Can You Pay Your Attorney with Cryptocurrency?

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As the utility of blockchain becomes increasingly more apparent every day, it’s no surprise that its potential market is growing rapidly and attracting a variety of users and industries. You might expect a story about lawyers in blockchain news to focus on regulation and legislation and while that is the primary interest of cryptocurrency for many attorneys, it’s not the only reason many in the legal profession are drawn to it.

Some lawyers now accept cryptocurrency in lieu of cash or checks.

After all, everybody needs to get paid, right?

You might imagine that the lawyer who would charge in Bitcoin to resemble the morally questionable defense attorney or ambulance chaser long mocked in media, but, many reputable and competent lawyers now accept cryptocurrency.

For example, D.C.-based lawyer Carol Van Cleef, who specializes in compliance, said she’d “known for a long time that [her] opportunity to expand in certain areas” would be boosted once she chose to accept cryptocurrency.

Acquiring blockchain savvy clientele provides some incentive for attorneys accepting cryptocurrency.

One reason an attorney might accept cryptocurrency, particularly now that it has lost much of its stigma, is to enhance credibility if he/she focuses on clients in blockchain or high tech based businesses. A lawyer who understands how cryptocurrency works due to practical, hands-on experience would appear more valuable to potential clients as compared to a lawyer who only understood it in theory.

Another reason an attorney working for a business powered by blockchain would accept cryptocurrency relates to how many cash-strapped, but, promising start-ups have long paid early investors and employees. A business creating or generating its own cryptocurrency is likely to offer payment or incentives in the form of tokens (aka units of cryptocurrency) just as a tech startup in Silicon Valley might offer shares in the company. Just like the promise of stocks, payment in cryptocurrency offers the potential for significantly increased values in the future.

Lawyers accepting cryptocurrency is more complicated than it would be for various other service providers.

It’s a less complicated for a web designer to accept cryptocurrency payments than it is for an attorney primarily due to the more stringent code of ethics lawyers must follow in order to remain certified.

For starters, lawyers of all kinds are barred from accepting any money obtained through illegal means. Again, cryptocurrency has lost much of its illicit stereotype, but, like any form of currency, it can potentially be traced to illegal activity.

Defense attorney Jay Cohen is generally happy to accept Bitcoin, but, has admitted to turning down payment from a client who was charged with money laundering given the strong potential this particular stash of cryptocurrency was of criminal origin.

Despite appearances, fraud is no more a concern with cryptocurrency than it is with any other type of currency.

After all people have been laundering money well before blockchain was ever developed. Former assistant U.S. attorney, Kathryn Haun, corroborates this point in a recent email she wrote to “There is no reason to believe that cryptocurrency is illegitimate and criminally-derived any more than any other form of currency or payment. Cryptocurrencies are not special in that regard and I would think would be treated like any other funds.”

Lawyers accepting Bitcoin or other forms of cryptocurrency must avoid conflicts of interest.

While accepting Bitcoin is unlikely to present such a conflict, a lawyer who accepts the cryptocurrency of the platform for which he is legal advisor may run into a problem since his or her financial interest is so intertwined with the business.

Some of these ethical concerns regarding cryptocurrency are not unique to lawyers. Just as many lawyers feel better equipped to advise clients working with blockchain by gaining personal  experience with cryptocurrency, many journalists who specialize in blockchain news prefer firsthand exposure, too.

The New York Times which has banned all its Bitcoin reporters from owning any form of cryptocurrency. Other news organizations require journalists to submit detailed conflict of interest reports including any cryptocurrency.

Those who want to buy blockchain stocks or accept cryptocurrency do so at their own risk.

Because cryptocurrency can be so volatile, most professionals are advised to cash out all payments in cryptocurrency immediately upon receipt to ensure getting current market value as charged.

(To learn more about the future of blockchain, read How Blockchain Could Reach Beyond Cryptocurrency Into Real Life.)

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