BakerHostetler, LexPredict and Others Partner to Develop Blockchain ‘Middle Layer’

Blockchain has recently been touted as the secret sauce for a number of legal tech woes, and a host of legal and tech professionals are gathering to see if they can make it stick.

Their combined effort is the Agreements Network, a platform-like tool that allows multiple parties to plug in and create and execute legal agreements, as well as manage and store digital evidence and assets. A press release notes that parties can collaborate to develop their own new products, specifying use cases such as for contracts.

Or so it’s planned to be. Like many blockchain efforts, the project is still in developmental stages, counting law firms BakerHostetler, Erdos IP and Legalbono among its participants. On the technology side of the equation are smart contracts groups Clause and Mattereum, and blockchain groups Rymedi, Libra, TransparentNode, Wolfram Blockchain Labs, and Monax.

Tech consultant LexPredict is also listed as participating, as is crowdfunding platform Crowdcube.

Casey Kuhlman, CEO of Monax, told Legaltech News the Agreements Network tech has “been years in development,” but “needed engagement from traditional legal services providers” to fulfill its goal of distributing and operating “technologically enabled ‘legal products.’“

“We approached only a handful of firms who we knew were deep in the ‘builder’ class of folks that have engaged with the technology. We also knew we needed engagement from legal technology firms that were either engaged with the technology already or had needs to leverage the technology to move their companies forward,” Kuhlman said.

Kuhlman previously worked as a managing partner at law firm Watershed Legal Services. He views Agreements Network as a way for lawyers to “productize their previously bespoke services” by leveraging the technology without having to know code. In doing so, Agreements Network becomes a “middle layer” between tech producers and users, which can be public or private on the blockchain.

Kuhlman also cites key value components of the network. The first two—a “legal prose template” and parameter fields—are generic and can be “leveraged by any document assembly software.” It also has an API that can translate standard flowchart notation that translates into code for the blockchain. This means lawyers can track “legally significant” events in a transaction lifecycle.

Kuhlman said there’s no payment required to join the test network, which is currently live and ready for people to test build their products. He did, however, note that to “formally join,” there’s an expectation to partake in refinement efforts for the overall platform.

BakerHostetler is one of those partaking in refinement efforts. BakerHostetler CIO Bob Craig told LTN that the firm’s development plan will begin with determining industries and “types of legal agreements” that would “gain the most value” from the platform.

“Currently, we are developing a test legal agreements workflow in the automotive sector to further evaluate the potential benefits that our clients and lawyers would gain from using the Agreements Network, as well as what the challenges might be,” he said.

Craig also explained that BakerHostetler’s technical team has been testing the requirements to run a validator node on the Agreements work, among other “use cases that a large company could leverage in their supply chains and product licensing.”

The Agreements Network isn’t Big Law’s first foray in blockchain. The Accord Project (of which Clause and BakerHostetler are members) boasts Dentons, Linklaters, Holland & Knight and DLA Piper among its members. At the law school level, Yeshiva University’s Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law has its own effort, “The Blockchain Project,” which has already produced a startup for developing smart contract blockchain protocol. In July, CaseLines in the U.K. announced its effort to patent its application of blockchain in storing digital evidence.