K&L Gates, a large international law firm, is going where few law firms have gone before: blockchain.
The firm is developing its own blockchain for smart contracts and other applications. The technology, a virtual chain of authentication, also underpins cryptocurrencies like bitcoin.
"By investing in this technology that is expected to significantly impact the practice of law, K&L Gates is committed to finding practical and timely solutions that benefit both our clients and the firm," said James Segerdahl, the firm's global managing partner.
The firm's Fintech practice is leading the project, and plans to create a private permission blockchain. Few law firms -- if any -- have done so.
Chainvine CEO Oliver N. Oram, who is working with the firm, called K&L Gates a global leader in the field.
"It is extraordinarily prescient of K&L Gates to recognize early-on the importance of both understanding and accessing blockchain technology," he said.
Blockchain has captured the imagination of lawyers and law firms in recent years. It can be used for smart contracts, multiparty asset ownership and initial coin offerings -- like an IPO but with cryptocurrency.
Ethereum, a blockchain platform for smart contracts, launched in 2015 to create what it called "next generation bitcoins."
"Agreements are ambiguous, and enforcement is hard," the ABA Journal reported. "Ethereum solves both these problems. It does this with the marriage of two special ingredients: a digital currency and a complete programming language."
Judith Rinearson, a K&L Gates partner who is leading the firm's initiative, said they will start by teaching lawyers how to use the technology.
"The first stage of our blockchain initiative will be a 'sandbox' that will allow our lawyers from around the world to get direct experience working with blockchain applications," she said.