We know that commercial contracting is the bedrock of commerce and facilitates the exchange of billions of dollars every day. It therefore makes perfect sense that we are seeing a convergence of law with computer science that is bringing the legal function closer to business operations.

What is smart contracting then? Most people will associate smart contacts with blockchain and NFTs. However smarter contracting techniques can use multiple different technologies and methodologies, and, contrary to popular belief do not need a blockchain network in order to work.

What is important with smarter contracting is to understand what methodologies are suitable for the contracts and related processes you wish to automate and the consequent value this unlocks.

Smarter contracting spans tactical solutions such as contract standardisation and the adoption of contract lifecycle management systems through to enabling transformational change such as the move toward smart contracts that convert the natural language contract to to code and computable contracts that are expressed only in code.

Particularly in transformational solutions, smart contracts remain a hot topic. Here, multi-disciplinary specialists teams are vital for the success of initiatives due to the unique specialist perspectives they bring. I have heard many tech start-ups refer to the prose of natural language contracts as the boiler plate with interest only in the performance schedules. This is not a sleight to the lawyers but a reflection that the different specialists are looking at different aspects of the problem to solve through a different lens.

Why a team is critical

  • Lawyers and business specialists often do not understand the code
  • Coders and business specialists often do not understand the contract
  • Lawyers and coders often do not have an expert knowledge of the business domain such as the the working practices and systems
  • Lawyers and coders are highly-trained, analytical problem-solvers but in different domains and therefore bring different perspectives not always expressed in the code or the contract
  • Lawyers, coders and business specialists do not share the same language and do not share the same view of time
  • A multi-disciplinary team that includes legal input alongside coding and business specialists is therefore vital to validate that the smart contract code reflects the intent of the parties.

If you are interested in this topic this webinar covers an introduction to smart contracts by Professor Christopher Clack, followed by a discussion on the relevance of artificial intelligence to smart contracts by Professor Peter McBurney. We then close with a fascinating panel discussion with industry leaders in the energy and financial services space talking about what they are seeing alongside expect perspectives on smart contracts and how the law responds and is changing.

There is a huge gap between programmers, lawyers and business specialists all of whom who speak different languages.

Each use the same words as terms of art. Three different words can have three different meaning to a lawyer, a programmers and a business operations specialist.


The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.