Blockchain technology - a cryptographic technique which creates an irrefutable chain of transactions - could cut the cost of legal services for consumers, according to the Legal Services Board. In its latest foray into technology policy-making, the super-regulator has urged front-line regulators to embrace the opportunities provided by blockchain and peer-to-peer 'distributed ledgers'.
In an episode of the ‘Talking Tech’ podcast series, Dr Anna Donovan, vice dean of innovation at University College London’s Faculty of Laws, says: 'Blockchain provides significant opportunities to enhance consumers’ access to legal services, particularly once we reach widespread adoption. This will mean that consumers can have their legal needs met in a more direct, faster and potentially cheaper manner (in comparison to current models). There are huge opportunities across the legal services market, including for example in conveyancing and probate.'
The LSB says its research shows that only 2% of legal service providers are using blockchain.
Dr Helen Phillips, LSB chair, said: 'The potential uses of blockchain technology are both enormous and exciting, and it’s vital that the legal services sector seizes the opportunity to use it to improve access to justice.'
Distributed ledger technology - which underpins the digital currency bitcoin - 'increases transparency, builds trust and speeds up transactions, all of which will benefit consumers', Phillips said.
However she said that innovation could involve risks and potential pitfalls: 'We need an approach that balances fostering innovation with consumer protection,' she said.