Blockchain technology has the potential to disrupt a wide range of industries. The landscape is constantly shifting as diverse stakeholders explore its potential uses. However as Caroline explains, while the technology has the ability to replace traditional functions it will also provide businesses with opportunities to modernise and will generate new work for lawyers.
“Financial institutions are facing significant disruption because of the role they currently play as a trusted intermediary. As a result, they are working to understand the technology’s impact on their core business, while also looking at how they can develop the technology to their advantage. For example, most banks are experimenting with the technology and the Australian Securities Exchange has invested in technology partner Digital Asset Holdings LLC [to create] a private blockchain that will suitably upgrade its existing system for clearing and settling trades.”
All industries with an agency component, including the legal sector, are open to disruption from blockchain technology. While it may render some functions traditionally performed by lawyers redundant, “‘[t]he view that lawyers will be replaced by blockchains is premised on a misunderstanding that most lawyers only perform process-driven tasks, such as settlement agency or escrow services. In some ways, the technology might liberate lawyers from some of the less interesting tasks and provide an opportunity to think more laterally about where their value lies.”
Caroline concludes that “blockchain technology is poised to shake things up with its ecosystem of internet-enabled services. Lawyers don’t need to become computer experts but should stay up-to-date with developments and turn their minds to the efficiencies and risks the technology could bring to their clients.”
“Far from replacing lawyers, there may be a significant role to play in designing blockchains and smart contracts. From a policy perspective, lawyers may also want to monitor how to the technology evolves to address questions of privacy, fairness and accountability.”
Caroline Jones was recently named the ‘highly commended contributor’ of the 2018 Rogers Legal Writing Award for her article ‘Bits & Blocks’ in the September 2017 Law Institute Journal.
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