Last year, I took a blockchain business strategy class offered by MIT. The class was good and one of the key points was made by Christian Catalini, one of the professors who’s now apparently on leave from MIT because he’s a co-founder of the Libra cryptocurrency and the chief Economist for Calibra.
I can’t find the exact quote, but it was something like: “It’s going to be really important for lawyers to work with software engineers to realize the promise of blockchain technology.”
Nowhere is this more true than with smart contracts. Yes, I know there’s been discussion that smart contracts aren’t necessarily legal contracts, but if they’re done right, smart contracts have the potential to make contracting more efficient and eliminate a lot of work that takes place in the backend to properly operationalize contracts.
Real contracts are like code. It takes experience to do them well, and like Catalini said, it’s going to require lawyers working with software engineers to really make smart contracts work well.
Good lawyers and good software engineers bear a lot of similarities. They’re fascinated with code, and good contracts are like good software code. The best contracts are not only functional; they are elegant in their simplicity.
Software engineers and lawyers also are similar in that they tend to be stubborn. I remember my first meeting with the CTO I worked with years ago. He told me right off the bat that he was “pretty good at interpreting contracts” with the implication being that didn’t really need my help. I told him I’d make him a deal “if you promise to not interpret contracts, I promise to not write code.” We had a really good working relationship after that because we had mutual respect for each other’s strengths.
But smart contracts are only of those areas where we can’t just mark off our territory. It’s going to take collaboration between lawyers and coders. To that end, I’m offering a guide to contracts gives coders working with smart contracts the opportunity to learn something about the structure of contracts in real life. You’ll see this guide published in several installments on this blog in the coming days and weeks.