Blockchain technology is a topic that interests me greatly. It also is a favorite topic of my occasional co-author, Gwynne Monahan (often better known as @econwriter5 on Twitter). We have talked off and on for a while about collaborating on an article about blockchain tech.

The timing was right a month or two ago when I was asked about writing an article for the January tech-themed article of the ABA’s Law Practice Today.

The result is an article Gwynne and I wrote called “Lawyers Get Ready, There’s a Blockchain Coming.” It’s partly an introduction to blockchain. It’s partially a look at what a lawyer’s duty to technological competence might mean in the context of a specific new technology. And it’s partially a playbook for how a lawyer might want to practically get ready for and get up to speed on a new technology that might have a significant impact.

Our goal was to take a new and unique perspective on blockchains and their potential impact on law, law practice and lawyers. And I think that we succeeded.

A couple of quotes to whet your appetite:

“Keeping abreast” clearly does not mean “becoming a world-renowned expert.” There is an underlying notion of reasonableness. “Relevant” also implies that you need to know about what might actually impact you and your clients. We are inclined to say that there is a “just enough, just in time” element. Knowing when to ask for help and engage experts is also a key part of competence. You have to know your own limitations.

If you read the previous section and breathed a sigh of relief that none of these areas seemed to impact you, please read on as we discuss some areas where we think blockchains are highly likely to develop. Remember the key results that intrigue people are decentralized proof of validity, improved speed, ease and costs of transactions (i.e., reducing friction), and an immutable public ledger with all relevant history.

We want to make two key points. First, many very smart people believe blockchains are going to have a gigantic impact on everything from finance to trade to identity in the next few years. Second, we fully expect that the vast majority of readers will not fully understand our description of blockchains in the preceding paragraphs. Blockchains are complicated to understand, involve mathematics and cryptography, and it’s easier to picture the results than how they work.

Because of these two points, they are a perfect example to illustrate how to think about the requirements of an ethical duty of competence. It is easy to argue that they will have a growing relevance. The challenge is how to keep abreast of blockchain technologies.

I recommend the article to you. Gwynne and I hope that it starts a discussion and provides some motivation. Let me know what you think.

Link to article.

[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (]

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