After graduating from Georgetown University and The George Washington University Law School, Kirsten Albers-Fiedler worked on structuring impact investment transactions for a nonprofit organization. Having enrolled in the law and entrepreneurship LLM program at Duke Law to gain a deeper knowledge of law pertaining to the support of entrepreneurial clients, she became interested in emerging technologies through Clinical Professor Jeff Ward’s courses on frontier AI and robotics and blockchain law and ethics. And through those classes, she also established an internship at ConsenSys, a global blockchain technology company.
Now Albers-Fiedler is helping to grow OpenLaw, a “spoke” of ConsenSys whose protocol automates natural language and enables parties to use smart-contract functionality — code run on a blockchain — in their legal contracts, with the goal of lowering transaction costs, streamlining contract formation, and democratizing access to the legal system. “Its protocol,” she explains, “functions as a comprehensive toolkit for the creation, management, and execution of legal agreements.” Parties can create legally binding agreements with contractual provisions that execute automatically when triggered by smart contract “calls” that can be embedded into the agreement templates. OpenLaw aims to increase the efficiency of legal operations, allow users to create and transfer blockchain-based or tokenized assets, and provide access to a publicly available legal agreement repository.
Albers-Fiedler’s roles at OpenLaw include analyzing and drafting legal agreements, acquiring socially impactful partnerships, and identifying which portions of legal agreements can be automated to leverage blockchain technology.
“Professor Ward’s course offerings through the Duke Center on Law & Technology piqued my desire to join an emerging technologies start-up, and I was provided with the knowledge and tools necessary to pursue this non-traditional career path,” she says. “Learning about the positive impact that emerging technologies can have in a variety of areas appealed to me, and I was particularly fascinated with their application in the legal industry.”
During her yearlong law and entrepreneurship studies, Albers-Fiedler began to see how disruptive technology could solve a great need: access to legal services that are efficient and affordable. “Lawyers, on the whole, are only providing adequate services for 14 percent of low-income individuals in need of legal assistance,” she says, “and this statistic does not include those who are above the low-income threshold and are not able to afford a lawyer or even realize that they have a legal issue or could benefit from legal protection. If lawyers are providing adequate assistance solely to wealthy individuals or institutions, they distance themselves from the larger community that they are likewise meant to serve.
“My belief is that if lawyers make increasing use of blockchain technology and artificial intelligence to draft agreements and conduct legal research, the cost of legal services will decrease, and they will have more time to provide their services to more people,” she says. “I am grateful to be working for a company that has developed a protocol that has the potential to benefit everyone conducting legal transactions.”