Delay is the mother of all bottlenecks. Although the essential prerequisite of justice is to dispense it as quickly as possible, it appears that unquestionably the code itself and its practitioners linger the process of litigation and arbitration. Lawyers take adjournment on fragile grounds to prolong procedures and the courts to allow the petition of adjournment repeatedly without any cogent ground. The legal system as a whole slows down, thereby overburdening the judiciary and becoming a scourge to the litigants, sometimes through generations.
Such a scenario is typical of developing countries, where a complex body of laws and a systemic propensity to not follow it exist simultaneously. While one cannot do much about the choices a professional makes, the technical aspect which causes the backlog can definitely be rectified with the correct tools. The delay in concluding lawsuits are often attributed to missing files, lost evidence, or simply the unending hours of manpower that goes into sorting them. The problems boil down to storing data in paper can be obliterated by transferring the tome to a blockchain database, for example.
The advantages of this would be immense, starting from the utilization of the unlimited storage the platform would provide, to the immutability it will lend to the data, and most importantly, easy and swift access to the archive.
Blockchain is basically a decentralized, distributed, digital ledger that encrypts information put into it with a unique identifier that cannot be tampered with, at least not without the consent of every participant in the network. Exchange of information using this technology would drastically bring down the time generally associated with such actions.
First world establishments such as a Dubai-based international court have plans to adopt blockchain for this very purpose. The “Court of the Blockchain” as it is being called, will be created by The Dubai International Financial Center (DIFC) Courts in collaboration with the Smart Dubai initiative. The technology will facilitate the sharing of data validated by smart contracts among different courts in real time and make cross-border law enforcement more efficient.
Unfortunately, not all governments are proactive as those of UAE, Malta, and Switzerland – nations that have given transferring the operations of several government wings onto blockchain a priority status. The private sector has stepped up to close the gap in such scenarios. The US-based blockchain company HashCash Consultants, for example, is collaborating with Ulex – an open source legal system. The goal is to build a common, decentralized platform facilitating operations using legal smart contracts. It can be accessed from different jurisdictions as it is not regulated by any particular country.
The legal smart contract platform comprises three basic elements which are used to offer a fair dispute resolution system. These three elements are judges, remedies, and costs. The process of solving a dispute comprises each party selecting a judge. The judges then use a third judge who decides upon a remedy which is offered by one of the concerned parties. The winning party’s legal cost is incurred by the losing party.
The use cases of blockchain continue to multiply each day, and it is essential to understand that its application in law is facilitated significantly by its implementation in ancillary industries. This includes sectors like real estate, automobile industry, and environmental watchdogs maintaining a decentralized database that can be used to extract information from in case of a lawsuit involving them. Its impact on copyright laws and criminal law (where tracking the chain of custody of evidence is crucial) is immense.
Modernization of one of the oldest line of work steeped in tradition, and marked by a reluctance to change its stripes is showing some progress toward a technological makeover. The Global Legal Blockchain Consortium testifies this, which was established to promote the usage of this technology within the legal industry. And when you stop to think about it, there are all sorts of potential use cases for blockchain within the legal industry.
History has shown an inevitable resistance before any revolution, especially for the better, takes place. It’s the same for blockchain, which is ultimately like any other technology with great potential. While the temptation to implement it in sectors such as law, which has become a bane in some countries, be it because of the delay in proceedings or the stratospheric expenses incumbent to it, a thorough understanding of its implications should be explored. And if it meets the conditions of the still-developing regulations around blockchain, the way forward will have much to achieve.