Data is the New Currency: Herbert Smith Freehills launches new Digital Law Group

February 20, 2020

2 min read

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What's going on here?

International law firm, Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) launches the Digital Law Group, dedicated to the development of specialist technology.

What does this mean?

Herbert Smith Freehills is preparing itself for “unprecedented change” in the way lawyers and law firms will operate in the future. Its newly formed Digital Law Group will operate across the globe and will be multidisciplinary in its approach. It will consist of senior lawyers and in-house lawyers, as well as external experts in the area. It will work in close contact with the firm’s TMT (technology, media, and telecommunications) practice as well as its Alternative Legal Services team. The Group’s current key area of focus will be smart contracts. The team will also be supported by a rotating cohort of lawyers from across the firm.

What's the big picture effect?

The creation of this group is a response to the trend of contract digitisation. The contract is a hugely important tool in the legal industry, making this shift comparable in significance with the digitisation of money (when the tangible money traditionally used became replaced by intangible digital information). The Digital Law Group’s mission will be to strongly position HSF for this revolutionary shift in contract technology.

Smart contracts are digital contracts held in computer code that “self-execute” when certain conditions have been fulfilled. They can be used in transactions involving money, property, shares, or anything of value to offer an efficient, conflict-free way of contracting with someone else. One major benefit of using the technology is to enhance productivity through streamlined processes as a result of automation. While technology revolving around contracts is already widely used in law firms (like software to conduct contract review), smart contracts are still yet to become common in the way businesses deal with each other. However, the rise in their importance in recent times points to how the demands of clients (as well as new emerging technologies) are changing the way that companies and other stakeholders interact with each other. 

These innovations have been described by the firm as complex and inevitable. Indeed, the way the legal profession operates is inevitably changing. Lawyers will be expected to have an understanding of digital contracts in order for law firms to remain relevant in the age of smart and interactive contracts. This could call for a shift in the competencies law firms will look for when recruiting future talent or a new emphasis when training junior lawyers. 

In the near future, we will see how the legal profession responds to the emergence of smart contracts and whether other law firms will join the bandwagon.

Report written by Maya Sajeev

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