Professor Walter Effross and 2L Andres Franco

New AUWCL Initiative Aims to Demystify Blockchain Technology

March 8, 2018

A new initiative at American University Washington College of Law started by Professor Walter Effross and 2L Andres Franco has a clear initial objective: demystifying blockchain technology and its applications, especially its use in Bitcoin and other forms of virtual currency.

Blockchain, a decentralized method of creating and disseminating cryptographically-secured electronic records, and of tracking virtual or physical items, is clearly having a wide-spread impact, Effross says.

“There’s no question that blockchain will disrupt many industry processes,” said Effross, noting in particular the implications for healthcare, manufacturing, energy, insurance, and streaming content. “Law students should understand how this will not just affect their future clients but also change the tools and procedures of their own legal practices.  I think that many employers will be expecting them to help bring this knowledge into their workplaces.”  He notes that many AUWCL alumni across the country are already focusing on these issues.

The new Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Legal Issues Group will focus on fostering and increasing students’ career opportunities through a deeper practical understanding of these transformative technologies. The group welcomes all members of the AUWCL community, including alumni, and aims to help members:

  • Demystify—in an accessible, supportive, and inclusive environment—the fundamental technical principles, and sometimes-confusing terminology, of blockchain and cryptocurrency, and correct popular misconceptions surrounding these technologies;
  • Investigate the range of, and relationships among, the emerging legal, regulatory, and cultural issues spawned by the proliferation of these practices;
  • Explore the ways in which blockchain and cryptocurrency are migrating into the daily operations of law firms and individual lawyers;
  • Examine effective methods by which lawyers can not only teach themselves, but also educate colleagues and clients, about these rapidly-evolving areas; and
  • Develop, and curate an annotated list of, recommended digital and hard-copy resources.

“Becoming familiar with the basics of blockchain and bitcoin will benefit every student, since the technology is in so many areas,” said Franco, who became especially interested in learning more about blockchain after interning at the Securities and Exchange Commission Division of Enforcement last fall. Franco will continue his work for the SEC through a summer internship in their Division of Corporation Finance.

The new group intends to host speaker events and a discussion series featuring students, faculty, staff, practitioners (including WCL alumni), regulators, coders, entrepreneurs, and investors. Effross is also focusing on identifying related externship and/or employment opportunities with law firms, companies, agencies, public interest and advocacy groups, and other organizations, and partnering with other American University schools and colleges.

Alumni to Discuss Blockchain and Cryptocurrency at April 11 Panel Event

The group will hold its first public program, a lunchtime panel discussion, on Wednesday, April 11, 2018 - “Making Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Work for You: Practical Professional and Publication Opportunities.”  

AUWCL alumni Heather Russell (Buckley Sandler), Corey Casbarro (Kirkland & Ellis), and Tom Ahmadifar (Perkins Coie) will discuss, among other topics, how their own practices involve blockchain and cryptocurrency, and how they each came to work in these areas, as well as the extent to which lawyers will need to know—and how they can best learn and keep current with – the technical details of these technologies.

To register, e-mail subject line “April 11” and your name to before April 7.

For more information click here.