K&L Gates has started the ball rolling on plans to establish an internal, private and permissioned blockchain to assist in the exploration, creation, and implementation of smart contracts and other technology applications for future client use.

The top 30 Am Law 100 firm plans to utilize identity, asset, and encryption modules from UK/Swedish technology company Chainvine in order to allow K&L Gates lawyers and IT staff to explore and create intelligent contracts.

Judith Rinearson, a partner in K&L Gates’ New York and London offices and one of the co-chairs of the firm’s Fintech practice leading the project, said: “The first stage of our blockchain initiative will be a ‘sandbox’ that will allow our lawyers from around the world to get direct experience working with blockchain applications. We are next planning to develop use cases that our clients want and need, working both with Chainvine and clients to explore and build on the distributed ledger platform.”

The final step in K&L Gates’ blockchain initiative will be to create an internal private permissioned blockchain, a commitment that very few, if any, other major law firms have made.

A private blockchain network requires an invitation and must be validated by either the network starter or by a set of rules put in place by the network starter. Businesses who set up a private blockchain, will generally set up a permissioned network. This places restrictions on who is allowed to participate in the network, and only in certain transactions. Participants need to obtain an invitation or permission to join.

“We are hearing from our lawyers globally who are excited about getting hands-on experience working with blockchain applications,” commented K&L Gates global managing partner James Segerdahl. “By investing in this technology that is expected to significantly impact the practice of law, K&L Gates is committed to finding practical and timely solutions that benefit both our clients and the firm.”

Chainvine’s chief executive Oliver Oram said: “It is extraordinarily prescient of K&L Gates to recognize early-on the importance of both understanding and accessing blockchain technology.”

Several members of K&L Gates’ FinTech team are present at this week’s Money20/20 conference to discuss this development. This includes Rinearson, who will moderate the Oct. 24 panel discussion “Taking Stock in Blockchain: How Emerging Tech Is Transforming the Modern Equities Exchange,” speakers for which will include David Harris, Head of Commercial Innovation Technology, London Stock Exchange Group, and Frederik Voss, VP – Blockchain Strategy, Nasdaq. The conference is taking place Oct. 22-25 at The Venetian in Las Vegas.