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Blockchain: A Short Primer for Lawyers

This article familiarizes lawyers with cryptocurrency and, particularly, the enabling blockchain technology, methodologies and systems. It also introduces lawyers to blockchain's current and future uses and points to other resources to learn more about this profoundly disruptive and promising collection of technological advancements.


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Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency transactions depend upon the transactional trust enabled by blockchain, a distributed system using open source digital protocols with cryptographic security, and the operation of a distributed shared ledger within which chains of blocks of data from individual transactions are analyzed, or “mined,” for validity. Uses of the term “blockchain” range to include and reach beyond its technical reference to these chains of data blocks. Collectively, blockchain is the technology that enables peer-to-peer (P2P) payment to occur between individuals or companies without the involvement of a bank or other trusted intermediary. The use of blockchain and blockchain-leveraging systems is fueling these P2P financial exchanges and is beginning to enable so-called “smart contracts” and a host of other transactions, innovations, and industries well beyond the financial sector.

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