Legal Tech In Nigeria And Its Use Cases: Blockchain In Focus.



Introduction


The global Blockchain marketplace has grown over the past few years but that growth is only projected to increase rapidly in the next few years. According to a report posted by Markets and Markets in 2020, the global blockchain market is projected to grow from an estimate of 3 Billion dollars in 2020 to 39.7 billion dollars in 2025. That is a whopping estimated Compound Annual Growth Rate(CAGR) of 67.3%. One perspective would be the insane financial impact it could have on early investors and market shareholders, however, another perspective would be that with such a huge projected CAGR, blockchain technology must really be revolutionary. Well, only time can tell if it will have such an impact and growth, but it definitely looks very promising.


In this article, my goal is to explain what the concept of blockchain is and how the legal system in Nigeria can leverage its huge potential for growth and development.


What is Blockchain?



Blockchain is a digital ledger (a record) or a digital data structure that is connected by a digital chain and implemented without a central authority between members of a network. This technology enables the members of that network to record and synchronize data in a tamper-evident and tamper-resistant manner. In simple terms, blockchain is a digital system that is used to store information and links previously stored information to newly added blocks; these blocks are connected in a chain-like format. What makes blockchain hyper ledger fabric attractive is that it is decentralized, transparent, and tamper-resistant. A few experts have pointed out that blockchain is immutable however I would like to align myself with the words of Martha Bennett, VP and principal analyst at Forrester who said that "There is no such thing as complete immutability -- you'll always be able to change something, it's just a case of how difficult it is. But in the case of blockchain, it's very obvious when it happens, which is a deterrent"


How does blockchain work?


Blockchain uses an open-source peer-to-peer (p2p) network of computers to execute transactions as opposed to a central authority. To initiate a blockchain transaction, a member(Node) of the network requests a new transaction and creates a new block of data containing transaction records which are shared in an encrypted format across the entire network. The validity of this block is then determined by all participants of the network according to a predefined algorithm validation method (Consortium mechanism). After validation has occurred, all participants add the new block to their ledgers. Since all members of the network have a record of transactions, there is no central keeper of the information that can be hacked or attacked.


Creating Trust


The mechanism of blockchain creates Trust through the verification of identity, ownership, and verifying the true state of things. With the use of digital signatures, blockchain verifies and ensures trust with the digital identity of users in a network by issuing a pair of digital passcodes (a ‘private key’ which is similar to an account number and a ‘public key’ which is similar to a password). This helps with the proof of identity and authorization of transactions.


With ownership, in order to ascertain who owns what and avoid the issue of double-spend, blockchain uses a technology called cryptographic hashing. A cryptographic hash is a shorter version of a piece of data transformed after being run through a mathematics function. Let me explain hashing in really simple terms, when you create a password for a service, the service provider often does not store your password in their servers. What they do is that they have a function that creates a ‘hash’, a code that represents what you have imputed as a password. What this means is that anytime you input your password, all the system does is to ‘hash’ your password and see if it matches with the previously hashed value. This improves cyber security, such that if there is an attack on the database of the service/company, what they get is a hashed version of your password and not the actual password. Unlike encryption, hashing cannot be reversed. Back to Blockchain, each new block contains a hashed representation of the data in the previous block. So if you change a piece of data in a previous block, it affects other blocks. This helps network participants to verify the state of things anytime. This also makes it easy to detect fraudulent attempts to manipulate data, hence blockchain’s tamper-resistant attribute. In summary, blockchain offers a secure and synchronized record of transactions.


So how exactly can the disruptive elements of blockchain be applied to law and legal tech? Here are a few applicable ways:


Data protection


In addition to the fact that the tamper-proof nature of Blockchain catalyses compliance with some provisions of data protection laws, administrative systems enabled by blockchain ensure that data from national courts are easily accessible to lawyers and the general public, also that cost is reduced as algorithms can help automate repetitive administrative tasks.


Evidence protection


One thing that blockchain tech and evidence in courts have in common is integrity or the need thereof. The chain of custody of evidence is critical to the eventual outcome of the case, especially because, inevitably, evidence is logged in and out and transferred from one person to another. What this means is that there can be alterations without any form of notice. This invariably makes the work of the prosecution more difficult. it pays all parties if the evidence presented in court is as accurate as possible. Blockchain can ensure that evidence can be verified at any point in Trial to ensure that there has not been any alteration.


Easy Synchronization of Data


One of the most annoying parts any litigation lawyer in Nigeria will definitely have experienced but might not really notice as annoying is when lawyers of opposing sides and the honorable court try to determine the next adjourned date. Typically, you’d have different dates being called and different parties saying they don't agree with the said dates until they find a date all three parties agree with. Time wasting. What if the court had a record system synchronized with limited access with lawyers qualified to appear, such that the lawyer’s available dates are automatically cross-referenced with the dates of the court and available dates for all parties can easily be suggested with haggling like it is Eko market. Since, in its very nature, Blockchain is a recording system, what this means is that it also records when proceedings don't hold, why they won't hold, (e.g, counsel does not make it to court), and the option to get a date in real-time even if the court isn't sitting. It also means you can get a convenient early date that you deserve without having to smile extensively at the registrar. It’s the little things, really.




Certified true copy


In order to get a “Certified True Copy” as required by law from the registry in national courts, you not only have to be physically present there, but you’ll have to endure the ineffective means of verification used by the registry. You’ll have an attendant who has had a long day and who probably is looking forward to Launch break flip through the documents to make sure that there is no difference before stamping the copy as the certified true copy. I really do not need to do too much explanation to shed light on how much of a stone-age practice this is. A more effective approach would be to have a blockchain-enabled app scan copies and give the unique identification numbers for a fee to the registry. The unique ID will contain data about who made the copy when it was made and possibly even state the purpose. This data will go directly to the registry. What this means is that people can scan from anywhere, making Covid restrictions easier to comply with, a higher level of accuracy of certified true copies and there will be an assured level of accuracy.


Conclusion


Blockchain technology has a huge potential and the legal sector can take advantage of its benefits. Truth be told, Blockchain is not perfect yet, but no revolutionary tech starts out as perfect. There are other ways that Blockchain can impact the legal sector, if you can think of any, let us know below in the comments section.


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