Ripple Funds Blockchain’s Disruption of the Legal Industry

A new blockchain course offered by the Australian National University (ANU)’s law school commenced this year with support from Ripple’s University Blockchain Research Initiative (UBRI).

Cointelegraph spoke to Lauren Weymouth, the senior manager of the UBRI’s University Partnerships Program, and Scott Chamberlain, the academic running the curriculum, to find out more about how blockchain can disrupt the legal industry and the partnership between the ANU and UBRI.

Chamberlain will be working alongside the developer behind the Toast XRPL Wallet, Richard Holland, to develop and deliver the course.

ANU law school launches blockchain course

Chamberlain states that the first unit will explore legal issues and theory surrounding distributed ledger technologies (DLT) and smart contracts. “The real fun begins in semester two,” Chamberlain states, continuing: 

“Students take what they have learned and develop a whitepaper outlining how they would use the ‘Lex Automagica’ technologies to deliver a ‘Justice Dividend’ — a significant and sustainable improvement in the ability for a large number of people to know and enforce their legal rights and obligations in an affordable, timely, and consistent way.”

‘Lex Automagica’ is the name that Chamberlain gave to “the concept of using a combination of technologies to automate law and regulation — to remove the middlemen as far as possible.” The project is run out of the ANU’s law school in Canberra.

UBRI provides $1 million in funding to ANU and Lex Automagica

In 2018, Chamberlain reached out to UBRI to explore implementing Lex Automagica using Codius — Ripple’s platform for hosting smart contracts and programs. Lex Automagica would become part of UBRI’s initial intake. In February 2019, UBRI pledged $1 million toward research and developing courses examining the implications and applications of blockchain technologies for law.

Laren Weymouth of UBRI states that the program “first connected with Scott in May 2018, when he reached out to Ripple’s business development department to start discussions about a leading Australian university that was developing legal apps for the XRP Ledger using Codius. His timing perfectly coincided with Ripple launching UBRI, and we officially welcomed Australian National University (ANU) into the program shortly after.” 

“ANU is among the few partners researching the application of blockchain in law, so we look forward to watching their progress unfold to help address the pain points that exist in legal processes today,” she adds.”

Ripple believes DLT can fix ‘broken processes’ in legal system

Weymouth states that UBRI believes “blockchain has the potential to help simplify the broken processes that exist in the legal system today.” 

“For example, imagine a world in which legal disputes could be resolved without having to engage the courts? This could be achieved through the advancement of smart contracts, which ANU and other law schools we partner with – such as UPenn Law, Rutgers Law, and Berkeley Law – are looking into, alongside policy and regulation.“

UBRI to expand global footprint

Weymouth states that since launching in 2018, the UBRI has come to include more than 35 university partners and distribute more than $50 million in funding. 

She describes the initiative’s funding as “strictly philanthropic and unrestricted,” emphasizing that “there are no strings attached” and university partners “are free to allocate the funds however they see fit.” 

“Our only requirement is they pursue research and innovation in blockchain, which can be applied across a variety of subject matter areas including law,” she adds.

Weymouth states that UBRI is looking to expand its global footprint, noting partnerships inked in 2019 with Kyoto University and the University of Tokyo in Japan, as well as the National University of Singapore. 

Looking forward, the initiative hopes to engage institutions in Thailand, Peru, Abu Dhabi, South Africa, and Canada.