Lawyers and Accounts Beware

When I first became involved in bitcoin and blockchain, I thought, aww man…the banks are done. Then, I remembered the first rule of contract law, as taught to me by the venerable Alan Swan: “the banks always win.”

My thoughts have evolved a great deal since 2014–15, and I am certain the banks and insurance companies will survive this particular evolution. In 5 years a financial institution will look vastly different than it did when btc was invented, but it will survive intact. Processes might be more efficient, less people needed to conduct the work of a bank, and less profit in certain previously very profitable areas…but, the bank will continue to exist more or less as they have done for centuries. Millions more of the unbanked, should soon be able to tie into financial services through some great projects. This will only create new revenue opportunities for the banks in the long run.

Lawyers and accountants on the other hand, well they are much more likely to experience what happened to the american blue collar worker post 2000: a complete devaluation of their skillset.

Blockchain will destroy the clerk, and those that do the work of a clerk.

Code over Clerks

Lawyers and accountants will still exist, but I think those that have not adapted to the new technology here will be relegated to the scrap heaps of the service industry. Many basic processes will become fully automated.

Litigation will take a new tangent for a while; there will be an explosion of securities cases, and we will have to figure out the legal validity of the smart contract. Then code will become the law. We will grow accustomed to that efficiency. Business loves reliability. Much as we have grown accustom to ordering food via screen instead of from a person.

Many different legal skills necessary for the world before blockchain will become passe. With 1.22 million attorneys currently working in the U.S., we could see 500,000–800,000 of them lose their jobs because of productivity and efficiency gains. New jobs will be created in the legal field, but much like advanced manufacturing, the people that used to have highly paid attorney positions will not have the skill set necessary to transfer to the new world. Worst yet, they will not have the skill set to learn what is needed for that world. I suspect we are on the precipice of a digital revolution in the legal industry.

Furthermore, if I am an audit accountant right now, I’m thinking about an entirely different career asap. When I read accounting literature, they describe creating an audit strategy that takes account of blockchain technology with regard to supply chain, transactions, etc. But, in reality, blockchain will eventually standardize organizational operations into data whereby it can be audited with a computer program. The vast amounts of paper and data gets standardized in tokenomics. Many accounting articles point to the auditor’s role as focusing on non-automated parts of the audit, which is correct, except the value of the audit and number of people needed to conduct an audit shrinks a great deal.

If you automate the supply chain transactions using distributed ledger or blockchain technologies, and then you begin to implement this in other ways across the organization. The number of areas that need human auditing shrink and shrink. This is bad news for the newly graduating public accountant, unless they begin to build the skills for tomorrow now.