TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Friday, February 9, 2018

Law Schools Tackle The New Blockchain Frontier

BlockchainNational Law Journal, Blockchain 101: Law Schools Tackle the New Frontier:

The end of 2017 signals a full explosion of blockchain into the public eye, most notably its use within cryptocurrencies. Bitcoin, the open-source distributed ledger payment system through which the technology first made headlines in 2009, saw a massive value spike this fall as bitcoin futures prepped for a December 2017 launch. And while cryptocurrencies have long been exciting for the niche communities that develop and trade in them, public appreciation for the digital assets seems to have surged, too. “Bitcoin” was the second most searched global news topic on Google in 2017; “how to buy Bitcoin” was the third most searched question.

This interest in blockchain and cryptocurrency is quickly working its way into the legal sector. Increasingly, legal practitioners are considering uses of blockchain beyond finance, piloting distributed ledger technology in sectors such as health care, cybersecurity and entertainment. Legal technology blogger Bob Ambrogi even declared it his “2017 Word of the Year,” beating out major buzz topics such as artificial intelligence and chatbots.

Law schools seem to be working hard to keep up with the pace of technological innovation in training the next generation of attorneys. A recent project from Michigan State University College of Law professor Daniel Linna, the “Law School Innovation Index,” found that at least 40 different law programs now provide students with opportunities to learn and engage with technology as part of their formal curriculum, but only a few schools have formal blockchain-based coursework or clinic opportunities.

However, this lack of blockchain focus seems to be changing quickly as schools scramble to help law students establish a background in what seems to be an increasingly important technology.

The University of California, Berkeley School of Law launched a new blockchain course this past spring, joining the ranks of Cardozo Law, Duke, Penn, Vanderbilt and others in providing law students with coursework focused on distributed ledger technology.

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