the building block of future tech
‘There are a lot of ways that blockchain technology can make our lives better, and make things easier to do,” says Joel S. Telpner, partner at ZAG/Sullivan, the international law firm with offices in Tel Aviv, Boston, New York, Washington and London, as well as a practice in China. The firm is a powerhouse when it comes to advising hi-tech and life science start-ups doing business in Israel and the US, representing roughly a quarter of all Israeli companies being traded on NASDAQ today.
Telpner, a New York-based partner in the firm, recently visited Israel for Tel Aviv Blockchain Week in early September. Tel Aviv Blockchain Week is a collection of community, education and developer-focused events designed to encourage adaptation of blockchain technology in commerce and industry.
Telpner explains that blockchain technology is an extremely secure method of transmitting data using a cluster of computers. Unlike server-based systems, the data is decentralized and democratically shared across computers. Each time that information is added to the chain, the data mathematically connects to the prior piece in an exact fit, making it virtually impenetrable. Additionally, says Telpner, since the data resides on each computer, there are no issues with database compatibility and communication between different systems and databases. Because the data is shared and virtually immutable, the information in it can be open and visible to all.
Many of ZAG/Sullivan’s clients want to use blockchain technology to reinvent ways in which business is conducted, or to displace existing players. “Like many law firms in Israel,” says Telpner, “we have a large base of early stage technology clients, many of whom are looking at blockchain applications, as well as private equity firms and venture capital firms looking to invest in the space.”
Telpner points out that ZAG/Sullivan, as an international law firm, has a unique advantage in working with blockchain technology. “We are unique, with both deep blockchain experience and a global footprint,” he says. “When people were first developing blockchain, there was a naive vision that the technology was borderless, which is not the case. At ZAG/Sullivan, since we have a number of different locations, we bring a multi-jurisdictional view to the table, which is important. There are huge global law firms, but they don’t necessarily have the expertise in blockchain. Other smaller law firms don’t have the geographical footprint. We can help our clients in a much more global way.”
Telpner cites several examples as to how blockchain technology can be utilized effectively. “In the area of financial services, it is changing the way we trade financial assets, such as securities. Currently, when a trade is made, it takes several days until the trade is finalized and settled. With blockchain technology, we can simultaneously trade and settle a security, virtually instantaneously, eliminating middlemen and reducing the cost. Since it is a simultaneous trade and settlement, there is no confusion as to who owns it.”
Health care records – which, in the United States, are still paper-intensive – can be improved, explains Telpner, if data is shared using blockchain technology. “With blockchain, we can create medical records so you can be traveling anywhere in the world, and if you fall and break your leg in Kathmandu, you can go into a hospital and they will immediately know what medication you are taking. Those types of efficiencies are great.”
Telpner says that the difficulty that some have in understanding the intricacies of blockchain technology can be overcome. “We didn’t have to understand how the internet worked in order to use it.” He predicts that in the near future, many more examples of blockchain technology will emerge to create new ways of doing business and will create greater efficiencies in business. “These are Israeli strengths,” he says. “There are some revolutionary products that are created here, but a lot of it is looking at the ways we do business, throwing those old ways out the window and coming up with new ways. Many people are going to be using blockchain technologies to do that.
“There aren’t many firms that have a presence here in Israel,” says Telpner. “There are a number of client opportunities from Israeli initiatives and many non-Israeli companies are setting up here. ZAG/Sullivan can exploit this cross-border relationship in a way that no one else can. There is no other Israeli law firm that has this structure.”
This article was written in cooperation with ZAG/Sullivan Law Firm.
JOEL S. TELPNER.