Ten international law firms have joined a new initiative by R3 to develop advice on the legal aspects of blockchain technology.

The enterprise software firm has launched its new so-called Corda Blockchain Legal Centre of Excellence with the purpose of bringing together law firms to collaborate on best practices, gather feedback from the legal sector and also help them to better engage with the new technology.

The law firms involved in the project from its outset include Ashurst, Baker & McKenzie, Clifford Chance, Crowell & Moring, Fasken, Holland & Knight, Perkins Coie, Shearman & Sterling, and Stroock.

The launch comes amid growing involvement of law firms in R3’s various blockchain projects. They increasingly work with clients to provide specialist advice on the legal aspects of the technology, such as structuring business networks and drafting smart contracts – a legal document written into code and stored on the blockchain.

Members will have access to R3’s research, monthly project demos to give a practical understanding of blockchain applications, as well as Corda training workshops that R3 has developed specifically for attorneys. These will help them advise their clients on legal and regulatory issues associated with R3’s open-source blockchain platform Corda.

“Lawyers hold a key position in the financial services ecosystem,” says Jason Rozovsky, senior counsel and head of the R3’s new legal centre. “Many of our clients are also clients of the world’s leading law firms, a number of which have joined our legal centre of excellence. There is an overall benefit to our membership and the Corda community at large to collaborating with these firms about Corda and its capabilities early on, and to obtaining their valuable insights into the legal and regulatory environments in which Corda operates.”

R3 is currently behind a range of blockchain applications, including two in the trade finance space. Voltron was the first trade finance prototype to be showcased by R3 in mid-2017, with the aim of streamlining the processing of sight letters of credit. Built together with CGI and a group of 11 banks, the parties are currently piloting the platform with the goal of making it widely available this year.

The other project, Marco Polo, is an open account trade finance platform developed together with fintech firm TradeIX and a number of global banks, which enables real-time, seamless connectivity between trade participants and simplifies access to credit and risk mitigation services throughout the trade lifecycle. The banks have just started the first pilot and R3 expects to expand the initiative in 2018 to include additional banks and third-party service providers.