Drew Hinkes has no trouble explaining Blockchain. Mr. Hinkes is co-founder and General Counsel of Athena Blockchain, a start-up investment bank focused on tokenized securities. He’s also an adjunct professor at the NYU Stern Business School and the NYU School of Law, where he co-teaches “Digital Currency, Blockchains, and the Future of the Financial Services Industry.”
Presenting at the DPELC-MSL Speaker Series last Tuesday, he led the room through a brief history of cryptocurrency to foreground a discussion of the legal and regulatory challenges that students may encounter should they enter the legal tech field. From cypherpunks’ early efforts to decouple currency from government in the 1970s to the present, where a room of law students has at least passing familiarity with Bitcoin and Ethereum, Hinkes made a strong case for learning the language of this new technology.
He advised MSL and JD students to read up and pay attention to Blockchain, as the tools for creating incorruptible ledgers aren’t just being developed for financial markets. Hinkes encouraged students to consider how they might use Blockchain to streamline transfers of land title records or to create titles of provenance for luxury goods. Taking this further than proving the authenticity of a Chanel purse, he discussed the way international organizations might use Blockchain to confirm the identity of a refugee traveling without a passport or to help that individual reestablish themselves by retaining a record of their credit from a collapsed bank.
Wherever legal professionals encounter this technology, the most important skill to have will be the ability to talk about it, whether you’re in conversation with programmers, lawyers, or clients.