Often associated with cryptocurrencies, blockchain-based technologies are quickly working their way into every aspect of the Canadian legal landscape. Dr. Florian Martin-Bariteau has been awarded a grant through the Canadian Bar Association’s Law for the Future Fund for a project that will shed new light on this phenomenon, entitled “Blockchain, Smart Contracts, and the Future of Contracts under Canadian Law.”
Blockchain-based technologies link lists of records (called blocks) across multiple computers so that records cannot be retroactively altered. These technologies are increasingly permeating the legal world, providing new opportunities to providers of legal services through innovative uses such as smart contracts. Law firms and lawyers are continuously adapting to market trends in an effort to remain competitive and to provide value to clients. But as is often the case with new technologies, law has difficulty keeping up with the innovations. As a result, the legal framework surrounding smart contracts is still murky.
Dr. Martin-Bariteau’s project will explore how law firms and lawyers can leverage smart contracts to provide services and how smart contracts interface with existing contract law. While most research on blockchain technologies is undertaken from a computer science perspective, this project will focus on developing a legal framework for smart contracts under Canadian law, considering both civil and common law, as well as ethical and educational steps that must be taken to address potential challenges.
Dr. Martin-Bariteau, who in addition to being a professor in the Common Law Section also serves as the Director of the University of Ottawa Centre for Law, Technology and Society (CLTS), is one of Canada’s leading experts in the legal aspects of blockchain. He leads the uOttawa Blockchain Legal Lab, which he launched this year through the CLTS, and will be teaching a bilingual, multidisciplinary course in the winter term entitled “Blockchain, Law and Society” – the first such course in Canada.
The CBA’s Law for the Future Fund aims to provide financial support for innovative projects in legal research and education that are of national interest and that offer a benefit to the general public. Dr. Martin-Bariteau will receive $15,112 from the Fund. He will produce an academic paper, and the research outcomes will be published via blog posts on the Blockchain Legal Lab’s website, BLCKCHN.ca.
Congratulations to Professor Martin-Bariteau!