Tuesday, March 25, 2014

An interview with Jordan Furlong, present day and futurist legal industry expert

Jordan Furlong blogs on the state of the legal market at Law21: Dispatches from a legal profession on the brink.

Give us a quick overview of your career path.

Like a lot of people, I came out of undergrad with an Arts degree (English major) and found myself wondering what, exactly, I was going to do with that. So eventually, again like a lot of people at the time, I wound up in law school, for a couple of reasons: one, I wanted a good career that would allow me to help people without having to deal with either calculus or blood; and two, it was an affordable risk. Granted, this was the early 1990s and it was Canada, but still: tuition in my third year of law was $2,300. (It’s $18,000 at the same school now.) There’s no way, as a slightly-upper-middle-class kid, that I could afford law school today, and that’s a bad state of affairs for the legal profession and for society generally.

Having finished law school, I completed my articling year (a one-year apprenticeship mandatory for Canadian bar admission) at a large corporate firm in Toronto. I like to call that a mutually unsatisfying experience. I wasn’t asked back as an associate, and I don’t blame the firm at all; eventually, I also came to recognize that I was a poor fit for the firm and vice versa (though it wasn’t a fun thing to absorb at the time). From there, I wandered around a bit (again, something you can do when you don’t have $200,000 in student debt) until I found myself in legal journalism.

Over the course of 13+ years in that field, I wound up working as an editor for three Canadian legal periodicals, including the Canadian Bar Association’s National magazine (the rough equivalent of the ABA Journal) for ten years. Near the end of that period, a little over six years ago, I began blogging at a site I called, very much on the spur of the moment, Law21 (21st-century law, basically). The blog attracted a fair bit of attention, and I started getting calls to give presentations on the legal market, which I was happy to do. And people began asking, “How much do you charge to speak?” And I thought, “Charge? Well, that’s interesting...”

So today, I bill myself as a lawyer (still), author (one short book, co-author of another), speaker, strategic consultant, and industry analyst. I study the global market for legal services and help lawyers and clients understand what’s happening in this market (short answer: everything) and what to do about it. I work with law firms, state bars, law societies, law schools, and professional legal  associations of various kinds. I frequently get introduced as a “futurist,” which I really don’t think I am: I’m talking about what’s happening right now and what’s going to happen a few years down the road. That’s not the future; that’s the present, with a trailer for the next episode.

I really have no idea how I ended up doing something as fascinating and fulfilling as this, especially since I sure never set out to do it. I often think of that great line by Douglas Adams: “I may not have gotten where I wanted to go, but I think I’ve wound up where I needed to be.“

What are some of the top trends you’re seeing?

So much has happened over the past few years that it’s hard to summarize, but in general, I think three remarkable and pretty much unprecedented things are happening at once.

Client behavior is changing. In the wake of the financial crisis and the recession that followed it, we’ve seen the start of a radical change in legal client behavior, prompted by real economic hardship for both individuals and many businesses. Consumers just can’t afford to go see a lawyer for even basic legal needs unless they absolutely have to -- because it’s not like most lawyers have frozen or reduced their fees over the past five years. (The massive growth of self-represented or DIY clients over these past few years is not a coincidence, to my mind.) And at the corporate or institutional client level, in-house counsel, who’ve been under pressure for ages to improve outside counsel spend and clarity, began to find that if they pushed lawyers, lawyers would give way and fall back. So they’ve been pushing -- not all of them, by any means, but still a remarkable number -- on discounted rates, fixed fees, RFP demands, and other unprecedented attempts to take control of, or at least gain greater influence over, the lawyer-client relationship. This has been a real shock to the system of big firms, which are staring at a major retool of their businesses models and a very limited capacity to make that happen.

New options for clients. And of course, it’s easier to push against your traditional supplier when new suppliers suddenly start entering the market. On the consumer law side, we saw the flourishing of LegalZoom, the launch of Rocket Lawyer, and over this past year or so, an explosion of app-based, crowdsourced, online, or low-cost ways to get what you need in family, estate, business, and other services traditionally lumped together as “general practice law.” These practitioners are now up against an army of offerings that, for the most part, aren’t as good as lawyers (yet), but that will cheerfully offer 80% of what lawyers do for about 20% of the price. (And again, remember all those pro se litigants and DIY clients: they’ve chosen the “no lawyer” option, which is also, strictly speaking, competition.) On the corporate side, we’ve seen the rise and evolution of legal process outsourcing (from India and the Philippines to stateside), document review companies, e-discovery vendors, automated contracts reviewers, and a host of really remarkable new technologies for getting legal work done. This is eliminating many lawyer jobs, especially at the BigLaw junior associate level, and those jobs, I have to tell you, aren’t coming back. They’re turning into project, contract, and temp lawyer positions, for better or for worse.

Change in legal regulation. My personal view is that someday, when they sit down to write the history of this period in the legal marketplace, they’ll lead off with the fact that in 2012, under the auspices of the Legal Services Board of England & Wales, regulators there began issuing licenses for Alternative Business Structures: law firms or legal enterprises owned partially or wholly by people who are not lawyers. There are nearly 300 of these businesses in Britain right now, and they’re helping to radically change the nature of what the legal market offers and what clients can expect and can afford. This is spreading to the US: Washington State has approved legal technicians, California is considering limited license legal professionals, and New York State is exploring legal advocates. These are the first tiny cracks in the wall of lawyers’ monopoly on legal services that will someday crumble. I’m on record as forecasting that the “Unauthorized Practice of Law” will be a dead letter inside ten years. Some US state, somewhere along the line, will choose to become the England & Wales, or the Delaware, or the Nevada (depending on your preferred jurisdictional metaphor) of the legal market and will allow non-lawyer ownership of law firms. It could be a year or so away in my own province of Ontario, Canada’s largest jurisdiction. It really is only a matter of when, not if, it comes to the US.

What’s a young lawyer to do?
It’s a hell of a time to be entering this profession, and I mean that in both the bad sense and the not-so-bad one: the challenges are immense, and the opportunities, which will someday rival the challenges, are still getting started. My general take on it is that new lawyers must develop a knack for entrepreneurialism. They need to enter this market ready to engage with it, wade in, both hands in up to the elbows, from day one. Decide what your desired customer base is, what your value offering to them will be, and why they should care: answer those three questions and you’re off to a strong start. The reflexive lawyer approach is to say, “I need a job,” but there will be fewer jobs out there for years to come. Instead, figure out what the market needs and how you can provide it -- affordably for clients, profitably for you.

If you’re looking for sources of business, remember that the latent legal market is massive. There’s an huge untapped market of people who need legal services and who would willingly hire a lawyer if they could afford one. I’ve seen an estimate that pegged that latent market at $90 billion every year in the US alone. One study in Britain suggests lawyers are missing out on nearly 85 billion pounds’ worth of work every year from small businesses that either take care of their legal needs themselves or ignore them. Studies from courts in different jurisdictions set the pro se litigant rate in family courts anywhere between 40% and 85%. If I were a young lawyer and saw all this, I’d be asking what these potential clients currently need and aren’t getting, and why they aren’t getting it. (Hint: start with price.)  Every law school and state bar should offer a course on how to run a law practice that everyday people can afford.

What do you think about:

Virtual law firms: I think they’re promising. Really, the virtual law firm is just an extension of a low-cost, affordable law practice. You could have a firm that’s nearly 100% virtual, I guess, though it’s more difficult to do that in actual practice. You still need, at the very least, a desk, a chair, a phone, a laptop, a printer, an internet connection, and a quiet, secure space somewhere. But if you can arrange your infrastructure such that you can make your practice less costly and more accessible, why wouldn’t you?

Law startups: The more, the better — the more people take a crack at building new and better enterprises for legal service, the faster we’ll find out what works. We need new tools and structures and approaches. To take one example, I find WeVorce really promising, not least because it takes a multi-disciplinary approach (recognizing that only part of the relationship breakdown process is legal), and that it’s online, understandable, accessible, and affordable: these are four adjectives you can’t apply to most law firms.

Flat fees: I don’t think the key concept here is fees or billing, but price. Most lawyers can’t properly answer a client’s question on pricing, but it’s the one thing clients most want to know. Good pricing gives your client certainty, reliability, or predictability in some combination, while also maximizing the probability that you’ll make a profit. If you know your own costs of doing business, what the market charges for what you do, and the exact, in-depth particulars of your client’s situation, then you can price successfully.

Legal education: Legal education needs to decide what it’s for, what purpose it serves. There are many law schools that apparently believe their mission is to develop graduates who could someday, by dint of hard work, great ambition and good luck, become law professors. If you don’t really take seriously the idea that your students will be practicing lawyers, that’s fine; just cut your tuition by 90% and admit that you’re a glorified M.A. program. But if you decide your purpose is to provide a thorough, professional grounding for lawyers to practice successfully and in a fulfilling manner, then you need to adjust your offerings accordingly. I’m not suggesting the other extreme of a trade school that doesn’t teach legal ethics or legal history but only basic information about how to be a lawyer and run a business. We do still need professors, policymakers, and researchers as well as practitioners. But either provide an integrated education for professional businesslike lawyers, or decide between M.A. and trade school.

Solo firms: I actually think the future lies with niched, networked, entrepreneurial solos: lawyers who may have their own clients, but who primarily are called in to work on several overlapping projects with an always-revolving set of colleagues, like skilled trades on a building project. We still tend to interpret “solo” as “general practitioner,” which is a problem, because what we think of as general law practice is on its way to extinction: much consumer law will eventually be conquered by non-lawyers and algorithms, with lawyers on the fringe. Future solos will be specialized and agile, online and accessible, using technology to dispense basic documents and transactions and adding value through skilled counsel and strategy.

BigLaw: More large law firms are going to collapse. I mean, law firms of all sizes collapse all the time, but they don’t all generate the headlines of a Dewey or what look to be a Patton. The fundamental law firm business model, which is shared by 5-lawyer and 500-lawyer firms alike, worked wonderfully in 1984 but is having a much harder time of it 30 years later, because the market environment has changed. The traditional leverage of highly profitable associates, the ability to shift all outcome risks to the client through hourly billing, the obsessive need for annual profit growth to keep partners from bolting -- these are hallmarks of BigLaw (and other-sized firms as well) and they’re not simply going to go away overnight. Client value, client service, systematization, technology, cash flow, collegiality, and professionalism: these will be the hallmarks of successful firms in future -- as they invariably were in the past, before we hooked ourselves on double-digit annual profit growth and began to think we should be as rich as investment bankers. Even the investment bankers, as it turned out, shouldn’t have been as rich as they were. We’ve spent 30 years in the wilderness, and we’ve probably got another 10 to go to complete the traditional wandering period. We need to find ourselves and find our right path again, and that process is now well underway. By the end of this decade, we’ll either be clearly on our way out of the wilderness and into the promised land, or we’ll be so deep in the desert that we won’t be coming out again. I obviously hope it’s the former.

What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned along the way?

Lawyers are not that far from awesome. We are frequently given a hard time for our inaccessibility and emotional detachment and strategic cluelessness and time-wasting inefficiency and proud technophobia and ... well, for a lot of things. I’m often leading the hard-time brigade myself. But after more than 20 years in this profession, I’m more convinced than ever of the fundamental decency, intelligence, work ethic, moral concern, and professionalism of lawyers. In the vast majority of instances, lawyers want to help, and we can and do make a huge difference -- all the way from simple peace of mind over a family matter to keeping someone out of prison who doesn’t deserve to be there. We’re not a broken or an obsolete profession. We need repairs, reorientation, rejuvenation, and rededication, absolutely; but the core is still strong and is very much salvageable. If we can fix ourselves up, clean out our gears and reboot our systems for a new social and business environment, I think we’ll be unbeatable, and I think everyone will benefit as a result.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Thanks for your support!

I got the best birthday present today-- firing featured in the ABA's list of 10 women to watch in legal tech! Am about to board a plane to South Africa right now, but just wanted to say thanks. Thanks for reading, commenting, thanks for all those who have given interviews and helped me along the way when I had no idea what I was doing. And thanks for posting and telling others about the blog. It would obviously be nothing without the support of the legal innovation/ legal hacker/ legal tech (whatever you want to call it) community.

I have some exciting news coming up, including an awesome article with the one and only Jordan Furlong. I'll post as soon as I get settled in Jo-berg.


Friday, March 14, 2014

Casetext takes on the legal research giants

Jake Heller has been programming since he was 9 years old, and worked full-time as a web developer before becoming a lawyer. His startup Casetext, a Y Combinator-backed company, offers a better way of dealing with legal text.

Early on, Heller was fascinated by open-source code. He loved Wikipedia, was an early reviewer on Yelp, and a fan of Github. However, he couldn’t understand why the community approach that worked elsewhere hadn’t worked in law.

He found that search providers like LexisNexis are problematic in two ways: First, they are expensive. It can cost $50 per search, $20 per document, and is inaccessibly expensive. Heller came across solo practitioners who had a LexisNexis plan allowing only 20 minutes of usage per day. They’d use Google and books for the rest of the search.  In Heller’s eyes, these search providers produce information in expensive and unsustainable ways. Writing case summaries, headnotes, and shepardizing are all human-intensive processes.

Secondly, although accurate, these searches are very rarely insightful. Case summaries and shepardization only go so deep. Heller saw a missed opportunity of community insight about cases. Lawyers instead rely heavily on law blogs and twitter for updates in case law and case summaries. He dreamt of building a product that could incorporate all of that and still offer a full text database and, best of all, would be completely free.

“I’d been thinking about this idea for 5 or 6 years,” explains Heller, “and I constantly brought it up with my wife. At one point,  she turned to me and said that in the future, we might have kids and a mortgage, and that now was the time to take a risk.” And so, Heller left his position as a litigation associate at Ropes & Gray to pursue Casetext.

Casetext is like Rapgenius or Wikipedia for law. There’s a full text database along with community-added annotations. Features include:

·      Case summary and holding: This basic information at the top of the page allows readers to know whether it’s a case they want to read just by skimming the top of the page.
·     Treatment and up/down voting: Unlike Westlaw or LexisNexis, you can easily see how the case is distinguishable, and how others have treated a case. Community members can upvote or downvote related cases so that the most important one goes to the top.
·      Annotation and heat-mapping: Because just having the text of a case is rarely enough to fully understand it, community members can also add comments alongside a case. The heatmap indicates the more highly cited parts of the case. The darker the heatmap, the more important that part of the case is.
·      Fast search and intelligent search filters: Not all cases are created equal—some cases have never been cited before, others are cited repeatedly in secondary literature. Casetext thus has a “leading cases” tag/filter if the case has been cited 5 or more times in law articles and treatises. Moreover, because Casetext uses open-source technology, it can make searches many times faster than even expensive, commercial products. “Traditional competitors insist on using proprietary technologies because they feel insecure about selling something they can’t patent. They’ve spent 7 years developing proprietary technology that is now 7 years behind.”

Casetext’s business model is simple—all the basic research functions are free. Users will be able to upgrade to premium features, which includes the ability to privately annotate and share those annotations within a firm, but not publicly. Knowledge management has been a perpetual problem for law firms. With Casetext, law firm members can annotate privately within their firm (as well as integrate their previous memos, briefs, and other in-firm communications as annotations), and firms can in turn and boast about having the best internal database of knowledge—everything from case knowledge to feedback about judges, giving the firm an advantage over their opponents.
Heller isn’t just limiting himself to case law, though. Casetext also works on contracts. Hours after Y Combinator released a new standard contract for early-stage investing called the simple agreement for future equity (SAFE), over a dozen lawyers, professors, investors, and startup founders annotated the SAFE on Casetext.

First started in May 2013, Jake developed the first version of Casetext himself. It was a single page featuring Loving v. Virginia that some friends helped him annotate to show an example. He admits “it was not nearly as cool as it is today,” and credits his development team, which has rebuilt most of the current platform since August 2013.

In April 2013, Heller quit his job and three days later, was at the Y Combinator offices for what he describes as the most fast-paced, intense 10-minute interview of his life. He was accepted that evening. “What I learned at Y Combinator,” Heller explains, “is that you have to get a product in front of users quickly, and then aggressively iterate based on user feedback as you slowly but surely make your product as good as it can be. The cornerstone of success is listening to your users."

Y Combinator only recently turned its attention to law startups in early 2013. His advice to law startup founders who aim for Y Combinator glory is to talk to others who went through the Y Combinator experience.  Do practice interviews, really work on that application so that it’s as clear as day. During the interview, you have to be formidable, be able to take a beating and still look like a polished CEO.

Casetext’s next challenge is just coming up. Heller aims to make the website inviting enough to more deeply engage community members.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

A (Realistic) Primer on the Legal and Regulatory Hurdles of Cryptocurrency

This article is an expanded version of a 5 minute talk given at the March 4, 2014 Los Angeles Bitcoin Meetup. The article was created for general guidance on matters of interest only, and does not constitute legal advice. You should not act upon the information contained in this publication without obtaining specific advice from an attorney. No representation or warranty (expressed or implied) is given as to the accuracy or completeness of the information contained in this post, and I do not accept or assume any liability, responsibility or duty of care for any consequences of you or anyone else acting, or refraining to act, in reliance on the information contained in this post or for any decision based on it.

Amy Y. is an attorney in Los Angeles, California and can be reached at msamywan at gmail dot com or @amyywan. She advises select startups on legal matters, and how they can procure legal services in alternative ways. (This information is to ensure I am compliant with attorney advertising rules). She blogs in her personal capacity, and the opinions here are her own.

It’s been a rough few weeks for bitcoin. Last week, Tokyo-based Bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox suddenly imploded due to hackers, taking $460 million with it. Their troubles are not over, as their U.S.-based customers have filed a class action against the bankrupt company and its CEO Mark Karpeles to freeze its U.S.-based assets. An then there’s
FlexCoin, the bitcoin bank who yesterday simply shut down after hackers made off with $600,000 worth of Bitcoin. “As Flexcoin does not have the resources, assets, or otherwise to come back from this loss, we are closing our doors immediately,” the company said in a statement.

It’s daunting to enter the crytocurrency business--on one hand, you have to repel hackers looking to put you out of business on the one hand and a squadron of government regulators threatening lawsuits, fines, and jail time on the other. While I can’t help you with the former issue, I thought I’d give a brief primer on the latter. Cryptocurrency occupies an unenviable amorphous legal and regulatory space. I argue that if those laws and regulations can be clarified, however, it will bring the industry a predictability that can stabilize the market and unlock more investment capital.

U.S. Regulations

First, it’s helpful to understand that the relevant laws applicable to cryptocurrency are intended to prevent money laundering, terrorism, crime, and tax evasion. Indeed, that’s why the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs held a hearing on the issue in November 2013. All this political attention on cryptocurrency, though, is a good thing. The overall tone of those hearings were positive and focused on the need to allow innovation, meaning this could give the cryptocurrency industry the political will to fast-track development and clarification of applicable laws and regulations. (The UAV, or commercial drone industry was not so lucky. Although government acknowledged the innovation aspect, that industry has been largely grounded for the next few years, no excuses. They won’t even let you UAV your friend a beer).

In the U.S., cryptocurrency companies have to deal with both state and federal regulators. The laws that apply are a bit of an alphabet soup. Ready? AML, BSA, KYC, MSB, OFAC, SAR. If you have a cryptocurrency startup and none of those sound familiar, I fear for you. And if they do, just keep doing what you’re doing. Here are those acronyms decoded:

AML: U.S. Treasury Anti-Money Laundering guidelines
BSA: Bank Secrecy Act
KYC: Know Your Customer (info for AML and sanctions-checking)
MSB: Money Service Business
OFAC: U.S. Treasury Office of Foreign Asset Control
SAR: Suspicious Activity Reporting

The Debate

There are two major camps over the debate on cryptocurrency regulation. On one hand, some believe that government regulation to be in direct conflict with the very principles that cryptocurrency standards for. On the other, those favoring regulation--including venture capital investors--support the development and clarification of the regulatory frameworks surrounding cryptocurrency companies. Overly strict regulations could hamper innovation. However, as in every industry, regulatory clarity allows predictability and transparency. Companies are better able to assess risk, invest in compliance, and make better business decisions.

Some Recent Clarification

On March 18, 2013, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), part of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, issued guidance on virtual currencies to clarify the applicability of the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) to persons (individual, corporation, partnership, etc.), “creating, obtaining, distributing, exchanging, accepting, or transmitting virtual currencies.”

The interpretive guidance essentially classified both administrators and exchangers as MSBs, similar to companies such as Western Union. “Administrators” are defined as persons engaged as a business in issuing (putting into circulation) a virtual currency, and who have the authority to redeem (to withdraw from circulation) such virtual currency (e.g. “miners”). “Exchangers” are those engaged as a business in the exchange of virtual currency for real currency, funds, or other virtual currency (e.g. exchange and some wallet companies). IndentityMind does a good job of summarizing the requirements of MSBs:

  • Each business that meets the definition of an MSB must register with FinCEN (www.msb.gov).
  • MSBs are required to file Suspicious Activity Report (SAR), if knows, suspects, or has reason to suspect that any transaction or activity is suspicious and it involves or aggregates funds or other assets of $2,000 or more ($5,000 or more if identified by issuers from a review of clearance records).
  • All MSBs are required to develop and implement a BSA Compliance Program that includes the 4 Pillars of AML: (1) Internal Controls, (2) Training, (3) Compliance Officer, and (4) Independent Testing. Strict customer identification verification and transaction monitoring policies and procedures can be the most effective weapon against money laundering.
  • If an MSB provides either cash-in or cash-out transactions of more than $10,000 with the same customer in a day, it must file a Currency Transaction Report (CTR).
Additional, and more detailed information can be found through the following links:

In addition to federal regulations, 47 states require such businesses to get money-transmitter licenses. The exceptions are Montana, New Mexico, and South Carolina. Cryptocurrency businesses can’t simply move to those states or abroad though — they must be registered in every state in which they do business. Unfortunately, the cost of obtaining these licenses in the whole country, excluding bonding requirements, is approximately $7 million to $10 million a year.

Let’s Be Realistic Here...

The Verge reports that as of December 2013, only 35 Bitcoin businesses have registered with FinCEN. The U.S. Treasury Department has reportedly reached out to companies it believes needs to register, and state authorities have received numerous inquiries but few registrations. Meanwhile, California and New York are still duking it out as to who will set the regulations that other states will follow. New York has proposed a “bitlicense” regime that may make the money-transmitter license moot in the first place, and California is embroiled in its own internal war over payments innovation. All this is to say that many cryptocurrency companies are in a “wait and see” mode to see how regulations will shake out before they invest too much in actual compliance.

It’s clear now from the FinCen guidance that existing regulations governing money laundering and terrorism concerns apply to virtual currency operators. What isn’t clear is how much compliance will still allow a derivative startup to feel things out without getting in trouble. Is being somewhat compliant better than zero compliance? There are stories out there in the blogosphere that some cryptocurrency startups that registered with FinCen then ended up hearing from their state regulators. Rather than apply for the expensive money-transmission license, they shuttered their doors.

The reality is that most startups I’ve worked will avoid having to deal with legal stuff until they absolutely have to--and for good reason. Ninety-something percent of these startups won’t make it through the year, so why invest heavily in compliance anyway? Most startups won’t even file incorporation papers until an investor asks them to, and the time and effort required for corporate formation is nil as compared with that of financial regulatory compliance. Given the latest news over Mt. Gox and Flexcoin, companies have to decide whether to allocate their limited resources towards security to ward off hackers, or compliance to ward off the government. It’s a tough position I don’t envy.

Regardless, the amount of investment for compliance is as much a business decision as it is a legal one. Companies may decide to simply wait until they get a warning from the U.S. Treasury Department.

International Approaches to Cryptocurrency

Before yesterday, experts cited three main approaches to regulating cryptocurrencies. First, the outlaw approach, taken by Russia and China, is a complete ban on cryptocurrency, and the innovations that surround it. The friendly approach has been adopted by the U.S. and EU, in which cryptocurrency is encouraged so long as companies follow the rules. The EU is especially cited as Bitcoin-friendly, and Bitcoin businesses have an advantage in the EU, which has a uniform licensing program for money transmitters governed by the Payment Service Directive. It allows a payment provider regulated in one country to expand into another country under its existing regulations and supervision. The South American countries have also tended to lean towards a friendlier approach due to the volatility in their domestic currencies.

Lastly, there’s the hands-off approach, as was taken by Japan... until yesterday. In reaction to the Mt. Gox fiasco, Japan announced the taxation and regulation of Bitcoin. Notably, it classifies cryptocurrency as a commodity like gold or silver, and not a currency. Capital gains from trading activities and purchases will be subject to Japan’s 8% tax beginning April 1, as are all purchases made in Japanese Yen. Banks will prohibited from dealing with bitcoins, and securities brokers are also not allowed to facilitate bitcoin trades.

For more information, this Coindesk article does a great job of breaking down each country’s approach to Bitcoin.

If you have questions about the legal/regulatory angles of Bitcoin/cryptocurrency, I’d love to hear them. You can tweet me at @amyywan.