Biglaw Firm Opens Bitcoin Practice

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Bitcoin_statistic_coin-300x300Bitcoin, the preferred currency of both the nerd you cheated off in ninth grade and his crystal meth dealer, is one of those technologies that just won’t go away. The “cryptocurrency” discovered by computational “digging” brings goldbugs that one delicious step closer to a privatized monetary supply full of wild speculative bubbles and devastating crashes, just like Ayn Rand would have wanted. But beyond Bitcoin proper, the technology involved, known as “Blockchain,” could influence the way we do business in any number of ways.

And Steptoe Johnson wants to lead on this evolving area of law, announcing that partner Jason Weinstein and counsel Alan Cohn will head up a Blockchain and Digital Currency practice.

As Forbes reports:

“The blockchain, like the internet, is going to have an impact on just about every existing type of institution in the years ahead — both private sector and government,” says partner Jason Weinstein, who, as a deputy assistant attorney general at the United States Department of Justice, led DOJ’s cybercrime and organized crime efforts, and will co-lead the practice. “So having a multidisciplinary blockchain practice puts the firm in the best possible position to help a wide variety of clients in a wide variety of industries prepare for that transition.”

Even if you’re inclined to mock the idea of Bitcoin, other uses of Blockchain technology, such as “smart contracts” — contracts with terms that morph based on code — can revolutionize industry, while unmooring contract law from your casebook.

“There’s a whole range of issues that go into looking at the applications of a smart contract to existing businesses — how terms will be interpreted, the way terms are written, the recourse that’s available to parties that feel a contract was or was not executed consistent with its terms, how smart contracts intersect with established areas of law, like law governing insurance contracts or law governing releases,” says Cohn. “So in just something as simple as applying a smart contract to a research and insurance contract, you basically have to go back through the principles that underlie that area of the industry — how insurance contracts work, how they’re interpreted, what presumptions are used, and really examine them in the way that a smart contract on the blockchain would work.”

Congratulations to Steptoe on its new business unit. May Blockchain be more “World-Wide Web” and less “Betamax” for your fortunes.

As Bitcoin Technology Makes Inroads, One Law Firm Launches Multidisciplinary Blockchain Practice [Forbes]


Joe Patrice is an editor at Above the Law and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. Feel free to email any tips, questions, or comments. Follow him on Twitter if you’re interested in law, politics, and a healthy dose of college sports news.

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