Scott Chamberlain, Entrepreneurial Fellow at the Australian National University’s (ANU) College of Law, gets very lively when he talks about the potential of blockchain and law.
“Imagine an eBay-like platform that can resolve consumer disputes without involving the court system,” he wonders.
Chamberlain’s research has long focused on innovation and the impact of technology on law, with blockchain being an increasing area of study. At ANU, he leads a project called Lex Automagica, a legal process automation tech stack that he expects to enable society to run like clockwork.
He believes this is possible because the law is basically simple. In the event of a dispute, the law must confirm the identity of the people and things involved and the relationship and rules of interaction between them in order to reach a solution.
Blockchain can already carry out these confirmations and automations through identity, tokenization, intelligent contracts and dispute settlement projects. It is a short leap to apply these new technologies to the law.
If done right, Chamberlain hopes the project will create the ability to resolve a tremendous number of social disputes without having to involve the middlemen and goalkeepers who he says often use their positions of power and wealth. Of course, he is quick to point out that his vision of a decentralized, democratized legal practice would not replace the legal profession.
“This is not about getting rid of lawyers or cutting jobs,” Chamberlain said. “There will always be cases and situations that require a higher level of expertise.”
Instead, he sees blockchain and smart contracts as an unprecedented way to resolve more routine disputes and resolve those who normally cannot afford legal services. The key is to distinguish the types of legal problems and then provide solutions that match the scale of the dispute.
The further development of this topic will be the central goal of two new courses which will be started next year as part of the ANU master’s course. Made possible by support from Ripple’s University Blockchain Research Initiative (UBRI), the courses are run sequentially and students are tasked with identifying a specific legal issue and then sketching a technology solution in order to lead to what Chamberlain calls an “equity dividend.” reach.
Chamberlain credits UBRI with helping boost the university’s overall course on blockchain and the legal profession. Ultimately, he believes the funding will help prove that blockchain can support a sustainable and significant improvement in people’s ability to exercise their rights and fulfill their obligations through technology, rather than having to throw more money and lawyers on a problem .
To learn more about UBRI, please visit our UBRI website and look for monthly Insights posts in the On Campus series.