The Australian National University (ANU)’s law school will roll out two new courses in its Masters program this year exploring the impact of blockchain on the legal field.
The courses are being developed with the assistance of Ripple’s Blockchain Research Initiative (UBRI) — a program that seeks to collaborate with universities to examine emerging trends and developments in distributed ledger technology, cryptocurrency and digital payments.
ANU is offering courses examining the intersection between blockchain and law, as do a number of other Australian universities. The University of Melbourne and The University of Southern Queensland offer courses explicitly concerned with DLT and blockchain, while other institutions incorporate the subject into broader programs.
ANU law school partners with Ripple to launch courses studying blockchain
Scott Chamberlain, entrepreneurial fellow at the ANU School of Law, is running the university’s blockchain units. The courses examine whether blockchain and smart contracts can be used to automate and decentralize legal processes and dispute resolution.
He is passionate about its potential: “Imagine an eBay-like platform that can resolve consumer law disputes without engaging the court system,” he said.
Chamberlain said that many simple legal processes — such as confirming the identities and relationship of the relevant parties, and the rules governing their interactions — could utilise blockchain.
“[A legal dispute] deals with who are the legal identities that the law recognizes? What are the legal things that the law recognizes existing? What’s the relationship between people and things? And there’s a dispute resolution at the heart of it. When you look at the blockchain smart contract space, there’s projects doing all of those things."
Chamberlain operates the ‘Lex Automagica’ platform at ANU, which is an attempt to solve some of these issues without engaging the middlemen and gatekeepers of the legal industry. In February 2019, Ripple provided Lex Automatica with $1 million in funding.
Legal academics and practitioners are becoming increasingly interested in the potential of blockchain to provide decentralized dispute resolution. Projects already up and running include Jur, Kleros, and Aragon Court.