Legal staff win tokens in law firm’s blockchain incentive scheme

Thorpe: Scheme to be extended to all staff next year

Solicitors, trainees and paralegals at City firm Taylor Wessing have started receiving crypto-tokens for efforts that “go beyond their day job” – partners can give tokens, but not receive them.

It is said to be the first blockchain-based law firm incentive scheme.

Partner Paul Thorpe said tokens could be redeemed for shopping vouchers but not cash, because otherwise they would be brought within the scope of electronic money or money laundering regulations and would require the firm to be regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority as a cryptocurrency exchange.

Mr Thorpe said more than 100 partners, solicitors, trainee solicitors and paralegals at the firm had already awarded or received “more than a handful” of tokens.

In a trial of the scheme that will last until the end of this year, lawyers in the firm’s corporate, IP and financial services teams are given the right to award a certain number of LAW tokens to others, according to their seniority in the firm.

Mr Thorpe said the three teams were chosen to trial the scheme because they had the most “touch points” with the blockchain and the firm’s crypto clients.

Instead of being managed manually through spreadsheets, the scheme is controlled using a smart contract to generate tokens. Lawyers log onto a portal, where they have permission to award a certain number of tokens and can receive them in a wallet. Tokens received can also be awarded to others.

Mr Thorpe said the tokens were for conduct which went “above and beyond” a lawyer’s normal day job, such as putting “a good number of hours” into a pro bono project, coming up with ideas to help the firm meet sustainability targets and “running with them”, or contributing “time and resources” to diversity and inclusion projects.

Lawyers involved in the scheme are the only ones who can give or receive tokens, to avoid the creation of a secondary market.

As well as shopping vouchers, tokens can be redeemed to make donations to nominated charities, including NHS Charities Together, St John’s Ambulance and The Honeypot Children’s Charity.

Mr Thorpe added that non-lawyers were not involved in the trial stage of the scheme but the aim next year was to include all staff.

The law firm said a group of lawyers led by blockchain specialist Miguel Dinis Lucas had created the incentive scheme, working closely with Gerard Frith, the law firm’s entrepreneur-in-residence.

Angus Miln, head of emerging companies and venture capital at Taylor Wessing, commented: “A very significant number of our clients in the tech space are developing distributed ledger applications and we are representing an increasing number of blockchain and crypto businesses, as well as investors in and acquirers of those businesses.

“We want our people to develop the skills necessary for us to continue to expand our practice in these areas.”

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