12 September 2018

Online lawyers to offer 'smart contracts' next year

Smart contracts for everyday legal transactions will use blockchain technology as legal and blockchain providers join forces.

Online legal services pioneer Rocket Lawyer has announced plans to offer its clients 'smart contracts' by integrating blockchain technology into everyday legal transactions. These contracts are secured and executed automatically with blockchain encryption technology.

Everyday legal transactions

Rocket Lawyer has joined forces with blockchain company ConsenSys to create a new service for contract execution called Rocket Wallet. According to the company, it will create smarter transactions that are managed by a network, rather than a central authority. The system will be beta-tested to invited users this year and offered commercially in the first half of 2019, the company said. Founder and chief executive Charley Moore said the collaboration would 'increase access to justice by closing the gap between contract execution and trusted, secure performance of agreed-upon obligations'. The firm claims it will be the first to apply blockchain to everyday legal transactions, though many other business sectors are exploring the technology.

Self-executing contracts

Blockchain, best known for enabling virtual currencies such as Bitcoin, works by creating a constantly updated record of transactions on a shared ledger. The primary claim about the ledgers is they are tamper-proof, making them ideal for securing valuable data such as property titles or records. This level of security opens the possibility of creating self-executing contracts, so for instance an insurance policy could make a payment on a claim when certain events occur. Rocket Lawyer was set up in the US in 2008 to enable customers to create legal documents online. It opened a UK arm in 2012 and last year secured a regulatory waiver under the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s ‘safe space’ scheme to provide new types of legal advice.