As Wong Joon Ian has reported in The Business Times: “The future of money is built in Asia” — noting that in excess of $1.8 billion dollars in crypto currencies are traded on Asian exchanges ever day — representing almost 60% of the world’s daily crypto trade volume.
Growing appetite for cryptocurrency among investors
This Asian crypto trading volume occurs in the midst of an environment where, as Funds Global Asia reports — numerous crypto funds have been set up or are in the planning stages – catering to a growing demand from “Asian family offices, private banks and high-net-worth individuals…vying for…early-mover advantage [in crypto currency].”
Growing regulatory acceptance
Notably, however, as Yen Nee Lee reported in 2017 in CNBC, some Asia-Pacific regulators “have become increasingly uneasy with the rise of cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin”. But since then, the regulatory acceptance of cryptocurrency in Asia appears to be shifting. In some cases, some jurisdictions appear prepared to adopt crypto or even champion it (China, Korea, India and Thailand, among others, now notable for their acceptance or outright embrace of the currency). Overall, Asian crypto currency regulation is a rapidly evolving landscape.
Law firms around the world now beginning to accept virtual currency
The United States
As Sara Merken reported in Bloomberg BNA: “More large law firms are accepting bitcoin payments for their legal services, signaling the digital currency’s firmer foothold in corporate America.” Merken detailed how Steptoe & Johnson LLP (which maintains an office in Beijing), Frost Brown Todd LLC, and McLaughlin & Stern LLP have begun accepting virtual currency in order “to meet the demand of clients that deal with cryptocurrency assets [and] help the firms attract new clients.”
FiNews.com has reported how some law firms in Switzerland are now accepting virtual currency as the country “emerges as a global hub for initial coin offerings”. Law firms in Switzerland now accepting virtual currency include Baer & Karrer and Froriep. And as Helen Partz detailed in Cointelegraph, PwC (a Big4 accounting firm which performs legal services) Luxembourg began accepting Bitcoin in October. Steven Russolillo, reporting in the Wall Street Journal in 2017, also reported how PwC had begun accepting Bitcoin
Some law firms and Big4 accounting firms are now accepting virtual currency in Asia, but news reports and firm news releases on the subject are scarce.
To date, Bloomberg BNA has identified US law Steptoe & Johnson LLP (noted above), which operates a Beijing office, as accepting virtual currency as payment. Georgina Lee , reporting for the South China Morning Post, detailed how PwC is now “accepting bitcoin payment in Hong Kong”
Legaler reported last year that Piper Alderman in Australia is now accepting Bitcoin. As the firm details on its’ website: “We are proud to be the first major Australian law firm to accept bitcoin payments for legal services and from October 2019 have expanded to cover other major cryptocurrencies”.
In July, 2019, Malaysian law firm MahWengKwai & Associates detailed in an article on its’ website that it is “now accept[ing] payment for legal services [in] virtual currency”. “To the best of our knowledge”, the firm explained, “we are the first law firm in Malaysia to have implemented a virtual currency payment system for clients to make payment for legal fees”.
The firm’s Managing Partner Raymond Mah explained that: “We have asked our clients to partner with us to protect and grow their businesses. For clients growing rapidly in the fintech industry, it is important that we have a real understanding of their goals, challenges and technology. We have come to believe in the underlying blockchain technology and supporting the industry.”
The firm also explained how it “has partnered with Coinify – a Copenhagen-based cryptocurrency exchange and payments provider – to power our virtual currency payment system. The Coinify platform allows us to securely accept established virtual currencies including, but not limited to, Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin and Ripple”.
Prospects for law firm virtual currency payments
One crypto currency industry observer, John Reed Stark, Former Chief of the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Office of Internet Enforcement — recommends against law firms accepting cryptocurrency payments, citing a variety of risks.
However, Nicole Black writing in MyCase.com sees it differently, explaining that: “Ready or not, Bitcoin and Blockchain are here, and their impact on your law practice may occur sooner than you might think. Learn as much about them as you can, so that when their impact is felt, you’ll be ready to make informed decisions about using cryptocurrencies in your law practice.”
As recent events indicate, more firms around the world, including those in Asia, are beginning to accept virtual currency as a method of payment. At the same time, virtual currency is becoming more widely accepted by most governments in Asia amid investor enthusiasm and rapid business adoption. These trends appear likely to continue.