Introduction to Cryptocurrency and Bitcoin – Charles Kerrigan – S5E7

This week on the Legally Speaking Podcast, our host Robert Hanna welcomed Charles Kerrigan.

Charles is a partner at CMS and a specialist in digital assets, fintech, and importantly for today’s discussion, Cryptocurrency.

He is the author of multiple books including “The Financing of Intangible Assets: TMT Finance and Emerging Technologies” and “Growing with Blockchain”; and as a leading expert in blockchain and digital technology in the UK, has sat on advisory committees for parliament, the Bank of England and UNCITRAL among others.

In this episode, Charles discusses the following:

  • What does a cryptocurrency lawyer do and what are his/her roles?
  • The type of clients cryptocurrency lawyer works with
  • His thoughts about NFTs and its opportunity for the financial industry
  • Possibility of law firms operating on the meta verse in 2022 and beyond

Show Notes

Here are 3 reasons why you should listen to the full episode:

  1. Learn more about what a cryptocurrency lawyer does and what their role is.
  2. Hear about the type of clients cryptocurrency lawyers work with.
  3. The possibility of law firms operating in the Metaverse in 2022 and beyond.



Episode highlights:

Charles’ background:

  • Charles is from Doncaster.
  • He had a conventional route through school and university.
  • His 1st job was at Slaughter & May.
  • He worked there for 8 years.
  • Charles spent 1 year at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP, in New York.
  • He went on to join Olswang, margining into CMS.

What does a cryptocurrency lawyer do?:

  • The definition Charles gives is ‘we’re still trying to work that out’.
  • The market is very immature and going for a few years.
  • There has been an increase in the pace of adoption.
  • There are many different areas – NFT’s, decentralised finance, Metaverse, projects, blockchain gaming and Plato.
  • Charles says the best thing about crypto is the imagination of the people who work in crypto.
  • Crypto lawyers come from different disciplines.
  • Charles’ background is corporate finance in the technology sector.
  • There are financial regulatory lawyers who are involved in crypto, because there are issues the Bank of England and FCA are working through, regarding policy.
  • They are speaking to the government and leaders of the organisations – about how should cryptocurrency be regulated.
  • There is room for different types of lawyers.
  • This is how the legal community are looking at cryptocurrency issues.

What is blockchain?:

  • There are lots of analogies comparing blockchain and bitcoin to traditional assets in the financial markets.
  • This only helps to some extent, because trying to think about it or describe it by reference to traditional assets, you will go wrong and miss things.
  • Bitcoin is described by blockchain technology.
  • Blockchain is a family of technologies, doing a range of similar things.
  • Bitcoin is an example of those technologies.
  • Blockchain and Bitcoin together solved computer science cryptography problems.

How can you establish a value transfer system when not in a trusted environment?:

  • You can does this using a bank.
  • The bank sends money to your details.
  • The type of issues you can come across relate to identity, trust and secure messaging.
  • They both have a long history in the financial markets and computer science.
  • Bitcoin was able to provide a practical use case, solving a few problems in the area.
  • Bitcoin enable you and AI to transfer value to each other, without using a central intermediary.
  • The centralisation and decentralisation feature of Bitcoin, using blockchain, means transferring value without using a centralised intermediary – a bank or central bank.
  • Bitcoin provided an elegant piece of code.
  • Blockchain in simple terms is a database.
  • It is a secure database which cannot be re-written, because nobody controls the data base. It is distributed across a range of computers.
  • The benefit is effectively transferring value in a trust-less environment.

Blockchain and the law:

  • Andrew Bailey, governor of the Bank of England and Jon Cunliffe, 1 of the deputy governors make negative statements about bitcoin.
  • They are concerned about its ability to facilitate financial crime.
  • There are regulatory issues arising.
  • The financial regulation in the UK has a regulatory perimeter. Activities and assets within the perimeter are subject to regulation by the FCA.
  • Bitcoin regulation is outside the perimeter because it does not have the same characteristics of regulated instruments.
  • Classic examples of regulated investments would be debt and equity.
  • Equity is an instrument issued by a company, representing some claim on the company.
  • A bitcoin is a piece of software, not issue by anyone, anything, bank, central bank or company.
  • Bitcoin is not redeemable. You cannot buy a bitcoin, cash it and sell it.
  • You can access the value in the market.
  • Bitcoin is not like equity, where a company wound up a distribution back to the shareholders.
  • Another example is where Bitcoin was stolen and the police had sophisticated tools for looking at the perspective transactions on the dark web.
  • The general view is 0.5% of Bitcoin touches financial crime.
  • The Theft Acts in the UK work by reference to criminalising appropriation of property.
  • English law has a long-standing definition of property. It categorises property using the split between tangible and intangible property.
  • Tangible property is like real estate, it is a physical asset.
  • Bitcoin is intangible property.
  • There are 2 kinds of intangible property under English law.
  • One is intellectual property, established by intellectual property statutes.
  • The Copyright Act tells you what copyright is.
  • The other category of intangible property are contracts.
  • Contractual obligations between parties include receivables – so money owed to people and bank accounts.
  • Bitcoin does not fit in this category because there are no contracts or counterparties.
  • In November 2019, there was a legal statement made public, by Sir Geoffrey Vos.
  • This issue was solved by quick thinking judges, academics and practitioners, including Charles.
  • They put together a paper, enabling the judges to say Bitcoin will be recognised as property should be recognised as property under English law.
  • There are implications and the Law Commission have consultations running about smart contracts and digital assets.

How can aspiring lawyers interested in cryptocurrency get themselves prepared?:

  • People who get into cryptocurrency have got a personal interest or interest in technology.
  • They have spent time understanding and trading crypto.
  • You need to have an interest in it.
  • If you are curious, do some reading.
  • It is a very large and fast-growing area of work for lawyers, more people are needed to work on it.
  • It is difficult to work out where to start.
  • Charles refers people to online resource or podcasts.
  • The market is dynamic and innovative.
  • The trends build up, develop, then split into different directions.
  • The market expects you to bring something – see what is new, respond to what is new, and people in the community.
  • There is a mismatch between demand for legal services and supply of those services.
  • Charles recommends this is a good time to be looking at getting into crypto as a lawyer.

The definition of NFTs and Charles’ thoughts on NFTs:

  • NFTs is a digital collectible.
  • It is a unique representation of an online asset.
  • There are 2 ways of NFTs being loaded onto a blockchain.
  • You can either load something, effectively like a title certificate to the NFT or load the NFT itself.
  • If you load the itself, the item is stored and traded on blockchain.
  • Putting something onto blockchain is computationally expensive.
  • Charles explains we are in a bubble because trading NFTs is done between people who are serious, in the crypto community.
  • There may be publicising projects, they may be trading between them, there may be spending either they have mined and have not cost them anything.
  • The higher priced NFTs are being bought, traded by people who are deep in the space and have been for a long time.
  • Do not spend money you cannot afford to lose.
  • Do your own research.
  • Do not send anything of value to someone you do not know or without verifying the address.
  • The rules are the same as any other asset class, in the real world.
  • It is an area where you need to be careful because there is always a lot going on behind the scenes.

The work Charles does on advisory boards:

  • Charles works with policy-makers.
  • They focus on implications for traditional finance.
  • They have to consider the political perspective.
  • Crypto assets are an extension of digital money.
  • Talking about money these days, physical cash has a reducing life in society. There are big questions whether it should be replaced entirely.
  • The history of digital money is bound up with social and digital inclusion.
  • An example is M-Pesa in Kenya, with telephone credits on the Vodafone projects. The telephone credits are used as a banking system.
  • People who were unbanked can use telephone credits and using a mobile phone to transfer values to each other.
  • The ability to store funds from some harvest to another is of significance, if a harvest fails and you are not in a certain situation where you have been able to store value.
  • Bitcoin and other crypto assets are well used worldwide, not just in developed economies.
  • The Bitcoin protocol was 1st released in 2008, at the beginning of 2009. It was a response to the financial crisis.
  • This was a piece of technological innovation giving people an opportunity to hold and transfer value outside the financial markets.

Law firms and the Metaverse:

  • The Metaverse has a vision to move seamlessly between rooms, buildings or lands.
  • You can take your digital assets with you.
  • There are lots of legal issues to work through, conceptually and practically.
  • The Metaverse in the UK follows the domestic system of English law.
  • The Metaverse in each jurisdiction will be subject to local rules.
  • When a problem is identified, there are people building and developing solutions.
  • From a lawyer’s perspective there is something called ‘self-sovereign identity’. This demonstrates who you are.
  • A self-sovereign identity is enabling users in these digital worlds to hold onto your identity.
  • You can only release parts of it, when relevant to a transaction you are entering.

5 powerful quotes from this episode:

  1. “… whenever a problem is identified or thrown up in the community, there are people building and developing solutions to address that”.
  2. “It’s still a good time to be looking at getting into crypto as a lawyer”.
  3. “I think the main thing that you need is just to have an interest in it. If you are curious, do some reading”.
  4. “Don’t spend money you can’t afford to lose, do your own research”.
  5. NFTs – “it’s an area where you need to be careful because there’s always a lot going on behind the scenes”.

If you wish to connect with Charles, you may reach out to him on LinkedIn.


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00:00 Rob Hanna:

Welcome to the Legally Speaking Podcast. I’m your host Rob Hanna. This week I’m delighted to be joined by Charles Kerrigan, a partner at CMS and a specialist in digital assets FinTech and importantly for today’s discussion, crypto currency. He is the author of multiple books, including the financing of intangible assets, TMT finance and emerging technologies and growing with Blockchain, and as a leading expert in blockchain and digital technology in the UK, has sat on the advisory committees for the Parliament, the Bank of England, amongst many, many others. So a very, very warm welcome Charles.

00:46 Charles Kerrigan:

Thanks, Rob. Good to be here.

00:49 Rob Hanna:

My absolute pleasure really delighted to have you on the show. And before we dive into all your amazing projects and experiences to date, we do have a customary opening question on the legally speaking podcast, which is on a scale of one to 1010 being very real. What would you rate the hit TV series suits in terms of reality?

01:11 Charles Kerrigan:

Who it provided there are no supplementary questions, I’ll give it an EIGHT.

01:19 Rob Hanna:

Okay, I promised to stand by your your eight then and we will move swiftly on. So let’s start at the beginning. Charlie, tell us a bit about your family background and upbringing.

01:30 Charles Kerrigan:

Oh, well, I’m from Doncaster. So that that will be less apparent in my accent now than it was 25 years ago when I came to London. And what can I say about my upbringing, so I had a fairly conventional route through schools, and university. I didn’t have any incredible achievements in my life before I became a lawyer, obviously making up for it now. So I haven’t been an Olympic skydiver, between school and university. I haven’t split the atom in a gap year or done any of the things that people these days seem to be required to do. So I left university went to law school and arrived at slaughter May was my first job. I worked at Slaughter and May for about eight years with a short stint for a year or so at Simpson Thacher in New York, which was one of the relationship firms and then left to join Olswang, which was very culturally different. And that was appealing to me and got merged into CMS with everybody else from Olswang and Navarro, about five years ago now.

02:45 Rob Hanna:

Yeah, and again, you’ve been highly successful ever since you, you joined the firm as you have right the way through your career despite not splitting the atom in your formative years. So I guess, Charlie, we have a big overarching question to start with that I’m sure all our listeners are keen to know the answer to So very simply, what does a cryptocurrency lawyer actually do?

03:05 Charles Kerrigan:

We’re still trying to work that out. And that is probably the best definition, description of my job these days trying to establish what a crypto lawyer does. The market is very immature, we’ve been going for a few years now. Bitcoins, obviously past its 10th anniversary. And there’s been a real increase in the pace of adoption, probably the last three or so years. And then we go off in all different directions through NFT’s, decentralized finance, Metaverse, projects, Blockchain gaming and Plato. And so the the best thing about crypto is the imagination of the people who work in crypto. And there isn’t a book, although I think a few of us are being approached to see if we can help write one, it will be well out of date, before we’ve even close to finished. So that’s one of the big questions about what sort of books should it be or could it be people who do this type of work? One of the interesting things is they come from different disciplines. So law firms are split in a fairly traditional way by the type of lawyers, so you have a corporate department with corporate lawyers who do m&a and jayvees and similar and you’ve got a banking department with lawyers that do variations on that funding transactions, IP departments, real estate departments and so on. Now, the interesting thing about crypto is nobody who built crypto stopped to say which department would this best fit into? If we were building it for a law firm? lawyers were the probably the last people that they thought about. Back when the cryptographers and computer scientists were coming up with a Bitcoin software protocol in 2008. So, crypto lawyers, and there are a few of us in London come at it from different disciplines. My background is corporate finance, mainly corporate finance in the technology sector. And fintech. So probably obvious from that, how I sort of stumbled into it, but others, a corporate lawyers, and crypto has worked for corporate lawyers who are interested because there are corporate transactions, there are now m&a transactions since the industry has reached that sort of level of maturity. They need equity fundraising, then he corporate structures. There are financial regulatory lawyers who are involved in crypto because we’ve got this issue that the Bank of England and the FCA are working through the policy on at the moment, and they were speaking to the government, the leaders of those organizations, in the last couple of weeks, putting out there the difficult policy questions of how should this be regulated? How should it be approached? So we’ve got regulatory lawyers, who are part of the group in the UK looking at this, and we’ve got technology lawyers, because the genesis of these things is that they are technology, they’re essentially software, that’s the kind of curious thing to get your head around bitcoin is not only not a bank, it’s not a company. It’s not anything apart from a piece of software. So there’s room for lots of types of lawyers. And that’s how the legal community looking at these issues is made up.

06:58 Rob Hanna:

I love I love all of that definition. So for the fact that you’re still figuring it out, I still think that was pretty, pretty complicated and useful. So I really appreciate that. And I guess for those that are perhaps quite confused by blockchain, could you define it as best as possible?

07:15 Charles Kerrigan:

Yeah, so probably by reference to some of the problems that it solves. And maybe I would say, if anyone is confused by blockchain, don’t let that put you off. I I’m still somewhat confused by blockchain. And I was very confused by it. When I started getting interested in it 2013 1415, what I found was, I could understand explanations that I was given in the sense that I knew what the words meant. And I could repeat them to somebody else who asked me, but I didn’t have an understanding, psychologically, it, it didn’t make sense to me. And the way that I overcame that was by keeping goings, so I kept reading about it. And I kept asking people who had expertise about it, and each explanation that I read, or that I heard, just helped me a little bit further towards an understanding. And then I think for everyone, there’s kind of a tipping point where your mind stops fighting it. So you stop thinking, does this make sense to me? And is it like something that I know about already, you just start accepting it for what it is? So there are lots of analogies, analogies, comparing blockchain Bitcoin to traditional assets in the financial markets, and I think they only help to some extent, because if you’re trying to think about it or describe it by reference to traditional assets, you probably go a bit wrong and be missing things. So with that big caveat, I’d say bitcoin is described by blockchain technology. So what’s the difference between Bitcoin and blockchain to begin with? Blockchain is a family of technologies that do a range of broadly similar things that I’ll come back to in a second. And bitcoin is an example of those technologies. It’s the best known example. And blockchain and Bitcoin together, solved a few well rehearsed computer science, cryptography problems. I’ll bring this back into the real world in a second because this sounds like we’re about to go down to a deep hole.

09:43 Rob Hanna:

The original Bitcoin protocol was particularly interested in the question of how can you establish a value transfer system where you are not in a trusted environment? So what does that mean? If you and I want to transfer for funds to each other, we by and large do that using a bank. So I tell my bank to send money to your details and it goes there. Bitcoin look to the problem of is it possible to do that without a bank? So can you do it peer to peer, as the original Bitcoin white paper described and a white paper for non technologists is a short description of a new technology project. So the type of issues that you come across in trying to do this generally relate to identity and trust, and secure messaging. And each of them have a fairly long history in both the financial markets and in computer science, what Bitcoin was able to do was provide a practical use case, that solved a few outstanding problems in this area, and enabled you and AI to transfer value to each other without using a central intermediary. So when we talk about centralization and decentralization, that feature of Bitcoin using a blockchain means that we’re able to transfer value without using a centralized intermediary, ie a bank or a central bank, or similar. So that was really the short description of the breakthrough. The Bitcoin provided, it didn’t do much else, it is a very elegant piece of code. And over the years, lots of people have tried to hack it and crack it the NSA, the CIA, FBI, sometimes accused of being the builders of it, but more generally thought to be people who have a great interest in what goes on, on the Bitcoin Blockchain. And a blockchain in very simple terms is just a database. It’s a secure database, which can’t be rewritten, because nobody controls the database, it is distributed across a range of computers. So if you have, if you download the Bitcoin protocol, and you run the Bitcoin protocol on your system, you are effectively in the position of a bank, in the analogy that I described, you are part of the community of computers that holds the database saying, who owns what Bitcoin, and you register, across the whole database, each transaction each transfer. Now, this is quite fiddly, and can be involved. But the benefit is a really substantial benefit of effectively transferring value in a trustless environment. And that takes us on to lots and lots of other topics that we can jump to as we go through the conversation. And perhaps there’s some further further reading and further research for people to do afterwards.

13:03 Rob Hanna:

Yeah, and I guess that segues quite nicely. And thank you again, for such a detailed overview and kind of simplifying what is quite a complicated area, that’s for sure. So you know, what questions does blockchain ask of the law? And how does it push the boundaries of the law as it currently is?

13:23 Charles Kerrigan:

Oh, it has some policy questions that I think are well rehearsed. In other words, you can, you don’t have to look very hard to find. Andrew Bailey, the governor of the Bank of England, and John Cunliffe, one of the deputy governors making pretty negative statements about Bitcoin and what they’re concerned about is its ability to facilitate financial crime. So you’ve got regulatory issues arising there. Now, you may ask the question, Well, why don’t they do something about it? The short answer is they would tell you is it’s not their job. Say that seems a bit strange. Why is it not the job of the man who runs the FCA? Sorry, runs the Bank of England to to manage this problem? Well, the reason is, the financial regulation in the UK and elsewhere, has what’s known as a regulatory perimeter. And activities and assets that sit within the perimeter are subject to regulation by the FCA and activities and assets that sit outside the perimeter are not subject to that supervision. might be surprising to hear that Bitcoin sits outside the perimeter. So why is that? Well, in very simple terms, it doesn’t have the same characteristics of the type of regulated instruments that sit inside the perimeter. What do we mean by that? So, the classic examples of regulated investments would be debt and equity, we take a step back and say what is equity. So it is a, an instrument issued by a company, which represents some claim on the company. A Bitcoin is a piece of software, it is not issued by anyone, or anything is not issued by a bank or central bank or a company, it just is. And this is part of what I was describing before is kind of hard to get your head around at the beginning. And second, is certainly not redeemable. You can’t if you buy a Bitcoin, you can’t cash it in, you can sell it. So you can access your value in the market, but you can’t redeem it. So it’s not like a loan, which pays back at the end of the term. And it’s not like equity, where if the company’s wound up as a distribution back to the shareholders. So Bitcoin doesn’t satisfy the characteristics of regulated investments. So that’s, that’s one. And I’ll do very quickly, even more fundamental questions arise. So we had, like all these things, examples, probably three or four years ago, now where Bitcoin was stolen, and the police who are pretty good at this, they have very sophisticated tools for looking at, from their perspective transactions on the dark web is what they’re interested in. But bitcoin is to some extent used to facilitate these transactions. I’ll stop here to say I don’t want to give Bitcoin a bad name. So the general view is that about 0.5% of Bitcoin touches financial crime at a much lower figure than financial crime in the wider economy. You can look up the statistics for how money is laundered through the the general economy and not through the crypto economy. So quick segue there because I’m about to talk again about financial crime. So when Bitcoin got stolen, because it turned out to have value a few years ago, the police did their job, the CPS did their job. And we had cases that were coming before UK courts. Now, the theft acts in the UK, work by reference to criminalizing appropriation of property. So nobody really thinks about that very much. It’s obvious what theft is, without looking at the theft acts until you start bringing cases relating to theft of Bitcoin, because we in the community start scratching our heads and saying, We’ve never really established if bitcoin and crypto currencies, other crypto assets are property under English law? Well, the answer is, surely they are because they have this characteristic that they can be owned and sold. And that makes them look like property because they’ve got value. So what else can they be? Well, English law has very long standing definitions of property. And it categorizes property, using a fairly obvious split between tangible property and intangible properties. So tangible property is like real estate, you can go and stand on it, or it’s like machines, you can go and pick them up. So Bitcoins, obviously not that. So must be intangible property rights. Well, there are two kinds of intangible property under English law. One is intellectual property. And the types of intellectual property are established by the intellectual property statutes. So the Copyright Act tells you what is copyright? Well, we definitely don’t have a Bitcoin act, so it’s not IP. Then the only other category that we’ve got of intangible property, or we or we did have, I should say, at this time, is effectively contracts. So contractual obligations between parties, and that includes things like receivables, so money owed to people and bank accounts and things like that. So Bitcoin looks a bit like that. Apart from it isn’t because there’s no contract, and there are no counterparties. So we’re left scratching our heads and looking at these cases heading towards the courts thinking we’re about to be really embarrassed here. So in November 2019, there was a legal statement public By sponsored by a man called Sir Geoffrey vos, who is the boss of the judges, that’s not his technical term. But I’m not a litigator. So I don’t know what his honorific title is Lord Chancellor or something like that. So this issue was solved by the quick thinking and quick work of a group of interested judges and academics and practitioners, including me who helped put together a paper that enabled the judges to say, Bitcoin will be recognized as property should be recognized as property under English law. We’re still working through the implications of that the Law Commission have got a couple of consultations running that are definitely worth a look at. One on smart contracts and one on digital assets. They run in parallel, quite closely related. They’ve had really smart and sophisticated engagements. And that’s now been published on the smart contracts one in the last week or so. So, I mean, you asked me a very short question some time ago, saying, what, what does this throw up? And my goodness? So that’s the sort of where do I start? And I could go on, but I think we’ve only got a couple more hours. Is that right?

21:20 Rob Hanna:

Yeah, absolutely, Charlie, no, thank you. Because you know, this is a emerging area where we want to educate. So I really appreciate you going into some levels of details for our listeners. And I guess for you, the legal community, those looking to get into this area of law, it’s the now and the future, how can potentially aspiring lawyers, current people looking to diversify practice, get themselves prepared for this.

21:46 Charles Kerrigan:

Most people who do it have come to it because they’ve got a personal interest in it either their interest in the technology, or they’ve bought some crypto or downloaded an app, or some are really sophisticated. And haven’t got legal background in it, but have spent time understanding and trading crypto over the last few years. So I think the main thing that you need is just to have an interest in it. If you are curious and do some reading. That’s the main thing that that will get you there. As I say, you can come at it from lots of different angles. And it’s certainly the case that this is a very fast growing legal markets I’ve assumed until probably three years ago, that this would be a side desk project that I really was interested in. But it wouldn’t replace my day job, which is sort of funding FinTech businesses and funding technology businesses and working out how to get capital into IP rich businesses and businesses with intangible assets. Well, I was I was wrong about that. It is a a very large and fast growing area of work for lawyers, we need more people who can work on it. It is a bit difficult to work out where to start. So I’m often asked this and generally, I refer people to online resources are loads of podcasts. Lots of great material. And it’s a commitment. I say that. So this changes every day. The market is extremely dynamic and innovative. And as I sort of rattled off, so NFT projects, I think I’d been involved in Xero in February this year. First one came to me in March, and I’ve worked on more than 30. Now. So that’s the kind of speed that things go and NF T’s are now moving into those metaverse. projects that are becoming more public. And also blockchain gaming play to earners is a big trend in that. So the trends sort of build up and develop and split into different directions. So if you’re going to be involved in it, there’s a sort of reasonable commitment of discretionary time around trying to keep up with it. One thing that I think I’ve learnt a client see as important is that they the crypto community is definitely a community. They like people who are interested in this stuff. It’s not even across the UK, it’s not 1000s and 1000s of people. So in a again in this kind of odd way. It’s possible to know a lot of the people who are at the cutting edge building this technology, you can go to dinner and you’re sitting next to the founders of some of the biggest crypto firms in the market. It’s a bit like being a banking lawyer and having dinner with Mr. JP Morgan and Mr. Barclays whenever that was in history that would have been so it’s an amazing, there’s amazing access to the market. But the market kind of expects that you’re bringing something as well, you’re you’re you’re reading about it, you’re thinking about it, you’re seeing what’s new, you’re responding to what’s new, and helping people in the community. It’s a really helpful and engaged community, great, great people to work with. So self starters are definitely welcome. There’s room for everybody. And I say, we certainly have still kind of mismatch between demand for legal services and supply of those services. So now it’s still a good time to be looking at getting into crypto as a lawyer.

26:04 Rob Hanna:

Absolutely. And you definitely have not missed the boat and you touched on NF T’s. So let’s jump to that. What are your thoughts on an NF T’s generally? Are we living in a bubble? Or do you think they will hold value? I mean, there’s vast NF t’s going for some horrendously high figures and some currently for those that are in the market and perhaps those not familiar with an NF t you know, how would you define one?

26:29 Charles Kerrigan:

Yeah, so an NFT is a digital digital collectible. It is a a unique representation of an online asset. So the classic NFT’s are quite corny looking pictures. There’s a reason that they don’t look that impressive at the early stage. So, that NF T’s are there are two ways of of NF T’s being loaded onto a blockchain you can either load something that is effectively like a title certificate to the NFT. Or you can load the NFT itself. If you load the NFT itself, then that item is stored and traded on the blockchain generally the Ethereum blockchain but all of the other blockchain protocols have been furiously building and NFT. Support projects out there. So to put something onto the blockchain is computationally expensive. And that’s the reason why some of the early ones, you see a quite low resolution, simple pictures. So it’s not a coincidence that they didn’t look very exciting to begin with. But like everything in crypto, there’s a technical problem that they get solved by the next project that comes whatever you’re looking at, and thinking, Oh, this is great. But if only it had a, b and c, it would be even better. There will be someone building a version of it with a b and c as features. And so it goes on. So NFT is it’s the digital version of having sticker albums. And yet for sure we’re in a bubble. There are a number of different reasons for that. So a lot of the trading of NF T’s is done between people who are quite serious people in the crypto community. So there, they may be publicizing projects, they may be trading between them, they may be spending ether that they’ve mined and therefore hasn’t cost them anything. So it’s a bit different to you know, something goes for $10,000 wouldn’t be the same as your I transferring $10,000 from our bank, sending it to digital wallet, and then using the funds in that wallet to purchase and NFT off the blockchain Generally, the higher priced NF T’s are being bought and traded by people who are deep in the space and have been for a long time and have got liquidity and other crypto assets that they’re trading for NF T’s there’s a world of marketing that sits around these so they’re kind of often tentpole items for a particular project or to bring activity to a new protocol or a new variation on a way of doing things. So it’s, yeah, it’s definitely a bubble. And most of them won’t retain their value but we’re at at the moment in that sort of scramble for market share in an attention economy. Say lots of crypto can be explained by all of the textbooks around Psychology and why people think in certain ways, cognitive biases and things like that crypto both exploits and is subject to all of those things, which is why it’s such an interesting area to work in. So yeah, be like anything in crypto if people are looking to join it. Don’t spend money you can’t afford to lose, do your own research, don’t send any thing of value to someone that you don’t know, or without verifying the address, the rules are exactly the same as in any other asset class or in the real world. It’s possible to be influenced by fear of missing out or this view that lots of things have shot up in value. Everyone’s got a friend who’s made terrific amounts of money. It is an area where it’s possible to be smart, it’s possible to be lucky. But but it’s an area where you need to be careful because there’s always a lot going on behind the scenes. So research research research.

31:16 Rob Hanna:

Yeah, really sage advice and really appreciate that Charlie, because you know, a lot of people will be listening to this thinking, you know, I need to get onto it need to get onto it, the fear of missing out but absolutely research, do your do your due diligence, and you’ve definitely made your mark in this area of law, that’s for sure. You’ve been listed as a key influencer for cryptocurrency, you know, the blockchain industry in the UK landscape overview in 2021. You mentioned that I mentioned in my introduction or a number advisory boards, including the parliamentary boards for artificial intelligence and blockchain. So could you just tell us a bit more about this work you do on these particular boards?

31:52 Charles Kerrigan:

Yeah, well, I think that the policymakers are with us and just trying to work out what’s going on and what we should do about it, maybe two things to pick out because they may not be obvious. So one is implications for traditional finance, there is some possibility that all of this kind of fluffy, hoopla, maybe sowing the seeds for a new type of financial market that will to some extent, displace the traditional financial markets. Now, no one knows. But everybody is now at least prepared for that possibility. So we’ve got a really urgent question from a financial markets policy perspective of Could this really changed everything that we’ve understood about the banking industry, for some time, it won’t change it overnight. And there’ll be all kinds of things that we can’t predict that happen before any really material change comes through. But that’s one of the big questions. And then the second from politicians perspective. Crypto assets are, to some extent, an extension of digital money. So digital money has been around for about 20 years, I first got involved in it in the early 2000s. And it’s got some history before that. So when we talk about money these days, physical cash has a reducing life in society, big questions about whether it should be replaced entirely. And I think most policymakers think not. But the history of digital money is very closely bound up with social inclusion and digital inclusion. So some of the best known projects there’s one called M PESA. In Kenya, which is effectively telephone credits on the it was a Vodafone project initially. So, so telephone credits are used as a kind of banking system. In other words, people who were unbanked can use telephone credits and use a mobile phone to be able to transfer value to each other. That seems kind of trivial, but it’s actually extremely important if you live in a subsistence economy. The ability to store some funds from one harvest to another may be the kind of existential significance to you if if a harvest fails, and you’re not in a certain in a situation where you’ve been able to store value. So there’s always been a very, very strong theme around these things. It seems like a lot of boffins just ignoring the real world and running around doing fun projects with each other. But social inclusion digital inclusion, financial inclusion supporting the unbanked is a there lots and lots of streams flowing through crypto. And that is one of the one of the key streams, anybody who works in crypto will know about this have a view on it be often supporting this kind of social inclusion because that’s one of the things that the crypto can bring, it can reduce the cost of accessing funds. And again, just sort of going back, I’ve talked a lot, a lot about crypto assets and thickly Bitcoin, which is only scratching the surface. But one of the values of Bitcoin is not so apparent to people in something like the UK, the developed economy. And if you live in an economy where there’s very high inflation, or funds in a bank can be expropriated by governments. Or it can be the banking industry is fragile, then your view of fiat currency. So in our jargon, we talk about anything that’s not crypto is fiat currencies, so sterling dollars, and all the other world currencies, say we have a view of fiat currency in the UK, US Europe as being a sort of stable, accessible, government supported, trustworthy thing. And that’s just because of where we live. It’s not the case everywhere. And that is part of what was a great breakthrough around Bitcoin. And it’s why Bitcoin or other crypto assets are so well used worldwide, not not just in the developed economies. And also, there are political aspects to it. So I can’t mention that without saying that there was at the beginnings of Bitcoin, a sort of strong libertarian view to it. So it’s not a coincidence that the Bitcoin protocol was first released in 2008, beginning 2009. Because it was a response to the financial crisis, where there was a perception by some of the libertarian folks that were around Bitcoin in its very early days, that the banking community hadn’t behaved in a fair way. And so this was a piece of technological innovation that gave people who wanted to an opportunity to hold and, and transfer value outside the financial markets. So as I say, lots and lots of streams in crypto and people choose different ones or sort of float across different ones at different times.

38:00 Rob Hanna:

Yeah, and thank you again, for for sort of sharing that and giving us such a comprehensive overview. Charlie, we’ve gone through a lot in your vote. It sounds like we’ve gone through a lot, but I know we’ve also only scratched the surface. And, you know, we’d love to kind of go a lot deeper, and we’re gonna have to do some follow up episodes on this and we’re Legally Speaking Podcast for sure. Because we’ve touched on crypto, we’ve touched on blockchain. We’ve touched on NF T’s and and before we wrap up, I want to just talk a little bit more about the metaverse because, you know, I think that’s something people are trying to educate themselves on. But linking it to to law. So you know, will we see more law firms operating in the metaverse over the course of 2022 and beyond?

38:40 Charles Kerrigan:

Yeah, there’s a lot of work coming through for sure. Because for the projects, so for our purposes, we probably talk about the metaverse being an immersive digital worlds, so to take as a starting point. Currently, when you’re on the internet, you go from one company’s website to another company’s website. So what the metaverse has as a vision is the ability to move seamlessly between these things as if they were rooms or buildings or lands or things like that. So you can take your digital assets, which may be digital sneakers that you’ve you’ve paid and move from one place to another. I’m really interested in museum and cultural projects in the metaverse. I’ve been involved in those for a while and they are my kind of touchstone for really cool use cases. It raises, I keep saying we’ve got lots of legal issues that we’re still trying to work through both conceptually and practically. And sometimes we’re further ahead on one side than the other. One of the things that the metaverse throws up very clearly is legal systems are jurisdiction based so we have a domestic system in The UK of English law and regulation the metaverse is not. Well, the meta Metaverse in each jurisdiction will be subject to local rules. But it is a transnational project. So lots of difficult questions arise through that. Lots of obvious questions around information security, personal data and sharing of that. But likewise, as I say, whenever a problem is identified or thrown up in the community, there are people building and developing solutions to to address that. So one of the most interesting thing from a lawyer’s perspective is something called self sovereign identity. So how do I demonstrate to you that I am, who I am? Well, I would generally give you some government approved documents, I changed my passport or driving license. And self sovereign identity is enabling us as users of these digital worlds, to hold our own identity. And if we use as an example, maybe in the sort of real world, if I have to prove that I can go to a pub, and order a drink, I could do that using my passport. Now, I’ve given more information than I need to what the pub landlord needs to know is that I meet the criteria legally for ordering a drink, I, I am 18 years old. What I’m showing them by proving my identity is my name, and my birthday and the town, I was born lots more information on my passport, then what they need to know. So self sovereign identity, works on that as a problem and says you can hold your identity yourself and you can release only those parts of it that are relevant to a particular transaction that you’re entering into. And this is all complicated, but it will be supported by one of the things that we haven’t talked about today is artificial intelligence. So there’s technologies that help us develop effectively, automation in a practically useful way, that would be my description of what AI is, and what it does in the real world. And so AI is going to be running, everyone’s going to have their own AI on their devices. And it’s going to be running in the background, managing things like self sovereign identity. So we’re, as lawyers, we’re not quite at the leading edge of it. But we’re trying to support the industry and think through all these things, and most

in my experience, and it’s probably self selecting, because why would you come to a lawyer, if you didn’t care about these issues, you just get on with it and not take legal advice. So I’m aware that there’s a sort of a bias in what I’m describing. But we generally deal with reputable people who are aware of the risks and trade offs associated and all of these projects. And they do want to work through what the questions are, how risk can be managed, how policy questions can be managed, also very aware of the fact that regulation can change quickly. So you may be compliant one day, and and governments or policy makers decide that this is something where there are potential harms that haven’t been identified, and the rules change on you. Quickly. So there, I think there’s a lot in the news at the moment about the difficulty of regulation, keeping up with technology in lots of areas. And that’s a truism. So regulation always trails technology. But it becomes a harder and harder question for for the people that I work with and doing my job because a technology is accelerating. And regulation still works through the same processes of proposals, consultations, reworking the proposals back to another consultation going through a legislative process. So these are really hard, conceptual questions that I think we’re not going to find easy answers to, we’re just going to have to keep wrestling our way through with support from people joining the community. Yeah, and

44:35 Rob Hanna:

thanks so much for sharing that and you know, we could talk for hours on that. And I’m super passionate about the metaverse and been dabbling with decentraland and sandbox and various others that are you know, out there megawatt etc. But Charlie, we have to sort of pause there. So I just want to say thank you so much. It’s been an absolute pleasure having you on the show and if people want to follow or get in touch about anything We’ve discussed today, what’s the best way for them to contact you feel free to shout out any social media handles or website links? And we’ll also share them with this episode for you too.

45:09 Charles Kerrigan:

Yeah. A bit slow on social media. Having said all all of that for the last while. I am still very email based, although all of the clients talk to me constantly through different channels. So I thought I’d mastered all of the teams and WhatsApps and signals and telegrams and now they’ve all gone on to discord. So people can email me. I said we’d been merged into a slightly awkward email address Charles Kerrigan at CMS hyphen C M. N Or I’m on LinkedIn, as well. And always happy to talk to people. There’s definitely an opportunity here for lawyers and lots and lots of people have helped me through my career and still do so. I’m happy to help people with questions or advice. Awesome.

46:01 Rob Hanna:

Thank you so much. Once again, Charlie. I’ve really enjoyed learning a lot lot more about undoubtedly what is the now and in the future. So it’s been a real pleasure having you on wishing you lots of continued success for the future, but from all of us on the Legally Speaking Podcast over and out. 

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