It’s an exciting, transformative time for the legal sector, and it’s inspiring to see lawyers and technology developers – a traditional sector alongside a “new” sector – collaborating for innovative solution.

Mark Cohen, legal affairs columnist for Forbes, described the trend:

“There is an emerging global legal community … forging a culture that is transparent, collaborative, diverse, cross-border, data-driven, problem solving, tech and process centric, diverse, inter-disciplinary, merit-centric, flat, pedigree-agnostic, and innovative.”
Mark Cohen, Forbes, December 18, 2017

Considering the law touches every part of our economy and society, the legal sector transformation can touch people’s lives in countless ways.

Indeed, there are some exciting initiatives underway.

Let’s have a look.

Global Legal Hackathon

The Global Legal Hackathon (GLH) – recently held from February 23 to 25 – brings together teams to create programs or apps on justice and law practice issues. It’s at the forefront of everything the legal sector striving towards. The GLH is:

Global: Over 8,000 participants on six continents, representing 21 countries and 40 host cities;

Collaborative: Lawyers working together with technologists, data scientists, entrepreneurs and other specialists; and

Sector-wide: Engaging law firms, in-house legal departments, law schools, government agencies and service providers.

It’s a sprint, not a marathon. Teams have only 54 hours over a single weekend to produce working prototypes of legal technology software.

Canadian GLH Centres

Canada had GLH 2018 locations and host organizations coast-to-coast, including:

  • Vancouver: Miller Thomson LLP and the University of British Columbia
  • Calgary: Miller Thomson
  • Toronto: Dentons
  • Ottawa: vLex LLC, Investment Ottawa, Compass, and the University of Ottawa
  • Montreal: University of Quebec at Montreal

Technological Innovation

It’s exciting to watch the prototypes come to life. For example, at the 2018 GLH we saw the development of:

  • Cybersecurity and privacy initiatives
  • Blockchain solutions
  • Messenger systems

As the weekend challenge progressed, social media channels like Twitter were filled with updates from Toronto, Ottawa, Hong Kong, London, United States, Israel and Australia, all posting with the hashtag #GLH2018.

Regional winners will move towards global judging in New York on April 21.

It’s interesting to note the GLH grew out of a non-legal initiative. According to GLH co-founders Aileen Schultz and David Fisher, both executives at Integra Ledger, their inspiration to launch GLH come from a hackathon in New York in which the most innovative solutions emerged for law practices.

Hackathons for Regulators Too

In 2016, the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) sponsored RegHackTO, the first regulatory-focused hackathon. RegHackTO made it clear that distributed ledger technology has the potential to increase efficiencies and transparency in capital markets. RegHackTO also highlighted how open access to data is essential simplifying the collection of Know-Ypur-Client (KYC) information.

Blockchain for Legal Sector

Both GLH 2018 and OSC’s RegHackTO identified Blockchain ledger technology as a powerful tool. Indeed, Blockchain is one of the hot technology topics for 2018.

What is Blockchain?

Blockchain, or a distributed ledger, is a system for storing and verifying information. As a peer-to-peer network, the blockchain is decentralized, so it does not need an intermediary and no single person owns it.

As the name suggests, the technology uses a “chain of blocks.” Each block is connected to the one before it, as well as the one that follows. That’s what makes it hard to revise. Changing one block will change every other block, so even if you wanted to revise data, you’d be invalidating the chain. Plus, everyone in the network is aware of what you’re doing.

Why is Blockchain relevant for the legal sector?

Blockchain is relevant for lawyers because, as a tool to manage and verify online data, the technology is a tool for securing trust in relationships. It can be used to facilitate a transparent and accessible system of record.

Improving administrative efficiencies – Law firms can employ Blockchain technology to streamline certain tasks, ensure greater validation of contracts, and minimize the human errors of misfilings, missed signatures and misunderstandings.

Using smart contracts – Law firms can use Blockchain technology to manage smart contracts, leveraging information and documents stored in Blockchains to support legal agreements.

It’s a huge step forward. Smart contracts are:

  • Legally-binding
  • Programmable
  • Digitized

Most importantly, smart contracts are self-executing. Using the network as a third-party executor, they do not rely on a central authority such as a government agency or bank to facilitate the implementation or operation of any agreement.

The potential is enormous. Just look at the Global Legal Blockchain Consortium (GLBC) – a collaborative group building the standards and governance of Blockchain for the legal industry. The GLBC already has 24 members.

Lalonde Muller
Stay tuned to Lalonde Muller to read more about the impact of technology on the legal sector, including Blockchain and Artificial Intelligence (AI).