Natalie Bravo is an IPilogue Writer and a 2L JD Candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School.
On November 24, 2021, the Osgoode Emerging Technology Association (OETA) hosted an interactive panel discussion with Professors Allan Hutchinson and Jon Penney, led by OETA president and co-founder Murad Wancho.
Rebranded from the Osgoode Fintech & Blockchain Association, OETA was founded in Spring 2020 and has quickly grown in popularity. As an OETA executive, I am honoured to share details of this informative event delivered by my dedicated colleagues.
Despite the fast-approaching exam season, the virtual event had an excellent turn-out of students and legal community members. The panel garnered traction preceding the event, with participants eagerly sending in questions on topics ranging from cryptocurrency concerns to the future of non-fungible tokens (“NFTs”). Wancho began by thanking participants and snapping a lovely photo of everyone in the call (as seen above). Everyone rushed to turn on their cameras in time. I regrettably was too slow (or maybe Wancho was too fast!) This spontaneous moment of collaboration and engagement served as a fun icebreaker before introducing the esteemed guests.
Professor Allan Hutchinson is an internationally renowned legal theorist and an Osgoode faculty member since 1982. His research interests include politics, constitutional law, and torts, and he teaches a wide range of courses. Hutchinson also authored an upcoming book on the intersection between cryptocurrencies and the law, Cryptocurrencies and the Regulatory Challenge.
Professor Jon Penney has been at Osgoode since 2020. He is a research affiliate at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society and a Research Fellow at the Citizen Lab based at the University of Toronto. His research lies at the intersection of law, technology, and human rights. Penney recently designed and is currently instructing “Emerging Technologies: Law, Policy and Governance” at Osgoode.
Cryptocurrency was the main topic of interest, along with the ever-prevailing questions surrounding its future. This form of decentralized digital currency has been around for just over a decade but is growing in mainstream popularity. With a show of hands, over half of the participants expressed owning or wanting to own some cryptocurrency.
Hutchinson shared details on his upcoming book and his thoughts on regulation. While no one can accurately predict the future of cryptocurrency, Hutchinson discussed the merit in theorizing unique regulatory approaches to the decentralized system(s). Blockchains and self-regulation were of notable interest. Many participants asked whether further external regulations would detrimentally affect the appeal and use of cryptocurrencies. The implications of overarching regulatory actions, such as securities or tax, are looming realities of NFTs and cryptocurrency, as we are now witnessing in multiple regions, including Canada. Penney shared the sentiment of cryptocurrency as a speculative asset that likely cannot succeed without further mainstream support and usage. He also explored the environmental impacts of cryptocurrency , as crypto-mining utilizes large amounts of energy. Remarking on China’s recent cryptocurrency ban, Penney expressed that some major cryptocurrency players have simply migrated their mining practices elsewhere.
The conversation shifted to career guidance within the legal technology field. This discussion was particularly interesting for 1L students developing their legal paths. Both professors offered pertinent advice on professional development, emphasizing networking. Penney highlighted the importance of reaching out to tech companies for any legal work available. Companies are increasingly incorporating emerging technologies within their operations, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms, which may require legal expertise to ensure legal compliance. As innovative technologies emerge, so will the demand for technology lawyers.
Following the event, Professor Penney added, “In the coming years, emerging technologies like cryptocurrency and NFTs will pose a range of complex challenges for law, policy, and broader society. This was an excellent panel discussion, and OETA is showing great leadership in bringing students and faculty together to discuss and debate.”
While no one can ever fully predict the future of cryptocurrency and NFTs, both Penney and Hutchinson provided insightful perspectives. They both have extensive work related to technology that can help us theorize when looking forward. The panel elicited strong engagement and interactive feedback from participants. It was refreshing to learn more about technology law outside of the classroom setting and see different perspectives and interests within the field. I encourage everyone to explore the work of both professors and follow the OETA’s socials below for more information about our next event!