Lawyers Rush In: New UNH Blockchain Program Nabs Big-Name Speakers
It’s not a bear market for everyone. “A crypto winter for the price is a crypto summer for attorneys,” said Jason Civalleri, adjunct professor at the University of New Hampshire Law School. “As the price sinks, you have a lot of demand for legal services.”
That’s why UNH Law is rushing to offer a new certificate program in blockchain and cryptocurrency. As exclusively told to CoinDesk, over 100 students have expressed interest in the program, which will feature of slew of industry players as guest lecturers – including Hester Peirce of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Ethereum Foundation researcher Vlad Zamfir and MyCrypto CEO Taylor Monahan.
“The law student that comes out today needs to be technologically proficient,” UNH professor and program director Tonya Evans told CoinDesk, adding that the university’s blockchain credentials will be “another way to practice what we preach.”
Student interest in cryptocurrency has been on the rise nationwide, regardless of market trends.
Indeed, Andrew Hinkes, an adjunct professor at the New York University School of Law told CoinDesk that 80 students have already registered for the upcoming blockchain course at NYU, and registration is still open for another month. Demand for the course is so high it is now offered every semester.
Hinkes also receives weekly requests for academic lectures about regulation and cryptocurrency, compared to just a few annual requests in years past.
“When the value of these assets go down, there are people who have presumably lost money and therefore might want to sue,” Hinkes said. Speaking of the ICO boom in 2017, he added:
“That’s class-action defense, class-action prosecution and all sorts of civil and criminal litigation work emerging from this rush to obtain funding in ways that might not have been compliant, and all the regulatory and enforcement actions that we presume will come.”
Hinkes pointed out the statute of limitations is often up to five years and regulators have a habit of taking their time to build cases. As such, he expects there will be a boom in demand for blockchain-savvy legal services for years to come.
Hinkes also agreed with UNH’s Evans that lawyers will require a deep understanding of these digital systems in order to apply that knowledge across cases.
Evans said that in order “to hit that sweet spot between innovation and consumer protections,” lawyers in every industry will have to talk with their clients about how the law applies to various blockchain technologies, from bitcoin to smart contracts.
Although these two subjects – software development and law – may seem unrelated, Hinkes warned that misinformation based on a lack of technical expertise can be damaging for lawyers and their clients. As such, Hinkes said it is “increasingly common” for professionals to seek continuing education programs like UNH’s.
One such UNH student, nurse practitioner and attorney Lisa McGunnigle, told CoinDesk she wants to start incorporating her love of bitcoin into a law practice.
“Flexibility is a large factor, though overall the quality of the courses and the teachers was key,” she said, speaking to why online courses led by technologists are so appealing to working professionals.
Just like Hinkes, McGunnigle has noticed far more rigorous course options these days for learning about blockchain technology.
“There seems to be a potential for fine-tuning the legal relationships surrounding cryptocurrencies,” she said.