DLT is it useful in law?

The title is perhaps a little misleading because undoubtedly if we ‘trust’ DLT – digital ledger technology and we should given these days it is holding vast amounts of currency within its sphere of use then surely the law should be placed to use it too?

Much written about it is in language not normally expressed about a growing technology that in 2021 is really coming into its own. By now we all know the basics of blockchain (and derivatives). A digital, sealed signature that cannot be cracked by any current super computer with the possibilities almost beyond mathematical solution. I say almost because in the future the speed of computing will evolve and become quicker especially quantum computing, but that’s another blog. A digital signature that once “saved” cannot be altered or changed. A digital signature so secure the Earth in theory could be a barren rock before it is cracked. The question often mooted by those doubting Thomas’ of the legal world, particularly those nicely ensconced in their Chesterfield chairs post lunch amongst the oak panelled walls and waiting staff is: How do I know I can trust it? Well most of the world beyond the law including financial markets are already trusting it. So lawyers need to start using this tech in ways to benefit them and quickly before the big teams suck up all the business and I don’t mean cryptocurrency.

Todays modern lawyer should think differently, be ready to embrace DLT and already is, if not trading, seeking a way to turn a trade or two. But how? Modern law firms and legal departments continually look for new ways to increase their efficiency and drive productivity. Nevertheless, less than 30% of law firms have an employee tasked to drive innovation technology, and the same is likely true of corporate legal departments. Those firms and companies that do have dedicated technology specialists tend to be larger or even the largest of market participants.

The key to DLT is decentralisation. Any document (a Ledger for example, the L in DLT) is digitally created and kept on the blockchain. This digital code is distributed (the D in DLT) throughout the blockchain but only one person has the key to pull those parts back together again. Not only that if that person changes anything within the code it is recorded on the ledger and this cannot be altered. This fundamental point means anything that needs security can be online and secured, the case is decided DLT is here to stay and be improved upon.

Have you seen the amount of paperwork a legal team takes into court? The boxes and box files all neatly labelled and duplicated for the other side and the judge or judges. This could all be online and in a secure area of the blockchain. Each team would have access but only the owning team could change anything and anything changed would be recorded for all to see. The savings on paper would be able to run a small country. This online use would also allow colleagues to work more efficiently from virtually anywhere depending on sensitivity of the case. This could lead to much more billable hours and efficient use of time. Using tablets and pads you could open any document and using a digital pen record changes for any college to see before accepting the changes and saving them to the master documents.

All documents could be scanned and saved to the blockchain or if not essential, saved to cloud drives and accessed in court by anyone given permission. Nothing, no matter what level of security would be unable to use this. If we trust online banking with our own money we can trust it holding paperwork. Anything you can think of that can be digitised can be securely stored and only your imagination limits the possibilities. Today more is spoken about crypto in terms of currency because that is what is driving things the need to generate money. The real use of this technology is not in that, it is in the savings in time and work that will leave many lawyers and staff free to look at other ways to generate income.

Look past the gate into the fields beyond.