PILnet Fellows are building an expertise in blockchain in order to use this innovative technology in their future work and to promote access to justice throughout the world. This quarter, Fellows participated in various events to develop their knowledge, including a workshop, “Introduction to Blockchain,” with Clinton Agresti and a Fordham CLIP Book Talk of Kevin Werbach’s, The Blockchain and the New Architecture of Trust.
To first ensure that they had a solid understanding of the basic principles of blockchain technology, Fellows welcomed Clinton Agresti of Hughes Hubbard & Reed to give an overview of what blockchain is, as well as the difference between various types of cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin and Ethereum. Fellows also discussed with Clinton the future implications of blockchain on humanitarian work, such as its influence on remittances and refugee registration and identification.
To delve deeper into this topic, the Fellows attended a Fordham book talk featuring Kevin Werbach, author of Blockchain and the Architecture of Trust. He discussed how the changing nature of blockchain technology, along with how it has been used, shows that there is an increasing level of trust in this area. Werbach argues that at first, blockchain, built on open software and decentralized foundations, seems at odds with any form of regulation; however; law and the blockchain need each other. Blockchain systems that ignore law and governance are likely to fail, or to become outlaw technologies irrelevant to the mainstream economy. If, however, blockchain is recognized as a kind of legal technology that shapes behavior in new ways, it can be harnessed to create tremendous business and social value, according to his theory.
As conversations like these increase, it becomes evident that blockchain technology will have an impact on transactional lawyering in the coming years. In the future, contracts could potentially incorporate technologies like blockchain, and lawyers, especially public interest lawyers, will need to be familiar with these technologies. PILnet’s goal is to provide Fellows not only with skills necessary to protect the public interest now, but to provide them the tools that will be used in the future. By being on the forefront of this field, these young lawyers can ensure that these advances in the practice of law will be used not only for powerful interests, but will benefit all, especially the poor and vulnerable.