The Emerging Blockchain and the Law

The Wayne Law Review at Wayne State University Law School in Detroit hosted its annual symposium Feb. 22, this year on the topic of The Emerging Blockchain and the Law.

This symposium was made possible by generous funding from the Cohn Family Endowed Fund.

Learn more about the Wayne Law Review

Event photos

Symposium overview

In 2009, a cryptocurrency called Bitcoin first appeared in the world. While the spectacular price gyrations of Bitcoin, and of the many cryptocurrencies created in its image, captured the public's attention, less noticed has been the underlying technology, called "blockchain." Innovators soon realized that its special characteristics made blockchain suitable for a great many applications having nothing to do with cryptocurrencies.

Contrary to popular representation in the media, blockchain technology is suitable for a great many applications unrelated to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. The decentralized, tamper-resistant nature of the technology has the potential to ensure the integrity of transactions among parties that have no basis to trust each other, and removes the need for any central authority to mediate interactions. Enthusiasts have proposed a seemingly endless set of uses for blockchain technology: creating self-executing contracts, managing the supply chain, maintaining digital identities, trading in energy markets, decentralizing democracy, managing healthcare, delivering financial services, recording corporate filings, among much more.

The adoption of blockchain technology, like that of the internet and other digital technologies that preceded it, is creating a host of new legal issues. The symposium explored the following three issues. First, the issues that are created when contracts are enforced automatically by technology rather than by a contracting party's invocation of the coercive power of courts. Second, use of blockchain technology by local governments. Third, use by business organizations in applications such as controlling the supply chain and decentralizing management of the corporation itself.

Panel descriptions

Speakers

  • Madeline Leamon, Editor-in-Chief, Wayne Law Review
  • Richard A. Bierschbach, Dean and Professor of Law, Wayne State University Law School
  • Nathan Dragun, Founder, VectorRock
  • Tonya M. Evans, Professor of Law and Chair of IP and Technology Online Programs, University of New Hampshire School of Law
  • Carla L. Reyes, Assistant Professor of Law and Director of Legal RnD, Michigan State University College of Law
  • Aaron Wright, Associate Clinical Professor of Law and Founder/Director of Tech Startup Clinic, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law
  • Gordon Peery, Partner, Seyfarth Shaw LLP
  • Ben Bartlett, Council member, city of Berkeley, California
  • Lewis Cohen, DLx Law LLP
  • Marcia Narine Weldon, Professor of Legal Writing and Lecturer in Law, University of Miami School of Law
  • John Rothchild, Associate Professor of Law, Wayne State University Law School
  • Sarah Jane Hughes, University Scholar and Fellow in Commercial Law, Indiana University Bloomington Maurer School of Law
  • Shawn J. Bayern, Larry and Joyce Beltz Professor of Torts, Florida State University College of Law
  • Joan MacLeod Heminway, Rick Rose Distinguished Professor of Law, University of Tennessee College of Law
  • Adam Sulkowski, Associate Professor, Babson College
  • Anne Choike, Assistant Professor of Law (Clinical) and Director of Business and Community Law Clinic, Wayne State University Law School
  • Lauren Madison, Symposium Editor, Wayne Law Review

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