Blockchain technology seeks to radically change the way we manage transactions. As explained in another article, the recent hype of blockchain is now turning into real-world disruptive technology. Many industries are still in the proof of concept stage, but there has been a definite increase in the adoption of the blockchain technology.
As a result of this new development, this is the best time to become a certified ledger lawyer and policy advisor with recognized blockchain expertise in your practice area. As discussed in my previous article, blockchain technologies present a unique chance for lawyers to offer themselves as trusted strategic advisors to clients. A lawyer will make himself an invaluable part of a client’s core team if she knows more about blockchain and how her client can benefit from the technology. Lawyers need to have sufficient knowledge about blockchain so that they can guide and serve their clients on issues evolving from this technology.
Most lawmakers, regulators, and policymakers are in the early mode of understanding the changes blockchain may produce, so any knowledge gained now will be a significant advantage. So, what can lawyers do to learn more about blockchain?
Have a good fundamental grasp of blockchain. Many books will give you an overview, history, and evaluation of blockchain technologies. A few highly recommended books include Blockchain Revolution: How the Technology Behind Bitcoin Is Changing Money, Business, and the World by Alex Tapscott and Don Tapscott; The Business Blockchain: Promise, Practice, and Application of the Next Internet Technology by William Mougayar; Blockchain for Beginners: Guide to Understanding the Foundation and Basics of the Revolutionary Blockchain Technology by Scott Marks; Blockchain: Ultimate guide to understanding blockchain, bitcoin, cryptocurrencies, smart contracts and the future of money by Mark Gates; and Ethereum: Blockchains, Digital Assets, Smart Contracts, Decentralized Autonomous Organizations by Henning Diedrich.
Stay updated. Once you have a grasp on the fundamentals of blockchain technology, make sure you stay up to date. The nature of technology is that it is rapidly developing! The best way to stay updated is by listening to podcasts and reading blog posts. A great starting point is listening to the Forbes podcast hosted by Laura Shin. There is also the Bitcoin Foundation blog. Companies and firms may also have helpful blogs, such as IBM’s Blockchain Unleashed. Blogs and podcasts have varying levels of technicality, so don’t get frustrated if you feel that information is going over your head. It may take a while to build enough technical knowledge, but even a more business- and policy-oriented knowledge base will be helpful.
Get more information. As you learn more about blockchain technology, you will likely find a few specific topics you would like to learn more about. Once you zero in on the industry or application, consider signing up for the updates from a relevant regulator (such as SEC). Almost certainly we will see more blockchain guidance from them soon.
You can have access to a lot of blockchain topics on LinkedIn Collections and other resources online. If you have time, you can also learn more by attending lectures on blockchain topics. You can also start a monthly “book club” in your firm or local legal community. Universities, including your alma mater, may also have blockchain groups you can join. For example, UC Berkeley has Blockchain at Berkeley, which organizes meetups, tech talks, tutorials, and workshops for students, alumni, and community members interested in learning more about blockchain.
These three steps will put you in an excellent position to learn more about blockchain and give your clients (and legal career) a much-needed advantage. Although the learning curve may be steep, your efforts will pay off with an enhanced legal practice, a more effective role as a trusted advisor, and a whole new world of practice opportunities. Ultimately, the future of blockchain is now. Although blockchain has been dismissed as a fleeting trend or mere hype, the lawyers who put in the work now will reap the benefits of their blockchain expertise in the coming years of disruption.
Olga V. Mack is an award-winning general counsel, operations professional, startup advisor, public speaker, adjunct professor at Berkeley Law, and entrepreneur. Olga founded the Women Serve on Boards movement that advocates for women to serve on corporate boards of Fortune 500 companies. Olga also co-founded SunLaw to prepare women in-house attorneys become general counsel and legal leaders and WISE to help women law firm partners become rainmakers. She embraces the current disruption to the legal profession. Olga loves this change and is dedicated to improving and shaping the future of law. She is convinced that the legal profession will emerge even stronger, more resilient, and inclusive than before. You can email Olga at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @olgavmack.