A “smart” legal contract is a legally binding agreement that is digital and able to connect its terms and the performance of its obligations to external sources of data and software systems. The benefit is to enable a wide variety of efficiencies, automation, and real time visibility for lawyers, businesses, nonprofits, and government. The potential applications of smart legal contract are limitless.
Although the operation of smart legal contracts may be enhanced by using blockchain technology, such as by securely sharing contract data among a business network, smart legal contracts can operate using traditional software systems without blockchain. A central goal of Accord Project technology is to be blockchain agnostic.
Smart legal contracts should not be confused with so-called “smart contracts,” which are software code that necessarily operates through a blockchain. A smart contract may have nothing to do with a legally binding agreement. For example, a smart contract may simply be used to automate certain data storage activities.
The Accord Project is a non-profit, member-driven organization that builds open source code and documentation for smart legal contracts for use by transactional attorneys, business and finance professionals, and other contract users. Open source means that anyone can use and contribute to the code and documentation and use it in their own software applications and systems free of charge.
The purpose of the Accord Project is to establish and maintain a common and consistent legal and technical foundation for smart legal contracts. The Accord Project is organized into working groups focused on transactions: supply chain, financial services, intellectual property, venture and token sales, real estate and construction; and also on dispute resolution. The transactional working groups are assisted by the Technology Working Group, which builds the underlying open source code and specifications to codify the knowledge of the transactional working groups. More details about the internal governance of the Accord Project are available here.
The working groups have calls at least once a month and use the Accord Project’s Slack group chat application (join by clicking here) for discussion. The dates, dial-in instructions, and agendas for the working groups are all listed in the Project’s public calendar and typically also in working group’s respective slack channels.
A primary purpose of the working groups is to develop a universally accessible and widely used open source library of modular, smart legal contract and smart clause templates and models that reflect input from transactional attorneys and other experts. Smart legal contract templates are built according to the Project’s Cicero Specification.
Members are expected to at least provide some feedback into the templates and models relevant to a particular working group. You can immediately get started contributing smart legal contract templates and models by following the Accord Project’s Cicero documentation.
Another purpose of the working groups is to use and help develop an easy-to-use programming language for building and executing smart legal contracts called Ergo. The goals of Ergo are to be accessible and usable by non-technical professionals, portable across, and compatible with, a variety of environments such as SaaS platforms and different blockchains, and meeting security, safety, and other requirements. You can use the Ergo playground to test your smart legal contract models and run them on other software systems.