As the legal technology space has become increasingly breathtaking for the exploitation of blockchain technology for legal purposes, many of us have wondered if there really was any substance behind all the noise. Throughout the clamor surrounding artificial intelligence, its use cases have always been clear: it could streamline discovery and enhance research. But what would the blockchain bring to the table that lawyers could really use?
The answer is the intelligent contract, an automated agreement that brings a high level of security by exploiting the distributed check functionality of the blockchain. While some may wonder what was really wrong with the stupid contract, for sophisticated institutional clients hoping to minimize the human error involved in managing hundreds of agreements, smart contracts can improve efficiency and make things move.
But the less they talk about the role blockchain can play in serving middle and low income clients. Is there a place for smart contracts to improve access to legal services for these people? In an announcement from last week's TechCrunch Disrupt SF conference, Rocket's attorney says yes:
Already the easiest way to create and sign legal documents, now Rocket Lawyer will make contract performance and dispute resolution , safe and convenient, becoming the first traditional legal technology company to integrate blockchain technology into large-scale daily legal transactions.
The first service to be released by the partnership, Rocket Wallet ™, will be available this month to invited beta users for the remaining 2018, with public launch planned for the first half of 2019.
To apply to become a beta user , visit Rocket Wallet.
The new initiative, which brings together Rocket Lawyer, OpenLaw and ConsenSys, plans to bring the power of smart contracts to everyone. ConsenSys, known for its work with Ethereum, will manage the blockchain, while OpenLaw will provide the intelligent contract protocol. The entire system will provide scalable intelligent contracting capabilities to enable customers to contract more efficiently and with lower commissions.
As Charley Moore, CEO of Rocket Lawyer points out, the blockchain provides better validation of signatures or witnesses, so why are not we using it? Moore has presented a practical case. An individual who buys or sells a car can use this system as his own sales proposal. Efficient and, like all rocket lawyers' offers, legally compliant. It is a perfect example of exploiting technology to solve a legal need that people face every day.
Moore, who began his career at Wilson Sonsini before starting his own business, was CEO for 22 years. Most lawyers lack the taste for such risk-taking, and this is part of the problem of the profession from Moore's point of view. While a new generation of tech-savvy attorneys enter the market, lawyers grow up in a startup culture, perhaps this is changing and others will follow the path of entrepreneurship that Moore has undertaken. But for now, it is this risk-averse nature that prevents the practice from evolving as quickly as the needs of its customers and, in particular, the needs of those customers without the huge coffers that drive Biglaw's planning.
"The law is out of reach of most people," says Moore. "We can not solve this problem, but we can make dents." And Rocket Lawyer has definitely made a dent. Millions of users, including hundreds of thousands of people who now get access through employee benefits programs. With Rocket Wallet, the company expects to open even more opportunities for people who are hungry for legal services.
Joe Patrice is a publisher of Above the Law and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. Do not hesitate to send e-mails to suggestions, questions or comments. Follow him on Twitter if you are a user interested in the law, politics and a good deal of news about university sports.