Blockchain, the legal way

Commercial litigation in India is largely based on reconciliation of differences in the ledger entries of two parties. Ledgers are independently maintained by parties resulting in a higher chance of different entries. Blockchain technology is fast emerging as a tamper-proof universal ledger.

The success of blockchain emerged with the success of crypto-currencies. It has the potential to further transform e-payment, legal contracting, electronic medical records, education credentials and more and become a way to store information electronically in the future. This will eradicate the need for many adjudicating/third-party bodies such as stock/commodity exchanges, central banks, registrars, and impact transactions.

Safeguards in place

Blockchain technology acts as a decentralised public ledger, which is a storehouse of financial transactions. To minimise risks of data breach and tamper, each transaction is supported with unique user id details. This technology has maximum safeguards in place for greater verification making it a go-to tool for most industries.

At a conference on legal technology, Mick Atton, VP and Chief Architect at Thomson Reuters Westlaw, said, “There is a wide range of practice areas where blockchain technology can become a major player, from supporting the changing nature of legal work to enabling new lines of business and differentiating service offerings.” This new-age technology can revolutionise mundane legal tasks such as:

Smart contracts: Lawfirms draft contracts that have a repeated function and similar template on a regular basis. With effective use of blockchain technology, one can simply automate the set of terms and conditions of contracts like lease agreements, standard memorandum of understandings, rental agreements, and others. It will help simplify the process of entering into contracts with more than one party and also reduce pending cases related to proving documents in courts. Once documents are saved on an online ledger, there is little chance of them being tampered with.

Public ledger of information: Many governments are looking to adopt this technology to store information about their citizens and the census. By providing a decentralised platform to safely store data regarding birth, death, and crime record, governments can effectively curb fraudulent activities. Even our judiciary can benefit by using this platform to store court judgements, making our legal system more transparent and accessible to litigants.

Changing the nature of ownership of assets and managing titles: Every year, the government spends large resources on managing and registering land titles. By providing a safe platform to store land titles and allowing transfer of property through digital means, citizens can effectively transfer and acquire their land rights at lower costs.

Intellectual Property Rights: Blockchain technology creates a consolidated platform where trademark and copyright filings can be stored. With entries that cannot be tampered with and accurate time stamps, the number of disputes concerning intellectual property rights may well decrease.

Universal repository: Blockchain is a decentralised platform that cuts across borders and is a universal repository of information across all jurisdictions. This unique feature can easily allow for international contracting seamlessly between parties.

Application in law schools

For new-age lawyers to effectively use these revolutionary technologies, it is imperative that they have foundational knowledge of technology and its applications. Higher Educational Institutions must focus on integrating technology in their curriculum to make their students industry-ready.

Law schools should include an interdisciplinary learning between law and technology to deliver applied knowledge of both disciplines. Students must be taught all about smart contracting supported by blockchain technology along with the tools to use it efficiently.

The writer is member, founding team, Vijaybhoomi University

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