Since early 2017, blockchain integration and cryptocurrency have taken the world over as an innovative solution to overcoming geographic limitations and existing financial inefficiencies. Initial coin offerings (ICO) have enabled startups to raise billions through tokenization – eliminating the need to draw from institutional or venture capital investments. Decentralized applications (dApps) are disrupting industry conventions across the board, as blockchain technology has created frictionless payments, smart contracts, and trustless ecosystems.
With Bitcoin now considered a household name, it’s evident a new era of decentralized technology is upon us. As the blockchain and cryptocurrency industries continue to mature, a regulatory framework becomes necessary to create certainty in the eyes of mass adoption. Legal advisors must redefine best practices for classifying and facilitating cryptocurrency-related businesses. Below are listed the top 20 industry-forward law firms most known for their achievements in the laws surrounding the new digital asset classes and their underpinning blockchain technology.
Headquartered in Palo Alto, Cooley LLP is one of the largest international law firms in the world, known for its presence in Silicon Valley. Cooley LLP is considered a leading elite firm for clients in the venture capital, life sciences, and technology sectors – representing companies, such as Google, Facebook, and Uber. Major practices of the premier legal adviser include intellectual property, fund formation, and mergers and acquisition transactions. According to its website, Cooley LLP has formed over 190 venture funds since 2015 and is considered the “#1 law firm for tech and life sciences IPOs.”
One of the most prominent cases that Cooley have recently been involved in was with Augur, which revolved around conflict over token distribution after a founding member left the company. The firm have also fostered some of the most promising crypto lawyers, including Marco Santori, who left the company to lead bitcoin wallet startup Blockchain as its president and chief legal officer.
2- Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati
Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati is an American law firm headquartered in Palo Alto, advising primarily in the fields of life sciences and technology. The firm represents global corporations such as Amazon, Twitter, and Netflix, but also works with blockchain and cryptocurrency companies. These clients include companies planning ICOs, venture firms investing in blockchain companies, and companies using blockchain technology. The WSGR team also consists of former regulators, including individuals with professional experience in the Securities and Exchange Commission and Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, and are recognised thought-leaders in the blockchain space. For more information on the firm’s practical counsel in the industry, click here.
3- Perkins Coie
Perkins Coie LLP is a renowned international law firm headquartered in Seattle with offices across the United States and Asia. The firm represents numerous companies involved in different industries and at various stages of growth, from startups to large corporations. In 2017, the firm was recognized by the newspaper Financial Times for establishing one of the first practices focused on cryptocurrency and blockchain. Perkins Coie’s lawyers are thus knowledgeable and experienced in the field of blockchain technology and digital currency: they not only advise clients on tokenization and bitcoin, but also support the industry’s development by publishing whitepapers, writing articles, and presenting at conferences on the latest changes in blockchain and cryptocurrency law. The firm also has founded the app CoinLaw, which was identified as one of “four apps revolutionizing the world of law” by Legaltech News. CoinLaw is a free app that outlines digital currency laws worldwide.
Headquartered in New York City, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP is an international law firm with offices around the world. According to its website, the firm’s FinTech, Payments & Blockchain team has been assisting clients since the earliest days of the blockchain industry. The legal advisor has worked with some of the very first cryptocurrency-related businesses by outlining the application of financial regulations to the companies’ functions. The team advises its clients on various issues such as consumer financial services concerns, corporate formation, venture and private equity financing, mergers and acquisitions, public offerings, regulatory issues, intellectual property protection, privacy and data security, employment and severance matters, and litigation.
Founded in Boston more than 100 years ago, Goodwin Procter LLP now has offices in various countries worldwide. The firm focuses on transactional and litigation cases in various industries such as private equity, real estate, and technology. The lawyers at Goodwin are extremely knowledgeable in issues regarding digital currency and blockchain technology. These include ICOs, corporate and securities laws, venture financing, regulatory, intellectual property, banking compliance, SEC and criminal defense, private equity, securities litigation, corporate M+A, investment funds, and privacy and cybersecurity. For more information on Goodwin’s practice in the industry, please visit its website here.
6- Sheppard Mullin
Founded and headquartered in Los Angeles, Sheppard Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP has established its offices throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. The firm, which has advised on blockchain-based games, focuses on corporate and technology matters, including blockchain technology and digital currency. Sheppard Mullin boasts many attorneys who have over a decade of professional experience with digital currencies and great expertise in the technology and business aspects of the industry. According to its website, this enables the firm to “provide strategic advice with industry-specific applications of this technology” to its clients.
7- Blockchain Law Group
Blockchain Law Group is a group of legal practices with a worldwide presence. The group works with various issues in the field of blockchain integration, such as the issuance of utility tokens and the implementation of blockchain technology in business operations. The firm works with diverse clients including new startups, large companies, individual investors, institutional investment funds, market participants, and market makers. For more information on Blockchain Law Group’s work with cryptocurrency and blockchain, please click here.
8- Stradling Yocca Carlson & Rauth
Founded in Newport Beach in 1975, Stradling Yocca Carlson & Rauth now has offices in California, Colorado, Nevada, and Washington. Stradling specializes in diverse areas such as corporate transactions, securities and complex business litigation, tax, and intellectual property. The firm also represents startups and growing companies in the blockchain and digital currency industries. Stradling has experience in advising its clients on various issues including ICOs, crypto fund formation and investments, smart contracts, crowdfunding, and more.
9- Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP
In April 2018, Bryan Cave LLP and Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP have merged to create Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP. BCLP’s Digital Currency Team is composed of members of various practices including intellectual property, public policy and government affairs, securities litigation and enforcement, fund formation, and white collar defense and investigations.
According to its website, the team “focuses on the regulatory aspects of digital currencies and blockchain technology in light of existing regulations and in light of past prosecutions by the Department of Justice against leading digital currency platforms.”
10- Baker McKenzie
Headquartered in Chicago, Baker McKenzie boasts impressive statistics as the largest law firm in the United States by headcount and the third largest law firm in the world in terms of revenue. The firm has published various white papers, articles, and blog posts regarding distributed ledger technology. For a more in-depth look at these publications, visit its Financial Institutions Hub here.
11- Latham & Watkins LLP
2,600 lawyers, 30 offices, 14 countries — Latham & Watkins LLP is one of the most prestigious law firms in the world and considered the second largest law firm in the world by annual revenue. Founded in Los Angeles, its largest office is located in New York City. The firm does not have a designated headquarter. Latham & Watkins has hosted presentations and issued publications on the blockchain, cryptocurrencies, and ICOs.
12- DLA Piper
As the second largest American law firm by headcount, DLA Piper possesses a global blockchain group that offers strategic regulatory and transactional advice to diverse companies. According to the firm’s website, its clients include internet and social media companies building content databases, financial services companies reducing transaction processing times, and healthcare companies using blockchain to secure medical records. The cross-practice team includes lawyers from corporate, securities, tax, IP, regulatory and other practices. These attorneys provide guidance on issues regarding ICOs, IP protections, data protection compliance, tax considerations, and more.
13- Jones Day
As one of the most renowned law firms in the world, Jones Day represents more than half of the Fortune 500 companies. The Cleveland based law firm has a Blockchain & Digital Currencies team that draws experience from numerous transactional, litigation, and regulatory practices. According to the website, the attorneys have worked with “market-first blockchain driven initiatives and transactions, including CSD settlement and securitization transactions and representing Overstock.com and its financial technology subsidiary t0.com as it pioneers the blockchain technology space.” The firm has also guided the team that received the very first “effective SEC registration statement that contemplates a public offering utilizing blockchain technology.”
14- K&L Gates
Headquartered in Pittsburgh, K&L Gates has offices in five continents and represents many international corporations in every major industry. The firm has guided clients of different industries through the adoption of blockchain technology in their businesses. The attorneys also advise clients in “regulation, litigation, enforcement and investigations, privacy and data security, and corporate transactional matters.” Last year the firm announced its plans to create an internal private permissioned blockchain, being one of the first major law firms to do so.
15- Kirkland & Ellis LLP
The Chicago based international law firm is the highest-grossing law firm in the world and has represented notable clients such as BP, Nike, and General Motors. Its principal practice areas are corporate and tax, litigation, restructuring, and intellectual property. The firm’s Financial Technology team has extensive experience in advising its clients regarding cryptocurrency and blockchain investing, ICOs, purchase agreements, and private placements. For more information on the firm’s FinTech team, please click here.