Lawyers' demand in Digital Assets is on the uptick

CL News Team
July 27, 2020

More legal hires in the crypto market lately 

Coinbase Inc., one of the largest cryptocurrency exchanges globally, has recently hired Paul Grewal as its new Chief Legal Officer. Grewal has been serving previously as one of Facebook's top in-house lawyers and a federal magistrate judge.

As Coinbase commented on this move, “Paul’s mix of experience in private practice, as a federal judge, and a leading in-house lawyer makes him a phenomenal addition to Coinbase.”

But this is just one of the latest legal hiring initiatives in the space of Digital Assets. There are at least a handful of more prominent cases over the past two years:

  • (January 2018) Oksana Davis joined Enterprise Ethereum Alliance as CLO and corporate secretary (formerly legal counsel and corporate secretary at AirFuel Alliance);
  • (January 2019) Stuart Alderoty joined Ripple after his notable career in financial services (previously in CIT Group Inc.);
  • (December 2019) Žiga Perović joined Bitsamp, one of the largest global cryptocurrency exchanges as its Legal Officer (previously multiple roles at biglaw firms); 
  • (January 2020) Stacey Hoisak moved to Coinsquare Ltd. as chief privacy officer and corporate secretary in January 2020 after her GC role at Klick Health;
  • (April 2020) Marco Santori joined Payward, Inc., parent of crypto exchange Kraken, as its CLO;
  • (April 2020) Jamey Seely moved to Integra Ledge as its President and GC (formerly the GC of the Gates Corporation);
  • (May 2020) Robert Werner became the Libra Association’s first GC (formerly the director of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network - FinCEN).

Regulatory clearance and signs of a trend?

While crypto has previously often been labeled as “the Wild West” due to the lack of regulation, there are firm signs that this space is maturing. In addition to the above list of legal hires:-

JPMorgan Chase, the US largest bank, has (reportedly) accepted crypto exchanges Coinbase and Gemini as its customers (after a thorough vetting process). Previously, banks were shying away from (and criticizing even) nearly anything related to crypto;

There are some rumors Coinbase gets ready to IPO as early as 2020 (yet to be confirmed by the Company);

PayPal has recently listed its “Technical Lead - Crypto Engineer” opening. Moreover, the Company has since confirmed it is building “crypto capacity” in their letter to the European Commission.

“PayPal has taken unilateral and tangible steps to further develop its capabilities in this area, and [decided to] focus on advancing our existing mission and business priorities to democratize access to financial services.

But, perhaps most importantly, US banks have been cleared to provide digital asset custody services, as noted by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC).

Per Brian P. Brooks, the Acting Comptroller of the Currency:

"From safe-deposit boxes to virtual vaults, we must ensure banks can meet the financial services needs of their customers today.

This opinion clarifies that banks can continue satisfying their customers' needs for safeguarding their most valuable assets, which today for tens of millions of Americans includes cryptocurrency."

Will crypto lawyers be the next hot thing?

As the digital asset industry goes the mainstream, it is likely it will continue to grow. Some of the blockchain companies are already considering to double their in-house legal teams. 

The Digital Asset space has many challenges and questions to answers. It certainly seems like a (still) uncharted area. Quite often, nascent industries are quite rewarding to those daring enough to leap.

CL News Team closely follows events that could potentially shape legal services delivery, the business of law, and influence the transformation of the legal space.

If you have important news to share, or would otherwise like to get in touch, feel free to email editorial(at)cloiutlegal(dot)com.

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