In August 2017, a new entity called the Global Legal Blockchain Consortium was formed with a stated mission to “organise and align stakeholders in the global legal industry with regards the use of blockchain”.
It had four founding partners – IBM Watson Legal, BakerHostetler, Orrick, and Integra Ledger. These organisations were coming together, they said, to enhance “the security, privacy, productivity, and interoperability of the legal technology ecosystem.”
At Legal Geek, we felt these were noble ambitions indeed – but, surely, difficult to achieve within a field as fledgling as blockchain. So 5 months on from its launch, we thought we’d throw back to the consortium’s founding by catching up with one of the driving forces behind it, Integra Ledger CEO David Fisher.
“To explain why we wanted to start the consortium, let’s remember the situation around domain names when the internet was getting big,” Fisher explains to Legal Geek. “Can you imagine how much more chaotic and difficult things would have been if there had been multiple, non-standardised domain name systems? To foster large scale innovation and adoption, the world needed industry standards and governance, leading to the creation of ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), which oversaw the development of the modern domain name system.”
“The GLBC’s aims are similar for blockchain – we want to bring standards and governance to the way blockchain technology is applied to legal data and avoid a scenario where the legal industry has to cope with multiple blockchain technologies and approaches for law that are not harmonised – the sort of chaotic and costly future that ICANN helped the internet to avoid.”
The consortium’s progress on paper is noteworthy. Their membership now numbers 21 with typical members being global 100 law firms, or fortune 100 companies. To achieve membership status, organisations must provide one or more proofs of concept for blockchain’s use in law. And Fisher speaks excitedly about the promising nature of some of these, especially those which concern “global contract status”, of which the flagship concept is the World NDA Project. With a baseline of members the GLBC’s next major step is to elect a management board – a decision which Fisher believes will be taken in the first quarter of 2018.
Likely to happen before that though, is another bold statement, the organising of a Global Legal Hackathon from 23rd – 25th of February which could see as many as 60 sites around the world hold a hackathon simultaneously (time-zones permitting).
Beyond these upcoming milestones, it is difficult to map out what the rest of 2018 will look like for the Global Legal Blockchain Consortium. But it is certainly an organisation that is moving at a fast pace – and one with pure intentions.
“It may seem unusual for a private entity to provide resources for public benefit”, says Fisher, “but the nature of blockchain technology is that for it to be most broadly useful, ownership and trust have to be decentralised. No single entity, no matter how large, can own “the blockchain”, and that’s why you see so many blockchain consortia forming across nearly all industries. In similar fashion, everyone involved in the legal industry will benefit from blockchain standards developed and governed by the GLBC.”
“In the long run, these standards should lower costs for all stakeholders in the legal industry (law firms, clients, governments), while increasing data security and productivity. Industry standards also stimulate increased investment and innovation because it’s more cost-effective for software companies to develop on a common standard, much as the Apple and Android app stores led to a proliferation of software for our smart phones.”
In our #TBT series, Legal Geek takes a look at the major Legal Tech news from the recent past and asks what happened next. Let us know if there are any stories you think we should be re-visiting by scribbling us a line at [email protected] [yes, it is dot.co] 🙂