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Baker Donelson joins project to set standards for smart contracts

Baker Donelson is joining forces with an organization to help clients automate certain routine transactions using blockchain technology.

In a partnership with The Accord Project, Baker Donelson is joining law firms around the world to develop smart legal contracts, self-executing agreements that can be legally binding. Such agreements are typically used for transactions that don’t require human discretion or a “reliance of reasonableness between parties,” Chris Sloan, who leads Baker Donelson’s blockchain and cryptocurrency team, said in an interview.

For example, a smart legal contract could be used to automatically transfer the title of a car after the seller and the buyer agree to the price of the car, instead of forcing the buyer to go to a Department of Motor Vehicles office to get the title, Sloan said.

Such contracts, he added, also can be used in supply chain logistics to track materials from their point of origin through their various carriers to the purchaser’s warehouse, a process that normally involves a lot of manual steps than can take longer and be prone to costly errors.

Blockchain technology has been around since the early 1990s but, much like the internet, legal standards on how that technology can be used to automate certain agreements have taken a while to catch up.

Nashville-based Baker Donelson had 85 lawyers in Baltimore as of Jan. 1. Other law firms with offices in Maryland are also digging into blockchain technology, including Potomac-based Shulman Rogers, which advises companies on understanding the regulatory side, said attorney Anthony L. Millin.

DLA Piper LLP US and Hogan Lovells also help clients navigate blockchain technology.

The Accord Project seeks to make smart legal contracts more accessible to businesses and set industry-wide standards, according to a press release.

“With blockchain poised to become an integral part of how our clients do business, we’re proud to join with the Accord Project in this innovative collaboration, and we look forward to helping lead the way in the development of smart contract standards,” Sloan said in a statement.

As for Baker Donelson’s lawyers, their job will be to make sure these contracts do what they’re intended to do.

“Where they do need to be enforceable, we want to help them develop smart contracts effectively,” Sloan said in the interview.

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