Emerging technologies like blockchain are forcing law firms to account for the changing times. Many now feature divisions that are starting to resemble something like tech startups.
The Blockchain Litigation Database (BLD) is a hub where more than 250 cases, in various jurisdictions, are stored and easily searched. Recently, the $110M civil case against cryptocurrency exchange BTCe was the latest addition. The overall lesson to be learned from BLD is clear: law firms are moving towards technical expertise in blockchain and cryptocurrencies.
Being as much of a tech startup as a legal outfit, law firms are being forced to adapt to the changing times. The BLD was created by Virginia-based law firm Murphy & McGonigle and has been a hugely-successful pitch to potential blockchain-related clients. Over half of its directory was filled in 2018, and even compiles data based on trends, jurisdiction, and related cases.
BLD Sets New Trends
However, BLD is just the beginning of a greater trend. For example, Linklaters, the 12th largest law firm in the world, has been courting tech startups involved in cryptocurrencies. They’ve also been exploring how to automate legal procedures, potentially using distributed ledger technology as a settlement layer. Another law firm based in Washington D.C., Steptoe & Johnson, founded the nonprofit Blockchain Alliance and boasts a 30-person team specializing in blockchain.
In total around, around 694 lawyers at the 200 largest law firms in the United States are in some way related to “blockchain” or “cryptocurrencies,” according to data provided to Forbes by ALM. Revenue per lawyer in these practices can expect to make some $906,000 per year, with premiums exceeding $1.5M. That means that these lawyers could bring some $700M to $1B annually.
The reason for the renaissance of blockchain-related law specialties is because it’s still largely an underdeveloped market. You can lawyers who specialize in token issuances; others which focus on exchanges. Law firms like BlankRome, with a revenue of $443M last year, exclusively focus on making sure blockchain-based networks comply with regulations. The list goes on.
Blockchain Inspires New Industries
Although the many cryptocurrencies spawned from the blockchain boom usually catch peoples’ attention, the adjacent industries impacted will prove to be just as important. Law firms will be one of the main beneficiaries, and we can expect many such companies which specialize exclusively in blockchain-related concerns to spring up.
Currently, so-called ‘blockchain lawyers’ make up only 0.53% of the lawyers on the AmLaw 200 list. However, bear in mind this space only really kicked off in 2016. With the industry rising in legitimacy, and not to mention the 20 or so cryptocurrency-related bills currently in U.S. Congress, it’s clear that blockchain law is just getting started.
Do you believe law firms specializing in blockchain-related cases will prove to be one of the fastest-growing sectors in the industry? Let us know your thoughts below.