August 20, 2018
Summer is coming to an end and school buses either recently started their routes for the new year or are about to and for those of us in the e-discovery and legal technology industry, we know that means the International Legal Technology Association Conference (“ILTACON”) is here. However, this year’s start to ILTACON was a bit different as the Global Legal Blockchain Consortium (“GLBC”) held their inaugural annual meeting on Sunday, August 19 prior to the ILTACON 2018 kick-off events. This full-day meeting consisted of substantive presentations in the morning with a round-robin style of blockchain technology demos in the afternoon.
Before diving into the details of the inaugural meeting, I thought we should take a step back to define blockchain and the purpose of the GLBC. In simplest terms, a blockchain is a trusted distributed ledger, think a shared spreadsheet between different organizations, though once an entry is recorded in the ledger, the entry is unalterable. The GLBC is a network of legal industry partners “working toward the standardization, governance, and application of blockchain and related technologies in global legal systems.” The GLBC is currently approaching 90 members and doubling its size in just the past month. When we think of blockchain, many think of cryptocurrency and bitcoin, though the definition of blockchain doesn’t include the word cryptocurrency. Cryptocurrency incorporates blockchain technology though there are many other areas that blockchain technology is utilized. And this additional use of blockchain was showcased during the GLBC’s meeting.
The opening meeting started with a discussion of these uses and the underlying technology; the goal of blockchain, for unique data to exist once, was consistently emphasized. For those of us in e-discovery, we are all too familiar with the goal of reducing redundant data, to get at the most-inclusive document through the use of global de-duplication and e-mail threading technologies. Hash values is also a form of metadata that we know all too well and hash values is at the heart of the blockchain. With blockchain, this unique, universal identifier is how we isolate and locate the unique data. This universal identifier system allows us to know the final, executed contract regardless of the individual document types that are used throughout the contract execution process. This universality in document type will then further aid in the use of artificial intelligence as better data inputs for the algorithm generates better data outputs.
The existence of data in a centralized location will also aid us when it comes to collection time and there are also limitless opportunities for us to use blockchain in business operations. A prime example is through the use of contract execution where blockchain provides one system that all parties involved can use to complete the transaction, whether it is the signed parties to the agreement or a third-party, such as a financial institution transferring funds. This same example transcends to invoices where we have two direct parties to the transaction, the sender and recipient of the invoice, and the financial institution(s) that are sending and receiving money between the parties. In these reoccurring transactions, blockchain technology improves the efficiency, accuracy, security and authenticity for organizations within and beyond the legal industry to continue to improve our productivity. This was especially showcased in the round-robin 15-20 minute demos provided by more than ten organizations. For those that may have missed this pre-ILTACON meeting, don’t fret as these organizations are around all week showcasing their products as well as ILTACON offering a specific blockchain education track.
I look forward to seeing all of you this week as we kick-off the start of ILTACON 2018 and to hearing about everyone’s conference takeaways at the end of the week. And remember that even if you are not developing software, blockchain is still relevant to you as we can incorporate blockchain software in our legal operations, whether we are a law firm or an in-house law department.
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