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  • Writer's pictureMichele Neitz

BL4SG Special Edition:  The Future is for Builders

Updated: Mar 21, 2023

How Can Conference Participants Build a Deeper Level of Knowledge About the Legal Issues In the Blockchain Industry?

This is the fifth post in a series of eight about the discussions, leadership and community created at the first inaugural Blockchain Law for Social Good Conference held on October 20-21, 2022.

A dynamic speaker, legal professional, and business leader, Olga Mack is the Vice President at LexisNexis and CEO of Parley Pro based in San Francisco.  She is also a member of the Center’s advisory board and is the host of two podcasts: “Notes To My Legal Self” and “Blockchain Value.” 

Ms. Mack was a keynote speaker at the Conference and spoke about how participants of the Blockchain Law for Social Good Conference could acquire a deeper level of knowledge behind the legal issues that are the blockchain industry. There is no question that Ms. Mack has had an incredible journey. She began her speech sharing her childhood experiences, which helped shape what she wanted to be in life. She emigrated to the United States at the age of 12 from Ukraine, straight into what she calls “Candyland,” the San Francisco Bay Area. She realized at that point that she wanted to have a career in technology, but did not want to be an engineer like her parents. Growing up in a place that didn’t have a democracy, Ms. Mack was able to articulate that she saw a gap between the rule of law and technology, and decided to go to law school to become a technology lawyer.

Being at the forefront of so many interesting technological issues like AI and blockchain has allowed Ms. Mack to hone her ability to understand what is needed for someone to succeed in the legal profession while at the forefront of new and emerging technology.

Her own life experiences have made her appreciate all the beginnings. Why? Because it’s a place where anyone can start. She mentioned that there are often barriers to entry because of age or experience in the technological world, but those who are interested in starting something from the beginning have an equal chance as anyone else to succeed and learn about a new technology.

The first piece of advice she had was to remember that the beginnings are awkward. In spaces where there are no laws or regulations set in place, it is awkward to have to tell your clients that you may not know exactly the right answer. After all, most laws or regulations for new technologies start off as educated guesses. She urges lawyers to embrace that awkwardness. Those educated guesses will eventually become better, and it will help you grow as a lawyer and a human.

The second piece of advice she gave was to contribute in the beginning. Regardless of whether someone has the skills needed to be a lawyer or a technologist, if a person works for a startup or a small business, they will need to do more than what their job description states, and that’s okay! There are several skills and experiences individuals can gain by being open and flexible to other opportunities that may arise.

Another piece of advice Ms. Mack offered was to expect that the beginning can be very long. She mentioned that just because you may not be interested in something now, doesn’t mean that you won’t be in 10 or 20 years. Everyday is a beginning and everyday is an opportunity to try something new. She urged us to embrace that ideology and to remember that your journey will be different than everyone else’s. There will be plenty of opportunities in the future to enter the field you are interested in.

One of the skills that Ms. Mack found helpful is to expect more mapping. What does this mean? It’s the process of following the data: where it comes from, where it is stored, and where it is going. After all, blockchain technology and crypto is based on data. She explained that it is important to know how the data works and where it goes to have a better understanding of the whole process.

Ms. Mack then focused on another skill that is important: understanding and expecting that the law/tech partnership is deeper than we expect it to be. Ms. Mack urged lawyers to understand that it is also a lawyer’s responsibility to learn and partner with technologists so that they can understand how complex the technology can really be. It is important to have these relationships with technologists to ensure that the conversations around the technology are not abstract, but practical and useful.

The third skill Ms. Mack detailed was to expect auditing or third-party reporting or certification requirements to increase. For reputable players to enter the space of blockchain technology, not only does the technology have to be easy to use, it has to be reliable. Ms. Mack explained that the disappearance and reappearance of data that is occurring on the blockchain right now is a cause for concern because it lowers the reliability of the technology. She believes that some certifications may help the technology be more reliable.

Ms. Mack also stated that we should expect a long period of uncertainty. It may be a very long time before guidance is available for lawyers to follow. During this period, Ms. Mack recommended working with people and peers in the field to come up with some of the answers to the questions that have arised.

The last skill that Ms. Mack mentioned was to expect that regulations will come. Regulations usually come after a long time and being patient is important. She also explained that discussing the questions you have with your peers can help you expect what the government may end up doing. Being knowledgeable in the field of your choice will give you the opportunity to participate in the process of creating regulations.

In the end, Ms. Mack stated that if you do not like the way the world works, you must roll up your sleeves and build a new one. Why? Because the future belongs to builders.

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