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There is No Escape from Blockchains and Artificial Intelligence… Lawyers Better Be Prepared!

A course in “Creative Thinking” or “Disruptive Innovation”, “creating a vlog” or “producing a video featuring a potentially disruptive platform product” …

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“Disruptive Innovation” Course at St. Thomas University School of Law (January 2017)

What is Legal Tech?

Legal technology — or Legal Tech — refers to platforms, IT services and software that first made law firms and lawyers more efficient in performing their activities. Practice management, document storage and automated billing and accounting software are obvious examples. Soon Legal Tech became more advanced and started to include technology that assisted legal professionals in due diligence and discovery processes.

The Emergence of a New Type of “Lawyer”

Still not convinced about the importance of a “Creative Thinking”/”Disruptive Innovation” course in a law school curriculum? Let’s explain why the new “technology-based” economy requires a creative and innovative lawyer.

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“Creative Thinking for Lawyers” at Kysushu University (December 2016)

How Legal Tech Is Changing Legal Practice

Legal professionals, such as lawyers and judges, play a crucial role in establishing trust and truth. They negotiate, draft and interpret contracts. They help enforce them. They help perform due diligence. They create laws and regulations that protect the weaker parties. They design structures that enable the registration and transfer of property and intellectual property.

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Apple iTunes

Blockchains and Law

A blockchain is a shared digital ledger or database that maintains a continuously growing list of “blocks”. A block contains records of recent transactions among participating parties involving digital assets. Once the transactions are verified, validated and completed, the block will be added to a chain of previous transactions in a linear and chronological order.

Legal Tech and Its Implications

It is surprising how few legal professionals are aware of developments in Legal Tech. At least, that is the strong anecdotal impression that I have based on discussions with lawyers, corporate legal professionals and law professors. And even after the opportunities of these new technologies are explained, they generally don’t seem to feel immediately threatened. Rather, they usually react by giving several reasons why blockchain-based smart contracts and other developments described above will not (at least in the short to medium term) fundamentally change the need for lawyers or the way that lawyers work.

Blockchains and “Decentralization”

Legal professionals should not be fooled by the infancy of the smart contracts and blockchain technology. Consider blockchain-based currency, Bitcoin. Until recently it was still viewed as a hype, susceptible to fraud, price manipulation and corruption. Yet, the pace of innovation in cryptocurrencies is faster than ever.

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Investor activity in “blockchain” technology
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Lawyers and “Decentralization”

What then is the role of legal professionals in this new “decentralized” world? The ultimate answer is that they have to accept that legal implications will not stop innovations and developments in technology. They should learn from peer-to-peer music sharing company Napster. Instead of emphasizing the illegality of the service, Spotify found ways to charge consumers without sacrificing the convenience and accessibility of the streaming service.

Legal Tech and the Need for a New Legal Education

Legal Tech is disrupting legal practice. New technologies that decentralize the world mean that the legal profession must exist in a permanent state of innovation. A task that is not easily accomplished by over-extended and — often — cumbersome legal organizations that have lost the capacity for agile re-invention.

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Video Gaming Prof • Middle-Aged Ultra Runner — on a self-learning journey

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