The Legal Guild has been formed to provide legal expertise and support to NEAR projects, DAOs, and entrepreneurs, at a time when different regulations on crypto and blockchain can be problematic for industry enthusiasts. From research and direction to work with specific projects, to outlining boundaries for DAOs and the issuance of tokens, the Legal Guild is setting up shop to provide a first-of-its-kind ecosystem vehicle about the legal challenges emerging in this new and innovative space.

A Tangled Reality

The current blockchain world can in many ways be too complex. From a legal perspective, essential keywords such as Distributed Ledger Technologies (DLT), tokenization, Decentralized Finance (DeFi), or Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAO’s) are becoming more familiar and understandable as blockchain and crypto continue to develop. Nevertheless, there remains a considerable amount of uncertainty and “grey-area” in most jurisdictions across the globe.

If you are already interacting with cryptocurrencies and blockchain-based solutions it’s highly probable that you have encountered several legal, regulatory, or compliance issues while shaping, launching, and growing your project.

The lack of existence of a directly applicable, worldwide regulation has a significant impact on the usability of decentralized technologies:

  • Regulation and compliance requirements related to financial crime and taxation are especially relevant with Know Your Customer (KYC) and Anti-Money Laundering (AML) practices
  • Meanwhile, Data Protection Regulations all around the world (GDPR or CCPA) also introduce heavy legal compliance requirements with the processing and storage of such sensitive information.
  • Last but not least, consumer protection requirements among other considerations must also be taken into consideration among other legal issues.

Some jurisdictions are consolidating regulation towards blockchain and DLT shaped solutions:

  • In the EU orbit, The European Union announced in 2019 a proposal for the regulation on Markets in Crypto-Assets (MiCa) as a response to the emergence of crypto -assets, the need to address concerns over fraud, cyber-attacks, and market manipulation;
  • In the United States, U.S financial regulation assumes the presence of intermediaries and applies by extension to regulation for financial markets and derived activities.
  • All the while in countries such as Switzerland, there is a broader acceptance both legally and technologically of crypto-assets, most notably manifested through a positive attitude by both the Swiss federal government and the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory (FINMA).
  • And of course, more recently, El Salvador made history with the publication of the first bitcoin Law, categorizing Bitcoin as Legal tender.

What all of these case studies illustrate is that the crypto-verse is developing differently across different legal jurisdictions and there is a clear need for direction and insight depending on the type of project and purpose in mind. Looking ahead, it is clear that the regulation of blockchain and crypto assets will remain extremely complicated since governments and regulators have been unable to encode a technology that is not limited to a concrete territory. To date, there is no existence of an internationally coordinated normative framework for blockchain and cryptocurrencies; what can be found are concrete initiatives and directives enacted by different international bodies that are currently working towards an international standardization.

Why a Legal Guild?

The Legal Guild is being formed with a clear intention: to grow the NEAR ecosystem by directing its members towards a better understanding of their legal necessities. Knowledge is power, so we aim to provide directives that can create beneficial use-cases for the whole community and that could set up good legal practices for upcoming projects.

Following further consolidation of these good legal practices, we aim to shape a useful legal framework made by and for our community. This means that the ecosystem itself will feed the main areas of focus.

In order to achieve this goal, we defined a chain of actions that will make possible the adoption of a symbiosis between the Legal Guild and the whole community-based in proactivity and an active relationship with the larger NEAR community — its entrepreneurs, the many different guilds, and the many developers building dApps on the protocol.

The idea is simple: if we are able to hear directly from the other guilds and projects about their concerns, we will be more capable of guiding you in the right direction.

How will the Legal Guild operate?

A clear set of initial actions and objectives has been designed to achieve the goals of the Legal Guild:

  1. In the first instance, we intend to conduct a survey directed at the entire ecosystem so as to better understand the current legal concerns and needs of Ecosystem wide projects. At the same time, we also hope to identify the main areas of interest such as tokenization, DAO’s and Governance.
  2. Shaping phase: In the next instance, we plan on recognizing the top projects inside of the community and developing tailored legal directives for these specific projects, in a manner that can eventually be generalized for larger Legal concerns. While doing this, the Legal Guild will be laying a foundation of the first steps to create the core elements of a legal framework.
  3. Ecosystem Engagement: In parallel to phase 2, the Legal Guild will remain proactively connected. We are listening but also asking the right questions. In this phase, the communication channels will be defined and operative. The more we know about you, the more we will be able to help.

It is also mandatory for us to reach out in this phase to other existing communities to create mutually beneficial relations: law schools and universities, parallel ecosystems, sibling projects, etc. Integrating with NEAR City Node Planning will help expand the research, development, and problem-solving capacity of the Legal Guild.

4. Sharing and marketing our legal content: Originally defined by our existing projects, needs, and experiences, content that is created to solve existing legal challenges will be distributed far and wide. In the first stage such content is intended to be more community-driven and oriented, while in the next ones, the legal assistance will focus on a more general framework.

In parallel to this process, the Legal Guild will be recruiting trained and up-and-coming lawyers from many geographical areas and walks of life, in order to bolster legal engagement with the ecosystem. It’s only the beginning of a new form of legal guidance, and the Legal Guild sits at the very forefront of this new mission!

This document was created by
SANTIAGO CHAMAT 
Executive Director