Are Smart Contracts Going to Change the World of Legal?
One of the main goals of productive progression is automation, and it seems no stone is being left unturned. Lawyers are next up on the list of who to replace with technology, though to say they are worried may be an overstatement.
Ethereum may be known to some as a cryptocurrency, but they are endeavoring to extend their blockchain technology to other areas, such as law. A smart contract, which is quickly becoming synonymous with the Ethereum version of it, is a blockchain protocol that facilitates and verifies the performance and negotiation of a contract.
One example of this is escrow, but the execution of the payment is automated and determined by the blockchain itself. In short, certain conditions must be met for it to execute. So, what is the point of all of this?
Cutting out physical lawyers is nothing new. We have seen it in places such as will making, such as Quicken willmaker & trust 2021 review. Automation, online legal services are always going to have the main goal of cost-cutting, because they cannot compete on accuracy and quality of service just yet.
Smart contracts take this a step further by completely removing the middleman, thus avoiding the intermediary costs. This saves time too, not just money, as the conditions are met in an explicit way and executed immediately, making it fast and secure. Whilst other smart contract platforms do exist, Ethereum provides a solid, functional foundation in which developers can build applications on top of it.
Smart contracts of course only work when you can query the data, or set very objective, measurable conditions. For example, a signed contract for a home could be released once X amount has been paid, or two people could make a wager whilst the program queries the result. Alternatively, a highly complex program can be made such as a bank, that accepts deposits, makes transfers, issues loans, and so on.
As you can imagine, bugs can and do appear in any program. The premise of smart contracts is extremely powerful, but it’s currently somewhat limited due to having no critical thinking as well as a potential for bugs.
This isn’t to say smart contracts only offer a risky attempt at cutting out lawyers. In some instances, they’re absolutely vital and we cannot operate without them – this is most notably with digital assets. An example of this is digital coins on a game. Without a smart contract, users have the threat of the value being changed by the developers, which completely compromises the integrity of the value of the asset. Smart contracts on the other hand can never be changed, edited, or terminated. They are set in stone, and thus the value of the asset will be too.
Some lawyers are worried about the future impact of blockchain contracts, whilst others aren’t. What is for certain is that, as with any industry that’s being under threat of being replaced by robots. There’s a lot of tension. Some will argue that the legalese, complex language of the law is an entry barrier built by design to increase the need and value of a lawyer.
However, some viewpoints are that lawyers should embrace smart contracts because they will take their mundane jobs and free up more time for interest, important legal work. It makes sense that, if an algorithm can automate it, it’s likely to be a very dry contract and probably quite straightforward. In a sense, blockchain will start off by taking the low-hanging fruit, and not all lawyers will resist that development.
Ultimately, blockchain cannot be a solution for every kind of problem. When and if AI becomes intelligent to the point of critical thinking, they may have more cause to worry – but this is a far-off scenario, and possibly a mirage.
The current best online legal services
Looking at the present over the future, we have already seen big developments in digital law. In particular, online will making, as mentioned earlier. Companies such as Quicken Willmaker, eForms, US LegalWills, and Trust & Will are all examples of automation replacing work that otherwise would have been in a lawyer’s office.
The average price of a will from the above companies is around $50, though some are much cheaper. Users can essentially pay this fee and create a will online using a template and multiple-choice questions, with no complicated legal jargon, and the will is produced instantaneously. The process may amount to 20 minutes at the most, and the cost is a fraction of a lawyer.
Again, like with the smart contracts, there are certain scenarios that include complexity and judgment that are only fit for a lawyer. So, online will pick up the simple, rudimentary wills whilst lawyers are left with the complex, nuanced tasks. Nevertheless, this will still pressure the prices of lawyers to fall and are taking some of their sales.
Many of these online will maker companies cover a vast selection of digital legal services. From bankruptcy and intellectual property for businesses to divorce and custody. Almost every aspect of the law is being digitized in one way or another.
They are more reliable than you may first think, too, with endless positive reviews online about their effectiveness and convenience. However, there is a split here. Some of these companies are law firms that are digitizing, whilst others are tech startups that are selling these law services as tech products.
Whilst both products are legitimate, of course, the law firms are more reputable in how they make their products. Some bridge the gap between a lawyer’s credibility and technology by offering an attorney to assess the final online legal product, as a reassuring verification at the end. This is a big boost for those skeptical about leaving their life savings in the hands of online software and has further harmed the selling point of going to a traditional law firm.