Linklaters has grabbed prominent blockchain lawyer and consultant Joshua Ashley Klayman to serve as its U.S. head of fintech, and as head of its blockchain and digital assets practice group.
Klayman will be based in New York and her practice will focus on blockchain and digital assets, including initial coin offerings, and related transactions. That will include matters related to digital currencies or cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin.
Klayman has an extensive career in blockchain and crypto work, considering the newness of these fields. Her past jobs have included serving as founding chair of Morrison & Foerster’s blockchain and smart contracts group, and more recently founding a blockchain-focused boutique law firm, Klayman LLC, as well as a separate consultancy.
“Joshua’s cutting-edge practice will be of great value to our tech and finance clients,” said Scott Sonnenblick, partner in the firm’s U.S. corporate practice in a statement. “Her legal acumen and experience will resonate with a broad spectrum of the industry and her leadership will provide valuable support to our rapidly growing FinTech sector.”
Linklaters is a member of the so-called “Magic Circle,” which includes five of the more prestigious London-headquartered firms.
A Global Team
Klayman told Bloomberg Law that Linklaters’ ability to innovate, especially considering its massive size, was a big draw. She pointed to the firm’s investments in legal technologies.
“I really couldn’t pass up the offer. It’s an amazing firm,” she said. “One of the most exciting things in the world is to be at a large, global firm, and yet still be an entrepreneur of sorts.”
Working for her own firm in the past has had its benefits, especially with emerging company clients, Klayman said. “But for big projects, you really need a global team.”
In recent years, several top U.S. and British firms have placed big bets on practices that focus on cryptocurrencies—and even more so on blockchain, a technology that allows digital information to be distributed, but not copied, through the use of cryptography.
Firms have maintained their investments despite sharp drops in value last year of many digital currencies, including Bitcoin.
Yet noting the recent moves by Facebook, Goldman Sachs and other prominent companies toward digital currency technologies, Klayman argued that crypto “has made a comeback” and that both parts of the sector, crypto and blockchain, show great growth potential.
Klayman said she had no idea she’d be handling tech-related law of any type when starting out as an attorney in 2006.
But soon after starting at Morrison & Foerster as an associate in 2013, the emergence of smart contracts—computer programs stored in a blockchain that can be used to automate the transfer of crypto tokens between users—spurred the notion that this might be a smart legal niche to inhabit.
“I got into this space because I thought it was threatening my job, and I didn’t know what it was,” she said. Since then, “it’s resonated with me on so many levels. I really feel like I’ve found my tribe.”