March 12 by Toby Brown
As I began my career with a start-up focused on digital signatures during the dot-com boom, I acutely recognized the value of verifiable information. For that reason, I expect contracts to evolve from sacred legal documents to pools of data from which technology will extract key details and relate them to an array of databases. In a future where contracts are a series of data points, lawyers will be able to balance innovation and risk more effectively. Contract work will ultimately generate revenue because of its inherent ability to track and gauge performance.
While blockchain may eventually replace the need for a signature, it will not address the composition of the data in an agreement. Smart contracts represent the next generation of commerce because they will combine all of the data and verification elements that are currently disconnected to extract meaning from the mass of words that currently exist.
Lawyers will evolve from service providers who craft and re-craft language or unnecessarily review documents multiple times to a higher-value professional who evaluates meaning, leverages analytics to recognize uncaptured revenue, and highlights unidentified risk. This effort at reducing friction in the development, execution, and management of contracts will increase the significance of a lawyer’s contribution and should ultimately lower the cost for the end-client.