ANU scholar and students awarded funding for legal tech projects

The widespread adoption of blockchain technology could have profound impacts on the law, lawyers, and the justice system.

The ANU College of Law and Scott’s course was my first foray into blockchain law and governance.

By Aiden Hookey (student ambassador)

A scholar at The Australian National University (ANU) College of Law and two of his stand-out students have been awarded significant funding to develop legal technology.

ANU Law entrepreneurial fellow, Mr Scott Chamberlain, and his student, Mark Laugeson, were each awarded funding from United States-based cryptocurrency exchange platform, Ripple, in the recent round of XRPL grants. Another one of Mr Chamberlain’s students, Simon Moore, also received funding from independently-sourced overseas funders for his project.

The funding comes after Mark and Simon studied Blockchain & Legal Innovation I and Blockchain & Legal Innovation II courses taught by Mr Chamberlain.

After receiving US$1 million in research funding from Ripple in 2019, Mr Chamberlain set-up the courses at ANU with the hope that students could learn how the law can provide more equitable and efficient outcomes in future societies.

“My hope is that this technology mix of blockchain, smart contracts, and digital assets can be a new institution for social scaling, a new way for complete strangers to collaborate without the traditional intermediaries,” Mr Chamberlain said.

“In the legal sphere, this would mean better matching legal rights to real-world outcomes, improving access to justice by scaling how people meet their obligations and safeguard their rights.”

Both students believe Mr Chamberlain’s courses were defining experiences in developing their ideas.

“The ANU College of Law and Scott’s course was my first foray into blockchain law and governance,” Simon said.

“It's exciting because it's radically new and presents the opportunity to reinvent old world systems from the ground up. Developing ideas within a sound legal framework creates differentiation and makes ideas stand apart from malström of bedroom anarchist crypto innovators.

“Blockchain has allowed me to go from my dimly lit and cramped desk at Ursula Hall, reading law textbooks, to being flown to Switzerland and being thrust into the orbit of major international banks and financial institutions, without having even yet completed my degree.”

Simon’s project, The Federation, aims to explore family office collaboration and allows clients to “share resources, invest and transact in an efficient and frictionless environment”.

“Although in the beta stage presently, I hope that eventually the project will allow family offices to participate in legally-compliant decentralised autonomous organisations (DAO) built on banking infrastructure, rather than having to use cryptocurrency and fully-decentralised public chains,” he said.

Mark also believes that Mr Chamberlain’s courses provided him with a vital understanding of legal technology law.

“When the idea of doing some university study came up, Scott’s name was at the forefront, so I enrolled in a Graduate Certificate in New Technology Law to study his courses,” he said.

“Prior to studying at ANU, I thought that blockchain was a technology problem. The two blockchain courses taught me that blockchain is at least 50 per cent a legal problem. That was a big surprise to me as a technologist!”

Mark developed CLUB-LEDGER, which is an open-source system for tokenising participation in clubs.

“The idea is to provide a currency for clubs, if you will, that enhances cooperation and interaction,” he said.

“I have followed Ripple’s development closely since 2014 and I have long been an admirer of their technology. For one thing, it is gratifying to have a (small) stamp of approval from a company that I admire. And, though the money helps of course, the grant definitely adds to the credibility of my project.”

Find out more about our Blockchain & Legal Innovation I and Blockchain & Legal Innovation II courses, or stay across Mr Chamberlain’s research on his blog.