Cryptocurrency and the law have not been the best of bedfellows. So an initiative by crypto asset management platform Safe Haven to provide a hub for blockchain-related legal affairs should surely be welcomed. But can it persuade lawyers to jump on the blockchain?
Safe Haven is headquartered in Singapore, and was launched in 2017, to providing the crypto industry with inheritance and estate planning solutions. It uses the VeChain Thor blockchain, a decentralized application (dapp) platform similar to Ethereum.
However, Safe Haven's newly launched legal hub, the Trust Alliance Network (TAN), is something different. It's designed to be a one-stop shop for anyone looking for a legal expert in distributed ledger technology. One of its key features will be Safe Haven's SHA token, which lawyers will need to purchase to sell their services to clients via the platform. This, however, might be the network's undoing.
World’s first legal reference
The Network’s goal is to connect legal professionals specializing in blockchain and cryptocurrencies to users, investors, and enthusiasts. It’s aiming to be the world’s first legal reference for everything blockchain, according to a blog post.
Any community member can upload articles and documents on the law related to cryptocurrencies and blockchain—ranging from tax affairs to inheritance—which users can access for free. But only content that has been “verified’ by “three registered professional users” is judged correct and authentic.
Decrypt isn’t in need of a lawyer (yet) but we took a look at the platform and found a sparse number of documents and only two legal professionals, one of whom is Dujardin Logino, the company’s CEO. Despite the launch, TAN is still very much a work in progress then?
“Yes, since our team is validating them at the moment,” he verified. “The most important part of the release was to showcase the TAN to the community. We realize that we and our partners will be responsible for onboarding legal entities worldwide.”
Logino went on to inform us that Safe Haven has partnered with major firms in Europe and India to help onboard clients. But he was hazy about exact numbers and names. TAN, he said, is expecting to cater for more than 20,000 lawyers, after the community had the chance to test it and any bugs or issues are fixed.
Tokenizing legal services anyone?
Clearly, blockchain is a hot legal topic. Legal aspects are at the root of many facets of blockchain technology, such as the legality of initial coin offerings (ICOs)—the machinations of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on that topic are attracting much attention. Case law related to cryptocurrencies is also bounding along, particularly when it comes to the liabilities of exchanges. The controversies surrounding Mt. Gox and, most recently, QuadRigaCX illustrate that legality is fundamental to blockchain.
It’s also a hot investment; last year a record $1 billion was pumped into legal tech. Legal practice and delivery are changing and the wisest lawyers are keeping pace with the speed of that change in the digital age. In Malta—blockchain island—there’s even a law firm that claims to have tokenized its services.
“The value is pretty clear. Blockchain is an industry that will grow fast, people will seek help in their affairs,” says Logino. “The TAN will grow together with the space, since there is no platform like that, and the lawyers know that they need to jump on board. The TAN will bring them extra revenue.”
We were eager to hear how Safe Haven’s partners were preparing for the opportunity and delivering the lawyers that the TAN will rely on. Logino pointed us towards one of them, an Indian firm, LawRato, who didn't respond to our request for comment. So we reached out to leading crypto lawyers, Preston Byrne and Jonathan Galea, to see what they made of the platform. Would they be willing to invest in SHA tokens to promote their services?
Byrne said he hadn’t heard of the project, so declined to comment. But Galea, who advised the Maltese government on creating its blockchain regulatory framework, was more forthcoming.
“It is always great to see such initiatives taking place, especially in a field (DLT) where distribution is the name of the game, and the network effect becomes of fundamental importance,” he told us, via email.
But he was less enthusiastic about the tokenized aspect of the platform: “I don't think such initiatives would benefit much if they are based on blockchain technology. Not everything to do with blockchain needs to be using it! Something like Legal Nodes works just fine as it is, so it would be interesting to see how TAN will utilize blockchain technology to its advantage, in order to bring out the best potential of its network.”
The wheels of justice
TAN’s non-tokenized competitor, Legal Nodes looks well-established with law firms and claims luminaries such as the legal advisor for the popular messaging app, Telegram and the lawyer to the UK Blockchain Taskforce (although it declines to name those individuals on its site). So, TAN, it appears, has a lot of catching up to do.
According to a Safe Haven blog post, TAN will initially roll out to specific jurisdictions in Europe. Safe Haven aims to expand the service to the U.S. in Q2 of 2019.
Safe Haven also plans to add other services—such as identity handling and dispute management—to TAN in the future, so it could conceivably be used for VeVId, VeChain’s Digital ID and know-your-customer (KYC) dapp.
The platform counts VeChain CEO, Sunny Lu as an advisor and provides services for the blockchain, including Thorpay, which allows assets or tokens to be sent to multiple accounts on Vechain, enabling ICOs to distribute their tokens.
But tokens may prove a sticking point if it wants to attract lawyers, and Safe Haven also needs to gain the trust of users for widespread adoption in the cryptocurrency community.
So, we don’t expect too many lawyers to be tokenizing their services just yet, even while tech is emerging as the mortar of a global legal community determined to transform law from territorial profession to borderless industry. If the wheels of justice turn slowly, Safe Haven might be a turn too far.