Global Legal Blockchain Consortium Forms, Integra Ledger A Key Member

A new legal blockchain consortium has launched, involving an array of law firms and legal tech companies, including IBM Watson Legal and US law firms Baker Hostetler and Orrick.

Meanwhile a new blockchain platform Integra Ledger, which is especially targeted at the legal market, and which is part of the consortium, is seeking to be the platform of choice for the coming legal blockchain revolution.

The new Global Legal Blockchain Consortium (GLBC) set out its aims at ILTACon yesterday and although stating that it was ‘blockchain agnostic’, one relatively new blockchain platform was highlighted, that of Integra Ledger.

Integra says of itself: ‘[We are] a technology infrastructure that empowers lawyers, law firms and their clients to access information, communicate and interact with legal matters.’

‘[Integra is] using new applications developed to take specific advantage of this innovative, safeguarded environment for existing applications and databases, in a more confident, dependable and trusted way,’ the company adds.

David Fisher, Integra

Integra is the brainchild of David Fisher, who was also the founder of Privātim, a collaboration platform for law firms and their clients. His experience developing Privātim led to the insight that distributed ledger and blockchain technology, combined with modern cryptography, can provide a new opportunity for legal service delivery: authoritative systems of record that are securely shared between firms and clients.

Interestingly, IBM, which will also be part of the consortium, is linked to another blockchain platform, known as Hyperledger.

While the build-up to the announcement seemed to suggest a major reveal, the reality was in fact more down to earth, in that this is primarily another group to discuss and consider the issues around the use of blockchain and smart contracts. It will hopefully also encourage more law firms to experiment with the technology, which will in turn speed up its adoption. Though, that said, many barriers remain, namely getting clients to host their data on a blockchain, including their legal agreements.

What type of contracting system will be used on the blockchain is also up in the air at present, with several projects vying to be the smart contract model that becomes standard across the legal sector.

As Artificial Lawyer has recently covered, there are now several groups forming to develop blockchain and smart contract technology. For example, this week the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance (EEA) announced that 14 leading law firms and academic institutions have joined the EEA’s Legal Industry Working Group. The EEA believes that the Legal Working Group will prove foundational to the success of various efforts taking place within the organization.

One of the key speakers, and a founding member of the GLBC group, Bob Craig, CIO at Baker Hostetler said: ‘Blockchain technology will align law firms, clients and tech companies to transform the business of law.’

He added that in his experience he had ‘seen many waves of technology’ in the legal sector ‘and I believe the next wave is upon us and that is blockchain…. We’re in a new world’.

‘The GLBC can help explore this technology….and help bridge gaps,’ he explained, then stressed that the group, despite having companies such as IBM Watson and Integra as key members, would be ‘agnostic’ about the solutions and types of technology used. In short, the GLBC is not there to promote any particular blockchain or smart contract vendor to the legal world. That said, it seems inevitable that Integra and IBM will figure heavily in its future events and discussions.

Also at the event were Brian Kuhn, Leader and Co-Founder, IBM Watson Legal, and Shawnna Hoffman, Cognitive Legal Co-Leader, IBM. They highlighted the idea that AI and blockchain were going to be fused together in the future as technologies, especially for the legal world. (Interestingly, IBM’s Kuhn and Hoffman, both also sit on the Advisory Board of Integra).

This was because all the billions of documents in the world needed to be stored somewhere safe and secure and that would be the blockchain. People would then need a way of reading and extracting information from those documents, and that would be AI tech, e.g. natural language processing.

Brian Kuhn, IBM Watson Legal

Kuhn said: ‘The beauty of blockchain is its simplicity. AI and blockchain are seen as separate, but they must be combined.’

‘If you have hundreds of millions of pages of data, where will they all sit? How will you know where they are?’ he added and stressed that placing all this data on the blockchain would also provide certainty to users that it was the true version, given the technology’s ability to ensure just one correct and verified version of a document.

Overall, the impression was that the GLBC has only just got started in terms of setting out its ideas. But, it has got to start somewhere and bringing together top law firms and tech companies is a great beginning.