Technological innovation and evolving legal technology have fundamentally changed the way lawyers and their clients do business together — and nowhere may that be more evident than in the area of contracts.
Indeed, as growing concerns around data governance and consumer privacy have profoundly impacted how law firms run their legal operations and serve their clients, the potential impact of such technologies as blockchain and its ability improve compliance, security, accessibility, and transparency, can only be ignored at a legal organization’s peril.
Further, today’s practicing lawyer is expected to simultaneously be a trusted legal advisor and a savvy technologist who needs to stay abreast of the latest innovative trends in order to better serve clients and remain ahead of the competition.
Into this environment, Thomson Reuters Legal Executive Institute presents a new workshop, Designing Smart Contracts: An Introductory Seminar, to be held October 10 in New York City. The day-long event will present a series of comprehensive, interactive exercises that offer practicing lawyers foundational lessons on how to code and design smart contracts for future implementation in their legal practice.
The seminar will be presented by Daniel Garrie, Senior Partner & Co-Founder of Law & Forensics, a consulting firm that specializes in e-discovery, software, computer forensics, and cybersecurity.
Smart contracts have become a hot topic of discussion, with good reason, as their implementation in the legal field can drastically change how lawyers do their job.
“The seminar presents a unique opportunity to learn what so few lawyers are able to do: code and build their very own smart contract,” Garrie says. “Smart contracts have become a hot topic of discussion, with good reason, as their implementation in the legal field can drastically change how lawyers do their job.”
The definition around smart contracts can be varied. For most purposes, it is snippets of code that can change the ledger or a legal contract that is stored and implemented on the blockchain.
For the most part, the benefits of using smart contracts are clear and include:
- Smart contracts are coded so there is less ambiguity than written prose;
- Verification can be achieved automatically and will little difficult or time wasted;
- Such contracts are also self-executing; so, once it’s released, it is difficult to impede execution; and
- Contracts integrate well with artificial intelligence (AI), deep learning, and machine learning.
Of course, there are challenges to smart contract technology, and while the legal industry is working to overcome these, some challenges still remain, such as:
- You must balance transparency with privacy concerns;
- In many cases, legal organizations will need to update their infrastructure to allow for smart contracts;
- Many IT departments may lack experience with the use of blockchain technology and smart contracts;
- There also may be a lack of education and understanding of the technology in other departments, including compliance;
- The development of uniform standards and protocols may be slow; and
- The need to overcome the “usual way of doing business” both internally with partners and externally with clients.
Many of these challenges, of course, are being addressed more aggressively today than they were just a few years ago, and it would be difficult to find even the most stubborn traditionalist who would suggest that smart contracts, blockchain, and the like would not have an impact on their law firm and the way it approaches the business of law.
“There is no doubt that smart contracts will have an impact on law firms and the field overall,” Garrie notes. “Which is why it is crucial that attorneys, not just the IT department, have an understanding of how smart contracts can alter a firm’s practices.”
This seminar offers a unique opportunity for lawyers to augment their business skillset by delivering a core understanding of the technology at hand, the implications of its practical use, as well as fundamental skills such as how to code, design, and navigate “smart contracts” in professional practice.