ducats To Dollars To Digital points out that practice groups and legal networks have been forming to address the legal issues surrounding blockchains and digital currency. So already, many lawyers are recognizing the legal value of blockchain issues. In fact, the white paper goes on to state that blockchain, more than any other technology, will drive the next wave of legal innovation and transform the business of law. To drive the point home, blockchain has been called “the most important addition to the legal infrastructure since William the Conqueror gave rise to common law.”

So if blockchain has the transformative potential of common law, what does that transformation look like? Here’s 6 ways that blockchain will change the legal industry forever:

  1. Smart Contracts: Blockchain allows a promisor and a promisee to digitally facilitate a contract without the services of a middleman.
  2. Intellectual property: Blockchain technology can be used as a registry of IP rights, to catalogue and store original works.
  3. Blockchain law: Blockchain technology is ubiquitous technology, reaching into many different sectors. Consequently, the law will need to adapt, increasing the need for lawyers specializing in blockchain law.
  4. Property rights: Blockchain, as a secure digital ledger, offers an impenetrable technology for storing property rights data.
  5. Chain of custody: In a criminal case, blockchain technology can track the custody of documents and, at the same time, store the documents themselves.
  6. Financial transactions: Quoting attorney Chandler Kelley, the LexisNexis white paper Money Moves From Ducats To Dollars To Digital has this to say about blockchain-powered cryptocurrencies:

Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have exploded, reaching a total market capitalization of over $147 billion. They are perceived by many as a disruptive technology, poised to transform banking and payment industries forever. While this remains in doubt, for as long as cryptocurrency is here, lawyers in many areas, including litigation, must adapt and understand this new technology.

Blockchain: The Dark Side of Transformation

Of course, blockchain’s transformative nature isn’t limited to the lawful side of our modern society. It’s transformative for the unlawful side too. In answering the question, “What are the bad guys up to?” the LexisNexis white paper quotes this from RSA engineer Ahmed Sonbol:

With the rise of ransomware in the past couple of years, cryptocurrency and in particular Bitcoin gained more popularity. Due to the level of anonymity it provides, Bitcoin became the criminals’ preferred currency to receive the ransom ....

Another threat to organizations is the rise of cryptocurrency mining malware. This class of malicious software infects a victim machine and enrolls it in a larger mining botnet.

And in describing cryptocurrencies (e.g., Bitcoin) as “a massive cat and mouse game with law enforcement,” Jason Bloomberg , writing for Forbes, listed four primary areas of criminal activity that lend themselves to cryptocurrency. They are:

  • tax evasion,
  • money laundering,
  • contraband transactions, and
  • extortion.

Understanding Blockchain/Bitcoin: Now or Never!

Looking at blockchain’s (and Bitcoin’s) criminal and legitimate uses, it’s becoming harder and harder to deny blockchain’s place in today’s world. Despite this, some argue that the technology is years away from impacting most industries or being accepted by consumers. On the opposite end, there are those who argue that the technology is here and here to stay. Somewhere in the middle, we're cautiously warned that blockchain integration is coming but coming very fast—as it is in the financial sector where Bitcoin is considered by some to be global currency.

Whatever the answer, there’s one universal truth: blockchain is not a matter of “if” but a matter of “when.” And to be ready for the arrival of “when,” to help you unravel digital dollars and digital ledgers, you need to read the LexisNexis white paper Money Moves From Ducats To Dollars To Digital. This white paper looks at:

  • Cryptocurrency/Blockchains
  • Blockchain Fraud
  • Blockchain Advantages
  • Blockchain Risks
  • Blockchain Crimes
  • Blockchain Litigation
  • Blockchain Law Firms

Download your free copy of the LexisNexis white paper Money Moves From Ducats To Dollars To Digital.

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