Attorneys, not just technology developers, are trying to wrap their collective arms around what blockchain is and what it can do, too.

The recently formed Blockchain + Legal Industry Group announced that its collaborative working groups have created the first of several new white papers for general counsels concerning the interrelationship between blockchain and the law.

Officials said this development represents the beginning of an important effort to educate the legal community about the legal and regulatory issues surrounding blockchain and cryptocurrencies, and how blockchain technology can benefit the way corporate legal departments and law firms do business.

According to a news release, the group’s first white paper titled, Blockchain and Mitigating Corporate Risk, represents the first in a series designed to share that understanding with the wider legal community.

Founding members of the Blockchain + Legal Industry Group include representatives from:

• Ava Labs
• Coinbase
• Cornell Law School
• Cravath Swaine & Moore
• Epiq
• Grant Thornton
• Icertis
• Norton Rose Fulbright
• Pitney Bowes

“Having worked with numerous clients on blockchain implementations, I’ve seen a tremendous need to advance the industry’s knowledge and best practices in understanding and managing the legal and compliance implications and opportunities of blockchain,” said founding member Mark Treshock, global blockchain solutions leader for healthcare and life sciences at IBM.

The group highlighted that it has grown quickly to include academics, technologists, business executives and lawyers from more than 25 organizations. The group said the variety of participants is a significant strength as members bring expertise as legal, business, and financial corporate advisors, blockchain operators and founders, academics, technologists, and existing and potential corporate blockchain adopters.

Members pointed out that each participant brings a unique perspective, providing the group with a 360-degree view of the emerging space.

“Multi-disciplinary industry collaborations like this are crucial to advancing the responsible adoption of blockchain technology,” said founding member Johnny Lee, principal and national practice leader of forensic technology at Grant Thornton. “Only engagement by thoughtful insiders can refute the fear, uncertainty, and doubt that permeates so much of the media coverage and public commentary in this arena.

“I have found the level of candor and dialog within this group to be remarkably productive toward these ends, and I’m happy to be a part of this effort,” Lee continued.

The group noted that its broad vantage point can enable participants to accelerate their understanding of blockchain and its legal and regulatory issues, better positioning their companies for the future. The group added that the new white paper represents the first in a series designed to share that understanding with the wider legal community.

“Being a part of this group has broadened my understanding of what blockchain means to my own organization and to the legal industry in general,” said founding member Dan Goldstein, executive vice president and chief legal officer at Pitney Bowes. “For many in legal there is a lack of true understanding about blockchain’s legal, regulatory and compliance implications, what the risks and opportunities are, and how to address them. Our group is working to change that.”

With more use cases constantly emerging, the group acknowledged blockchain and cryptocurrency are clearly becoming more pervasive in their adoption.

The group also said many companies are aware of the technology, but don’t yet understand how it will impact their legal department and obligations, regulatory compliance, business and operations.

“As a lawyer and law professor actively engaged in fintech, it is clear that blockchain has and will continue to be transformational,” said founding member Charles Whitehead, Cornell Myron C. Taylor Alumni Professor of Business Law and Founding Director of the Cornell Tech Law, Technology and Entrepreneurship Program. “This group has been instrumental in identifying the legal challenges presented by the technology.”

The group seeks to analyze and identify solutions and best practices for the many legal, regulatory and compliance issues that corporations and other organizations face when they decide to adopt blockchain and cryptocurrencies.

Assessing these issues also allows for a broader understanding of the value proposition of blockchain, and how its adoption can impact legal and compliance operations, according to the group.

“With the adoption of blockchain and cryptocurrencies growing, legal departments will need to fully understand implications for forensics, information governance, investigations, eDiscovery, privacy and compliance, and resulting desired approaches for implementation, including what types of data that should or should not be included on the blockchain,” said founding member Alison Wisniewski, chief legal officer at Epiq and the first white paper’s leading author.

“Epiq has a long history of working with corporate legal departments and law firms to understand and optimize the implementation of new technologies from a legal and compliance perspective, and our participation in this group will help us better serve our clients in this transformational area,” Wisniewski continued.

Other group members are also working to leverage improved blockchain knowledge on behalf of their clients, including law firms and technology providers.

“As a global law firm with a large fintech client base, we advise many clients on the opportunities and legal considerations for adopting blockchain technology to develop a wide variety of digital assets and solutions,” said Stephen Aschettino, U.S. head of fintech for global law firm Norton Rose Fulbright. “We are excited to engage with the Blockchain + Legal Industry Group participants to bring further innovation to our clients.”

Sunu Engineer is principal architect and technical evangelist of research and development at Icertis.

“The blockchain is changing how information management and legal operations will evolve. As a contract intelligence company providing smart contract solutions around the world, our involvement in the Blockchain + Legal Industry Group has not only helped us to better understand the needs of corporate legal operations but has also contributed to how we continue to optimize our Icertis Blockchain and Smart Contracts Framework,” Engineer said.

““We’re enabling companies to seamlessly leverage innovative contract management solutions based on sustainable, permissioned, standards-based blockchains and related technologies to address real-world business challenges,” Engineer went on to say.

The Blockchain + Legal Industry Group conducts research, defines and shares best practices and hosts roundtable discussions on key topics. Interested parties are invited to participate.

“Recognizing the transformation occurring in multiple industries due to blockchain and cryptocurrencies, we are excited about what we have already accomplished with this group, and we look forward to welcoming additional members,” said founding member George Bickerstaff, executive board member in pharmaceuticals and former Novartis chief financial officer.

If you are interested in reading the white paper, receiving future communications from the group, or participating as a member of the group, visit