What is a blockchain-enabled law firm?
A blockchain-enabled law firm is a able to seamlessly interact with its clients’ documents and data with little or no friction, without compromising security or privacy. This technological capability holds the promise of allowing clients to engage your law firm as if all parties were working on the same technology platform.
Removing technology friction from client relationships, including problems of system interoperability, data reconciliation, and security concerns, will allow your law firm to deliver more client value by reducing the administrative cost of doing business with your law firm, and reducing barriers to working with your law firm. Additionally, blockchain-enablement, when extended throughout the law firm’s technology stack, holds the promise of reducing costs and errors throughout many aspects of law firm operations, while also enhancing security and reducing technology attack vectors.
A blockchain-enabled firm vigorously promotes and actively uses blockchain technology in appropriate settings, both within its own systems and in its interactions with clients. A blockchain-enabled firm has a critical mass of people who are blockchain-fluent and who use technology tools and systems that are supercharged by blockchain technology (such as their DMS, their CRM system, their e-discovery platform, their finance and accounting systems, and other tools and systems).
Why should a law firm become blockchain-enabled?
Blockchain is quickly changing the way law firms provide services to their clients and the way law firms manage their internal work. Furthermore, major corporations are investing in blockchain technology in support of their core businesses. Blockchain is an enabling technology; the capabilities blockchain enables for law firms will continue to grow quickly for the foreseeable future.
Legacy technology employed by law firms is not able to natively interact with and support blockchain projects and blockchain companies. A blockchain-enabled firm, however, will be able to natively support blockchain companies, projects, and technologies. For example, many blockchain companies rely heavily on blockchain for smart contracts, and there is no way for legacy matter management, document management, and contract management systems to integrate with native blockchains. In another example, large corporate clients with significant blockchain projects to automate contract and document ecosystems cannot be efficiently supported by legacy law firm systems. By contrast, a blockchain-enabled firm would be able to directly interact with large blockchain projects conducted by major corporate clients.
By becoming a blockchain-enabled firm, a law firm will be better able to support its clients, with tools that enhance security and improve internal and external communication and with tools that support solutions for particular practice group requirements, such as supply chain management and litigation support. In addition, a law firm that is “blockchain fluent” will be better able to understand and enhance the blockchain-related activities of its current clients and gain competitive advantages in attracting new clients that are looking for a blockchain-enabled firm.
What are the next steps for blockchain integration and becoming a blockchain-enabled firm?
In order to become a blockchain-enabled firm, your law firm needs to have a sufficiently broad and deep understanding of blockchain technology (among your lawyers and IT professionals, in particular) that your law firm will be able to spot the best opportunities to deploy blockchain technology.
A blockchain-enabled firm doesn’t automatically deploy blockchain where other, simpler technologies will meet the need.
A blockchain-enabled firm commits to an ongoing process of education for its personnel and its clients and maintains a cultural expectation of innovation using blockchain technology. This cultural value will be maintained through consistent messaging from key leaders and integration into formal and ad hoc groups within the firm, and by rewarding smart experimentation with blockchain, even when the experiment doesn’t yield the desired results.
To become a blockchain-enabled firm, thorough preparation through a variety of groups within the firm is required, including attorneys and support staff, technologists, and marketing professionals. All areas of the firm will be impacted. Careful planning and firm-wide coordination will allow your law firm to take full advantage of its position in the marketplace. The phases of becoming a blockchain-enabled firm might look like this:
Phase 1: Discover
Phase 2: Design
Phase 3: Refine
Phase 4: Implement
Phase 5: Validate
Phase 6: Rollout
Phase 7: Sustain
Phases 1, 2, and 3 are discovery, planning, and preparation phases designed to ensure that the implementation phases (Phases 4, 5, and 6) successfully deliver the desired strategic benefit. Phase 7 is ongoing and is implemented to secure and sustain the competitive advantage your law firm will have created through becoming a blockchain-enabled firm.
Throughout these phases, becoming a blockchain-enabled law firm may involve activities like these:
- Audit of systems and technology tools and software in use by the firm.
- Integrate blockchain capabilities into existing technology stack.
- Blockchain application use case discovery, via interviews and workshops.
- ROI study and prioritization of use cases.
- Development of the firm’s blockchain technology roadmap.
- Implementation of blockchain applications with clients. Possibilities include “smart documents” related to corporate securities issuance, the development of a “Blockchain Hub” (a blockchain single sign-on), and an “App Store”.
- Implementation of a Node (cloud-based or on-premises, depending on the firm preference).
- Guidance to the firm’s tech vendors about the firm’s blockchain requirements.
- Blockchain 101 programs for lawyers, technologists, and adjacent professionals, as well as with and for clients.
- Clean whiteboard workshops with the firm’s client teams, or with sub-groups of practice groups, or with staff teams, to identify blockchain application projects.
- Clean whiteboard workshops with the firm clients (and their relationship lawyers at the firm) to identify additional blockchain application projects.
- Implementation and integration of smart contracts and smart contracts platforms.
- Implementation of blockchain email encryption systems.
- Creation of a firm blockchain lab, for experimentation with blockchain ideas (from within the firm and from its clients and vendors).
What types of blockchain – legal tech software integrations can a
blockchain-enabled law firm implement?
Blockchain technology can be integrated into almost any modern legal software application. Because the Integra Ledger uses a RESTful API, even developers without blockchain experience can integrate this technology. Resources are available to help firms (and legal tech providers) that want to integrate blockchain into one or more of the software tools they use in the regular course of serving clients and running the firm.
Types of integrations and benefits
- Integrate blockchain technology into client software systems, which increases the security and integrity of data and delivers increased client value and productivity.
- Integrate blockchain technologies throughout the firm so that both in the practice of law and business of law the firm delivers market-leading advice on the application and use of blockchain technology.
- Create blockchain-enabled systems in client-facing technology and projects, whether in substantive legal matters, such as supply chain, or for “administrative” tasks, like billing, email security, and other communications tools.
Examples of recent blockchain integrations
- Outlook plugin that easily encrypts emails end-to-end, with a push of a button.
Document Version Control
- Using blockchain technology, every change in a document is tracked on the Integra Ledger blockchain. Therefore, there is an immutable record showing which is the most current document and changes in that document. Any party working on the document, inside and outside the firm (such as in-house counsel), know they have the most current document with the most recent changes.
- By embedding contracts metadata onto the Integra Ledger, a blockchain-enabled firm can abstract key information from that document.
What are the next steps for blockchain integration?
Integra offers many blockchain services for the legal industry. Find out more information here.