Olumba Chuks Esq., is a tech savvy lawyer who has love for technologies, particularly those making impacts and changes in the legal ecosystem. He offers pro-bone consultancy and give legal advice to technology, media and design startups. Intellectual property in the digital space is the area he pointed out that he would love to improve on, he also enjoys cooking.
In this interview with TheNigerialawyer(TNL), Olumba Chuks Esq., a lawyer and the organizer of Legal Hackers Nigeria speaks on the forth coming 2019 Computational Law & Blockchain Festival Billed For 24th March and how cutting edge knowledge, skills garnered at this year’s conference will help to prepare the conferees for the next generation of technology. He further detailed the importance of Computational Law & Blockchain and why every professional, including lawyers should be part of it.
Can you tell me the name of the event you wish to hold?
Legal Hackers Nigeria like other chapters around the world is organizing her 2019 Computational Law + Blockchaine Festival.
Computational Law + Blockchain. This sounds like merging two different fields or concepts together.
Legal Hacker as a movement deal with issues at the intersection of law and technology. The event is not just framed this way, but the activities slated for that day will truly reflect this name and what we truly stand for.
In brief, what is Computational Law?
There is a broad field of study concerned with the structure and properties of Legal Information in general. It also concern it’s self with the organization, storage, retrieval and dissemination of legal information through technology. This field is called Legal Informatics.
So simply put, Computational law is a branch of this Legal Informatics that deals with the automation of legal analysis. It is also concerned with expressing law and legal process as standard data.
The internet is a major catalyst in this regards. Just as the internet is available and a tool for professionals and non-professionals, Computational Law seeks to more broadly bring legal understanding and legal tools to everyone in the society, not just lawyers. It seeks to simplify the process through technology and improve stuffs like A2J. This will also give rise to new business models for the legal profession.
And any hint about what Blockchain is?
Hmm! It is not quite simple to explain Blockchian intelligibly without touching on its jargons, terminologies, concepts and architecture. But let’s just say that Blockchain is just like our traditional accounting ledger. The difference is that it is decentralized, distributed ledger or database.
By decentralization, it means that the application or service continues to be available and useable even if a server or group of servers in the network crashes or is unavailable. So at each time, each server has a current copy and execution logic.
By Distributed, It means that the service have many – many connection with other services rather than one-to-one or one-to-many connectivity between servers.
Database, because transactions on blockchain need to be stored in a way that will guarantee immutability and allow other functionalities e.g., storage, retrieval, export, import, backup and restoration functionalities.
Ledger- This is actually an accounting term. But let us simplify it with a transaction on our regular banking system. Let’s say Mr. Donatus Ugwu deposited N100,000 into his bank account. The bank will simply enter this information into a ledger as a credit. At some point in the future, Mr. Donatus Ogwu withdraws N30,000. The bank does not modify the existing entry and store data from N100,000 to N70,000, rather it adds another entry in the ledger as a debit of N30,000.
Similarly, blockchain does not allow modification of existing entries, rather it allows newer transactions to be stored in an append-only pattern without any scope to modify past transactions. I think this is the simplest explanation I can give.
Can you give me an overview of the Computational Law + Blockchain Festival.
Computational Law + Blockchain Festival is a decentralized conference, a global event centered around a common theme taking place simultaneously in more than 80 independent, self-organized “nodes” around the world.
We in Legal Hackers consider it as a decentralized approach to developing technology law and policy on global scale.
Each node functions as a stand-alone conference, featuring the following tracts:
LEARN: Educate participants about computational Law, Blockchain Technology and blockchain regulatory issues through live lectures, coding workshops or videos. This serves as a massive, global awareness-building and training exercise to help get ready the next generation of technology and technology enabled lawyers for practice.
HACK: Challenge participants to build open source prototypes – eg. A smart legal contract, a piece of law written in code, or a blockchain based legal tools. Our hope is that the prototypes could create real-world computational law and blockchain for law use cases and would support further development and research in these important areas.
DISCUSSION: Host a neutral forum for discussion about legal regulatory and governance issues related to computational law and blockchain technology.
This is the standard. But some nodes might not be able to hold all the tracks. Thus, they can hold just some.
Who should participate in this event?
Blockchains are revolutionizing almost all industries and domains, while bringing forward newer business models. So I will encourage professionals from all sectors to participate.
What do you think will interest lawyers in this event?
First, Ethereum is an implementation of a Blockchain and a smart contract in a custom logic and code deployed and executed within an Ethereum Virtual Environment. Industries are adopting this technology and lawyers should be curious. The future will be whether to “code” or “draft” contracts.
Again, Real Estate is an industry in which transactional history is of utmost importance, and the presence of immutable records of property ownership and transference help the process run more smoothly. This is another reason why lawyers should understand the Blockchain and Ethereum Architecture.
Lawyers are bound to protect their clients confidentiality and the ledger system powered by blockchain technology can help lawyers safeguard confidential data to comply with our rules of professional conduct. This is even much more possible since blockchain can store records of underlying documents rather than the documents themselves, and thereby preventing high-level data breach.
Furthermore, intellectual property right will change drastically and lawyers will be tasked with educating their clients on the advantages and disadvantages of using blockchain technology. These are just a few instances and ideas about the event that will interest lawyers.
So you are saying that Blockchain Technology is so secured that a Hacker cannot break in and steal such client confidential information?
Answering this question will take a lot of explanations that should be done at the event proper. But simply put, the Blochkchain Hashing Technology is super effective and it is most unlikely that such a break in will happen.
Can you explain a little?
Hashing is simply a process of transforming any input data into fixed length random character data such that it is not possible to regenerate or identify the original data from the resultant string data.
So rather than store the entire client confidential information, the hashing technology stores “hashes” of the document.
But assuming a criminal succeeds in breaking into the blockchain and tries to decrypt the “hash data”, because two different text cannot yield the same hash value, the possible value will be infinite.
It is being said that technology will take over the job of lawyers?
That is just a hype and a calculated attempt by reactionaries to create fear. That won’t happen.
But from what I deduced from your explanations and what I have heard about this tech, it is designed to cut off middle men. It like a big DIY machine.
Those middlemen must not be lawyers. This revolution will affect other industries more than the legal industry.
Take for example the Real Estate. Is it not correct to say that, if on blockchain, people can conduct search on their own, ascertain authenticity of title, and even transfer title with lawyers and government institutions.
The job of a lawyer goes deeper than that. The vision of the designers of legal Apps is the eventual emergence of the Cognitive Computing in the legal space. Trust me, a collaborative team of computer and human legal experts will still form it’s operative unit if such an App is achieved.
It is true that a technology such as blockchain will replace a lot of the contracts and negotiations the lawyers will otherwise do. But when it gets to more complicated transactions, lawyers will still retain much of their spots.
Let us assume you have successfully coded a transaction and they are completely virtual and digital. You still need someone who knows legal concepts to write that code. For example, a coder cannot code a contract if he does not understand simple concepts like “Act of God” that can come into the middle of a contract and make it’s performance impossible.
Again, in event of a dispute involving a transaction written in codes. For the transaction to be enforced in a court of law, you still need somebody who can interpret that code and a court that can understand the language in which the code is written.
This will immediately provide a job opportunity for cross-functional lawyer. This translation issue is an opportunity for a lawyer. Even where you decide to build a model or a method to enable the code to be translated into a natural language in event of a dispute, lawyers are still needed in the entire process. But all these are still at the periphery of the core job that a lawyer does and the legal reasoning involved in those jobs.
So you agree with me that blockchain, if adopted by industries and businesses, will cut people’s jobs.
Every process of economic change has it’s tale of woes and agonies. Yes, I will take jobs, but it will create more jobs too. But when people begin to adapt and understand the workings of the technology, it will create more jobs.
Now that you said so, what are those basic ideas and workings?
They are many, but I will like to talk about the one I consider very central – “Trustless Platform”. I consider this as the pillar of the blockchain community.
Take for example, a simple purchasing of shares or stocks from the floor of the Nigerian stock market. Apart from trusting the company whose shares you are about to purchase, you will also have to trust a list of third parties that will facilitate the process:
a. Stock Issuer
b. Stock Broker
c. The Registrar
d. The NSE and their CSCS.
But if you tokenize the share, the only entity you’d have to trust is the company or issuing house.Now before, you ask me about tokenization, it is simply changing the way ownership of assets is managed. In the case of shares as the example used above, we can call them security tokens.
Consequently, tokenization enabled by the trustless technology will lower cost by removing third parties, open up potential investments to much larger investors, encourage investments beyond bothers and a lot more.
What are the regulatory framework / guidelines or policy statement on the use of Blockchain in Nigeria.
There is none that I am aware of now. But I think it very important that Nigeria should have one because we are losing money and businesses to neighboring countries. Part of what we do at Legal Hackers is to simulate discussions around technologies like blockchain. We also make proposals to the government as the best approaches to adoption and implementation of these technologies.
So when and where will the event take place?
A. The date is 24th of March 2019 and the venue is the facility of Aptech Technologies, Okigwe road, Owerri, Imo State. Our date and venue for Lagos and Abuja event will also be published as soon as we conclude on the arrangements. You can also visit meetup.com and search for Legal Hackers Nigeria for updates on these event. While on meetup.com make sure you use Owerri as your parameter for the search. You can also follow us on @olumbachuks and @imolegalhackers1.
So what is your final word to the public and lawyers in particular?
I believe that in the next 5 – 10 years we are going to see a Darwinian revolution in the way law is practiced. Being part of Legal Hackers will keep you updated with these emerging trend. Events like our Computational Law & Blochchain festival always present opportunity to have a peep into the future and see what is coming.
In the end our overarching goal is that, through our activities, Legal Hackers and the Computational Law + Blockchain Festival can serve as a positive force for learning, building and policy discussion at the intersection of technology and law. We hope people will join us.
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