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Blockchain: Inevitable changes for lawyers

17/10/2017


​​​This article was originally published by Droit Inc. and is reproduced with permission.

​As with many new technologies, the legal framework surrounding blockchain is still a grey area...

Blockchain technology is without a doubt one of the biggest topics of conversation in the professional community. And it’s not surprising since it’s often described as the most revolutionary development since the Internet.

Basically, blockchain is a set of collective ledgers where transactions are accumulated and validated by a decentralized computer network. The use of cryptography provides a degree of confidence and security by ensuring the integrity of the information. Once a transaction is validated, it becomes an integral part of the chain and cannot be deleted. Because the information is decentralized and extremely reliable, there’s little or no need for middlemen or the fees that go along with them.

Blockchain is a key component in the huge success of bitcoin. But banking and financial services aren't the only sectors that could potentially be transformed by blockchain. It could also have a significant impact on most economic sectors, and professional services are no exception. Accountants and lawyers are already preparing for the impact.

Impact for lawyers

As with many new technologies, the legal framework surrounding blockchain is still a grey area as people wait to see how the technology evolves. The fact is, a system without middlemen where the validity and security of information is virtually guaranteed could eliminate the need for certain legal and accounting tasks.

The use of smart contracts will also transform lawyers’ job considerably. These agreements—which allow values to be transferred automatically based on mutually agreed-upon conditions—are already possible today through the Ethereum platform. While using these contracts may decrease the need for a lawyer’s involvement, they could also become an essential tool in developing and signing future agreements.

Though blockchain may be seen as a threat to some legal practices, it could actually create opportunities for others given the absence of a regulatory framework, for example, and the emergence of ICOs (Initial Coin Offerings).

Impact on accountants

The elimination of middlemen caused by a blockchain ecosystem is, by definition, a threat to certain tasks performed by accountants. The role of an auditor, for instance, whose fundamental goal is to ensure the reliability of financial information, could diminish drastically, become much more automated and primarily involve the verification of blockchain transactions. There’s a strong chance that accountants will have to rethink their service offering and market themselves more as business growth and management advisors.

In conclusion, though blockchain is still in its infancy, it’s easy to see the far-reaching consequences this technology could have on our day-to-day professional lives. For accountants and lawyers alike, whether they work for a small firm or a large corporation, it’s in their best interest to get up to speed on blockchain, if only so they can answer the inevitable questions clients are going to have about this new technology.