Legal fees: Will billing in Bitcoins set your firm apart?

The law is commonly seen as the most conservative of professions. But could Bitcoin - or PiggyCoin for that matter - put new spice into the sometimes dull negotiations over fixed fees and billable hours?

The law is commonly seen as the most conservative of professions, with firms seeming to take up new ideas and innovations at a glacially slow rate. 

However, in January it seemed one firm was willing to take a risk and surge into a new technological frontier where no Australian firm had gone before.
The Sydney-based online-only law startup LegalVision announced it would become the first Australian law firm to accept payments in Bitcoins.

Bitcoin, the world’s most famous online crypto currency (there are scores of others, some with bizarre names like Grump, PiggyCoin or HoboNickels) are the payment of choice for online libertarians, drug dealers and nerds in general.
The digital currency allows users to anonymously transfer money on the internet without using a bank, meaning users to transact with each other directly.

Within days, LegalVision proudly announced it had accepted its first Bitcoin payment – the owner of a medium-sized business purchased a range of legal documents for 2.179 BitCoins, and we can imagine it was satisfied grins all around.    

Yet just a few weeks later, Bitcoin is enduring a very serious existential crisis. MtGox, the world’s largest Bitcoin exchange has declared bankruptcy and is facing a potential class action. Meanwhile, the value of Bitcoins, already notoriously volatile, has fallen over $500 since the end of last year.

While hopes remain among devotees for an eventual Bitcoin supremacy, it is now teetering between the slings and arrows of outraged investors, and a sea of financial and legal troubles.

When Australasian Lawyer contacted LegalVision to ask if they were still dealing in Bitcoins, this was their response : “We sure are. We got another Bitcoin payment yesterday. The customer was taking legal action against a Bitcoin exchange funnily enough!”

The method in this madness, as it was revealed to us, is to treat them like hot potatoes and exchange them into good old-fashioned Australian dollars - or real currency - as soon as possible.

Perhaps the conservatism of traditional law firms - and their glacial pace - has something going for it.

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