Top 10 err.. 16 LegalTech Talks of 2021! Now available!

The list is out!  Last year was an amazing one for LegalTech talks and thought leadership.  I presented over 70 times on Blockchain, Cryptocurrency, AI, Workflow, and the Legal Platform.  It was also a fascinating year where edgy concepts entered the LegalTech space, including the Metaverse and NFTs.  In all likelihood, these will continue to flourish in 2022.

If you’re game, you can watch the top sessions from the past year on a huge swath of LegalTech and general tech topics below:

Innovation:

Preparing Now for the Legal Technology Landscape in the Decades Ahead

Innovation in the Legal Industry

Dauntless Assent Into Legal Innovation

Blockchain, Cryptocurrency, DAOs, NFTs, Metaverse:

An Introduction to the Impact of Blockchain on Legal

Blockchain 2.0 Advanced Blockchain – Case Studies and the Evolution

Cryptocurrency Fundamentals

Cryptocurrency, DeFi, NFTs and the Metaverse

The Future of Contracts

Emerging Technology Conference on Blockchain and the Metaverse

Understanding Digital Identity & Its Impact on Legal

Artificial Intelligence:

Breaking Down AI – The Underlying Language and Technology of Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence and the Impact of Exponential Technology on Legal

Cybersecurity:

The State of Cybersecurity in Legal

The Dark Web — The Evolving Landscape and its Impact on the Legal Industry

Legal Platform & APIs

Legal Platforms, APIs, and the REvolution of Whizzbang LegalTech

Cloud:

Fundamentals of Cloud Computing

Buying the Constitution: The rise of DAOs in legal

Originally published on Thomson Reuters Institute on November 18, 2021.

Could Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs) become the model for future business structures and transform the legal industry in the process?

Update: After this blog post was published, the ConstitutionDAO fell short in its bid to buy a rare copy of the US Constitution in an auction held by Sotheby’s. The crypto-consortium was edged out by another buyer with a winning bid of $43.2 million, a record price for a printed text and twice the price that had been predicted for the document. This post has been updated to reflect this event.


With the dropping of Sotheby’s hammer late Thursday, ConstitutionDAO fell just short of its bid to purchase one of the last remaining copies of the United States Constitution. It is one of two remaining copies still owned by private hands of the 13 in existence. Despite being beaten out at auction, this is a monumental moment in the recognition of Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs), which raises awareness of a system that will transform the legal industry.

A DAO is a blockchain structure (think of it as a safe database), that anyone can leverage to self-govern through participation, authored by rules, baked into code, and permitting voting through digital tokens (think cryptocurrency) — all while leveraging smart contracts. What does this mean? A DAO is a newer legal structure that humans (for now) are creating, which has a stated purpose and a plan to execute decisions via code. In this instance, the intended purpose is to win the Sotheby’s auction and retain a copy of the US Constitution. Also stipulated in the DAO is its governance — for example, where does the community want the document to be stored or displayed?

Had the ConstitutionDAO won the auction, these questions of governance would have been proposed, and the individuals who own these digital tokens in their wallets, could have then voted. Indeed, individuals now can create wallets to store tokens or cryptocurrency that not only allows them to own digital assets like cryptocurrency, digital art (NFTs), or land in the Metaverse, but also sign or vote on a topic that a DAO has offered. (They must own those specific DAO tokens in their wallet in order to vote.) These wallets are the future of identity, asset ownership, and your ability to prove something, vote, or sign agreements.

ConstitutionDAO started with the idea that the general population could own a copy of the Constitution. They gave themselves six days to raise the high end of the projected winning auction, $20 million; and at the time of this writing, 7,500 people had contributed to this DAO, at a sum of well over $40 million, blowing past the original goal. (Since ConstitutionDAO did not win the auction, all funds will be returned to those who donated them.)

DAOs
Day 1 of 6 for ConstitutionDAO

If anyone wishes to participate in a DAO, you first must purchase tokens, which typically gives voting rights that will allow the owner to guide what that organization does in conjunction with the rest of the community that also owns the tokens. We may also see DAOs using factional ownership of an asset — for example, a Picasso painting, London Bridge, or the Empire State Building. In this instance you have the ability to influence decisions, but you also have a partial ownership of the underlining asset as it appreciates or depreciates.

DAOs
Where it started (left), and where it went (right)

As I have written previously, DAOs may become the future of businesses or organizational structures not only in the Metaverse, but in the real world. At the Thomson Reuters Institute’s recent 2021 Emerging Legal Technology Forum, I sat on a panel discussing the evolution of blockchain and tossed out a prediction that a DAO will own a major sporting franchise within the next four years. My comment was received with a collective gasp in the room.

Imagine the ability for you and others to vote on which players the New York Giants pro football team acquires… yet, by owning tokens of the NYGiantsDAO or whatever it may come to be named, you in combination with others who own said tokens could vote to acquire the next greatest player or even possibly vote on who to bench in the next game. The implications are profound.

The sums of money that DAOs will raise likely will be staggering, such that they could overwhelm current ownership models with a flood of money from massive numbers of private individuals interested in participating. We have seen this with ConstitutionDAO now having raised more than $40 million and counting in just six days.

DAOs

Here is one simple example of a DAO translated into real life. Think about the interaction you have with a vending machine. In essence, it is a legal contract that you are entering. You approach the machine in your breakroom, and it takes your money via credit card. You choose your candy bar, and the machine dispenses the snack. As a DAO, it uses that money to re-order more Snickers bars, when it knows that that row is nearly empty. It can also order cleaning services and pay the rent all by itself. As you put money into that machine, you and its other users have a say in which snacks it will order and how often it should be cleaned. Ultimately, it has no managers, and all of those processes were pre-written into its code.

Most initial DAOs will have a board or controlling entity, of course, but they will use code and voting rights-governing models to establish equitable means of responsibility and decision-making. However, ultimately it is a system whereby the code could be fully autonomous, meaning a business could be established and run nearly or completely autonomously.

In the Decentralized Finance (DeFi) space, many of the exchanges are code-based executions of asset swapping or purchases of assets like cryptocurrency or synthetic assets that mirror stocks. These organizations are increasingly DAO-centric and will eventually not have much human intervention, because much of its operations should be programmed into the organizational structure, only needing tweaks of code voted on by the DAO members.

DAOs are the future of organizations. They will create an amazing world of possibilities, but simultaneously disrupt many structures we currently have in place now. On the legal side, there is incredible opportunity for lawyers in both transactional practice areas as well as the eventual litigation side of the business. When regulation comes, it will be fascinating to watch how we embrace and adapt to this decentralized model with our current lens.

Podcast: The Hearing – Houman Shadab, Professor of Law NYLS

From the producers… Bitcoin: bringing FOMO since 2013.

What would your scream sound like if you had dismissed Bitcoin as a joke in your law class in 2013 at $100 dollars – when it sits at $60,000 today? Joe’s guest this week is Houman Shadab, the Director of the Innovation Center for Law and Technology at New York Law School. He’s here to tell us how lawyers can navigate, benefit from and translate today’s new wave of rapid technological advances.

Houman talks us through the greenroom snacks at the US Capitol before he testified – what we really wanted to know. And, in a throwback to Mark Zuckerberg’s uncomfortable testimony before congress (“Sir, we run ads”), he tells Joe about his experience of sitting in front of the US government explaining the implications of various securities laws on hedge funds.

We’re a curious bunch at The Hearing, so we asked Houman to tell us what lawyers and legal students can do to better enable themselves for success. The answer seems to lie in no-code. Houman explains what the heck this is and why it matters to the legal ecosystem. So, get your notepad and digital wallet ready and press play!

Podcast:

Apple Podcasts https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/ep-86-houman-shadab-new-york-law-school-icme/id1389813956?i=1000541095827

Spotifyhttps://open.spotify.com/episode/44txkHGm3JqLe3EKgewSCd

SoundCloud https://soundcloud.com/user-264672855/the-hearing-episode-86-houman-shadab-new-york-law-school-icme?si=1b56a97e30e5402397fb3bbca4c2b613

The Metaverse is coming: Is the legal market prepared?

Are you ready for the Metaverse? Probably not, but please bear with me, because the legal implications will be enormous. Open your creative mind first, and at the very end apply your critical thinking legal intellect. Here we go.

Originally published on Thomson Reuters Institute.

Imagine, if you will, a world resembling our physical one, but a completely virtual, immersive, colorful, all-encompassing one with land, rivers, houses, farms, people, animals, full cities, stores, businesses, concerts, and everything else contained in our physical world. Sauntering down a bustling city street, minus the smells, is as easy as walking on a moon that orbits an earthlike place. Platforms with full replication of our physical world are being built through a wearable device to create this Metaverse. Why? That seems a tad ridiculous.

Yet, before the iPhone was launched 14 years ago, we didn’t imagine the myriad of things we could accomplish by simply touching a piece of glass-faced, hand-held technology today. It would have been a leap of faith to see where we sit now. Thus, the Metaverse is that next leap.

Over the next 18 months, following an era of Zoom and Teams virtual meetings on laptops and mobile devices, Apple will be releasing the first mixed or virtual reality headset, allowing for people to interact virtually. Initially the focus will be on new Zoom-like meetings with far more immersive business engagements, but then it gets more profound. Wait for it.

MetaverseConcept of virtual reality glasses

Why now?

The Metaverse, or Web 3.0, is developing, but what led us here? First came layer one: blockchain, an immutable database to store information, in concert with the proliferation of cryptocurrencies, an ability to transfer value akin to currency initially, but later representing all assets. The tokenization of assets is a seminal concept and means that anything physical, or more important in this instance, digital, can be proven and has authority via code on an immutable ledger.

The latest manifestation of this authenticated representation of ownership are NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens), and their popularity is the slippery slope of the Metaverse. Initially, people are buying digital art. In building out the Metaverse, art will be displayed on the walls of homes. However, the assets, living in smart contracts on the blockchain represent all assets. Homes, offices, land and even designer clothing of this world — legally represented by deeds, contracts, and leases — have been tokenized. This means you can buy digital land, homes, and other objects on a platform like OpenSea, to prove you own it. That value creates a network effect, enabling interactions within an ecosystem, and therefore a new Metaverse (world) is born.

MetraverseDigital land for sale on Decentraland

Indeed, OpenSea is just one of several marketplaces where individuals can buy the future of asset ownership in the Metaverse. All asset ownership, both digitally and physically, could be ported over to an NFT on blockchains. All of these critical pieces are then layered on top of a platform of animation — the actual space inside the headset, which has been with us for many years. It is the asset tokenization that makes this paradigm shift most pivotal. Transactional attorneys should beware, and litigators should feel their eyes widening at the possibilities ahead.

The virtual spaces being developed have cities in which you can buy almost anything. Land, upon which you can build your house, then you can fill that house with pieces of art (via NFT), and wear an outfit that is a verifiable Ralph Lauren suit with Nike shoes. The concert you attend requires a ticket (another NFT), and the subsequent music you want to purchase is also digitally saved and copyright enabled. Again, all of this is purchased from companies with underlining NFT ownership.

These digital worlds will likely be our future in the next decade, and a substantial amount of your time will be inside of these worlds. I know, it’s terrifying. If you are skeptical, however, note that OpenSea processed transactions of more than $3.3 billion in August alone, and this is just the beginning.

In the Metaverse, people will interact, transact, own assets, have relationships, build things and companies, create intellectual property (IP), have copyright issues, and advertise. Further, crimes may happen, insurance likely will be developed, and a massive host of other IRL (In Real Life) concepts that now all now require will evolve — and that will require legal professionals to be involved.

Not to mention the scaling of DeFi (Decentralized Finance), which has already begun and will continue to ramp up. Clearly, this is a burgeoning market. While I have been engaged in this space for several years, a recent white paper from Reed Smith on the Metaverse underlined its importance for the legal industry. It is a worthy read if you wish to continue down the rabbit hole.

What’s next?

What is on the horizon as we move into the Metaverse? DAOs, for one,

DAOs (Decentralized Autonomous Organizations) are entities that have been built by humans. Likely a business initially, but once the code has been written, the code acts as the law and it runs the business autonomously. These DAOs will proliferate both inside, but more importantly for the foreseeable future, outside of the Metaverse. They are already very successful, supporting $25 billion on one DeFi DAO right now. (I will examine the magnitude of DAOs in an upcoming post.)

The implications of the Metaverse for the legal community and within the regulatory community as well as every other facet is enormous. While this space is being built, it is still early. Over the course of the next several years, the Metaverse and all its implications will move from the fringe to a more important arena for lawyers to contemplate and eventually address. Now is time for those lawyers to apply their critical thinking legal intellect.

Podcast: The Hearing – Andy Wishart, CPO Agiloft

From the producer… This week, Joe takes a break from legal futurology and tries his hand at being a pub singer. We’re here for it. And so (much to his horror) is Andy Wishart – Chief Product Officer at Agiloft and all round technology guru.

Joe and Andy discuss the beginnings of Contract Express, Andy’s 21 years in legal tech, and the changes and challenges he’s seen along the way. They also chat about the power of document automation, how the legal industry has evolved alongside this technology and Andy’s rather cool career journey.

If you’re one for tech leaders in band t-shirts, Scottish accents (good and bad) or just want to know more about lawtech’s underground karaoke scene, this episode is for you. You’ll also hear some rather excellent efficiency advice too.

Listen Here:

Apple Podcasts – https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/ep-84-andy-wishart-agiloft/id1389813956?i=1000536724372

Spotify – https://open.spotify.com/episode/7opWHeuPOO8Sjux4WpGstX

SoundCloud – https://soundcloud.com/user-264672855/the-hearing-episode-84-andy-wishart-agiloft

3 Geeks and A Law Blog – The Geek in Review Ep. 128 – Joseph Raczynski – The Red and Blue Pill Matrix of AI and Emerging Legal Tech

This was a ton of fun! I had the chance to record this “holding Joe’s feet to the fire” 😉 conversation about the future of legal industry and where we all may be going with dynamic duo of Marlene Gebauer and Greg Lambert. Thanks to both of them for the opportunity to go down the rabbit hole of technology and the legal industry!

https://anchor.fm/geekinreview/embed/episodes/Joseph-Raczynski—The-Red-and-Blue-Pill-Matrix-of-AI-and-Emerging-Legal-Tech-e164hli/a-a6ciluq

The Geek in Review Ep. 128 – Joseph Raczynski – The Red and Blue Pill Matrix of AI and Emerging Legal Tech

Podcast: The Hearing – Stan Litow, Professor Duke and Columbia University

From the producer… The achievements of this episode’s guest have been celebrated by the Council on Foreign Relations, Harvard Business Review, The Economist, The New York Times, Forbes and Wired. Joe is talking to the founder of P-TECH, and author of Breaking Barriers, Stan Litow.

They begin by discussing Stan’s early career – working for the mayor of New York City – which opened his eyes to issues in the education system. This stuck with Stan through roles in public service, the not-for-profit sector and into IBM – where he created “the private sector version of a Peace Corps”.

P-TECH is a global program that blends high school with higher education and on-the-job learning. It bridges the gap between employment and academic systems that lack the provision of workplace skills. These opportunities are available to all students, regardless of race or financial status, in a way that benefits the private sector as well as society. This episode is for lawyers who want to see change in the industry but aren’t sure where to start.

Listen here:

Apple Podcasts: https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/ep-81-stanley-litow-p-tech/id1389813956?i=1000529324591

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/episode/16SLcBXiom5ObeGlkCITpb

SoundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/user-264672855/the-hearing-episode-81-stanley-litow-p-tech

The impact of blockchain, cryptocurrencies, and NFTs on the legal industry with Joseph Raczynski

It was a ton of fun recording this podcast with the omniscient and ever engaging Joseph Gartner at the ABA Center for Innovation – (full transparency, I sit on the Council). With Joey’s new role as Director and Counsel, we chatted all things #blockchain#cryptocurrencies, and #NFTs and their impact on the legal industry.  It is fantastic to be a part of a group pushing on #innovation in the legal industry at the ABA with Chair, Don Bivens and the entire Center for Innovation Governing Council.

https://www.buzzsprout.com/1784333/8764341-the-impact-of-blockchain-cryptocurrencies-and-nfts-on-the-legal-industry-with-joseph-raczynski

Podcast: The Hearing – Stevie Ghiassi, Co-founder Legaler and Legaler Aid

Question: What do the Iranian national football team, NFTs, Hotel Rwanda and tennis great, Andy Murray have in common?

Answer: Stevie Ghiassi, Co-founder of Legaler and Legaler Aid. And my guest this week!

In this episode, Stevie chats with me about his unlikely journey from running a chain of souvenir shops to becoming a legal tech entrepreneur. He also talks about the important work that Legaler Aid is doing, and ways in which legal tech and blockchain have helped them pivot after Covid took away traditional fundraising streams.

Yet again we’re seeing innovative ways that cryptocurrency and blockchain are being used, and how they offer real opportunities for the legal industry.

Apple:

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/ep-78-stevie-ghiassi-legaler/id1389813956?i=1000524478029

Google: https://podcasts.google.com/feed/aHR0cHM6Ly9wb3J0YWwtYXBpLnRoaXNpc2Rpc3RvcnRlZC5jb20veG1sL3RoZS1oZWFyaW5n/episode/aHR0cDovL2F1ZGlvLnRoaXNpc2Rpc3RvcnRlZC5jb20vcmVwb3NpdG9yeS9hdWRpby9lcGlzb2Rlcy9FcDc4X1N0ZXZpZV9HaGlhc3NpX21peGRvd24tMTYyMjgxMTgwNDQ2MjA3MzUyNi1NekkyT1RFdE56VTVNelkxTkRBPS5tcDM?sa=X&ved=0CAUQkfYCahcKEwjAm42r05XxAhUAAAAAHQAAAAAQCg&hl=en