Blockchain is poised to reshape the practice of law, and dispute resolution is no exception.
Alternative dispute resolution group JAMS, which made a name for itself in tech circles as an e-discovery mediator, is trying to get ahead of the curve, launching a practice that specifically focuses on issues involving cryptocurrencies, blockchains and smart contracts.
The practice is placing a particular emphasis on the creation of protocols specifically for disputes involving blockchain, a technology that has featured in litigation particularly around cryptocurrencies, as well as in the practice of law via contracts.
A release announcing the practice group was largely mum on the specifics of such protocols. However, JAMS neutral Daniel Garrie, a key participant in the practice, told The Recorder the group is “having conversations with several corporate players and a new court project that are evaluating and looking at them.”
Likewise, JAMS senior vice president and chief legal and operating officer Kimberly Taylor mentioned “behind-the-scenes” conversations for developing protocols applicable across industries.
Describing the focus of JAMS’ efforts around blockchain in arbitration, Taylor noted, “When you’ve got pen and paper and hard copy contracts to review and determine parties’ obligations and expenses, this is [now] all existing in a virtual world. Some of the data points are irrefutable because they’re captured in the blockchain, so the future of how they’ll be resolved is going to be different.”
“The parties’ expectations of timing are going to be much more rigorous than commercial arbitration,” she added, noting that blockchain and the technologies toward which its applied could mean parties acting more rapidly with less delay.
JAMS is likely the only established ADR group with a practice area focusing on blockchain-specific disputes. However, the technology has been leveraged in a platform by startup Juris Project. Likewise, Jury.Online was reported last fall by CoinTelegraph to have been working on a dispute-resolution protocol for judges and parties to deliberate and execute deals involving cryptographic systems and blockchain.
Garrie and Taylor didn’t specify timelines for rules, though they noted that they’re currently in the drafting stages.
A number of law firms have entered the blockchain space, such as Anderson Kill; Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe; and Frost Brown Todd. What’s more, a multinational firm called the Blockchain Law Group boasts token issuance and escrow services in transactions involving blockchain, among its services.
JAMS for its part is no newbie to the innovation game. The organization counts itself a member of the smart contracts consortium, The Accord Project, which boasts a number of law firms among its ranks.
Overall, Taylor noted, with blockchain, it’s “a very nascent world, and I think a lot of companies are trying to determine how this great technology is going to be applicable in their environment.”