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Blockchain & Smart Contracts

Blockchain technology is dramatically transforming the way we do business, particularly in the areas of financial services, securities, and corporate transactions. However, both the technology and the laws governing it are highly complex, requiring sophisticated legal and technical expertise — and an insider’s understanding of the ever-evolving regulatory space. 

Gowling WLG is home to Canada’s leading blockchain legal practice, comprising lawyers who are expertly qualified to advise clients on a broad range of legal issues related to blockchain technology. From initial coin offerings to consumer protection issues, our team can help you overcome the latest challenges and take advantage of new opportunities.


Here are just a few examples of what sets us apart when it comes to blockchain and smart contracts:

Blockchain pioneers

Gowling WLG leads the industry in blockchain expertise. We are the only international law firm to be a founding partner and co-founding member of the Blockchain Research Institute, a multi-million dollar knowledge network that studies the strategic implications of blockchain alongside the Bank of Canada, Nasdaq, the TMX Group, IBM, KPMG, Bell Canada and others.

Gowling WLG has also broken new ground in the listing of the first blockchain company in the world, and one of our practitioners coordinated the very first token sale offered as a security by way of an Offering Memorandum across Canada in accordance with Canadian securities laws.

In addition, our team is often called upon to brief and advise cabinet ministers, mayors and other high-ranking corporate executives on the state of blockchain technology in Canada and around the world. Members of our team are also authoring The Law of Blockchain Technology, an in-depth book that will be published by Thomson Reuters in 2018.

Full service offering

Our Blockchain & Smart Contracts Group offers clients a broad range of legal services to help them overcome the latest challenges and take advantage of new opportunities. Our experienced lawyers frequently advise on blockchain matters related to:

  • Initial coin offerings (ICOs)
  • Crypto-currency exchanges
  • Digital wallets
  • Securities law compliance
  • Capital markets transactions (e.g., underwriting and going public transactions and crowdfunding/online investment platforms)
  • Investment fund formation
  • Business operations
  • Tax
  • Anti-money laundering (AML)/know your client (KYC) compliance
  • Litigation
  • M&A and other corporate transactions
  • Patents and other intellectual property matters
  • Consumer protection compliance
  • Banking law
  • Real estate law

In addition, our practitioners are working on matters that touch on blockchain’s foundational impact on identity, provenance, fraud suppression, cybersecurity, supply chain management and the internet of things, as well as blockchain’s disruptive implications for such diverse domains as finance, insurance, law, healthcare, accounting, real estate, entertainment and law enforcement. 

Our clients include leading digital wallets, crypto-currency exchanges, investment funds seeking to invest in crypto-currencies or crypto-assets, and key blockchain pioneers.

Global reach

With offices in 19 cities in Canada, the U.K., Europe, the Middle East and Asia, and an extensive referral network spanning more than 30 countries, Gowling WLG is equipped to support your domestic and cross-border blockchain legal needs in jurisdictions around the world.

Thought leaders

Our lawyers are blockchain thought leaders and are sought-after speakers at key blockchain industry events and conferences in Canada and internationally. Gowling WLG has also hosted a number of its own well-attended blockchain seminars for clients.

Recent Gowling WLG articles on blockchain include:

Unmatched legal team

Our team comprises seasoned practitioners from all legal disciplines, including capital markets, financial services, tax, and intellectual property. Our top-ranked litigation team, in particular, includes leading commercial litigators, former prosecutors at the Ontario Securities Commission and former Crown Attorneys. Our lawyers have also developed exceptionally strong relationships with government agencies, including through their work on significant regulatory committees such as the Ontario Securities Commission Securities Advisory Committee and the Small and Medium Enterprises Committee.  

Client work highlights

  • Advised on the transaction that resulted in the world’s first public listing of a blockchain company, bringing BTL Group to market on the TSX-V.
  • Counsel to one of the co-founders of Ethereum, now one of the largest crypto-currencies in the world.
  • Currently acting as lead counsel on a high volume of initial coin offerings (ICOs) / token sales with blockchain projects relating to all industry sectors, including infrastructure, construction, property management and energy.
  • Counsel to several investment funds seeking to invest in crypto-currencies or crypto-assets (such as tokens and other blockchain startups), including fund formation, securities registration and compliance, downstream investments and M&A.
  • Counsel on novel patent applications for several banks and other blockchain pioneers.
  • Trademark agent to a crypto-currency bitcoin exchange and internet financial services company with respect to the registration in Canada and the US of its new exchange trademark.
  • Counsel to leading Canadian crypto-exchanges and digital wallets, as well as leading players in India and Australia seeking Canadian legal advice.
  • Counsel to a leading full-service blockchain technology company, in ongoing tax, GST, transfer pricing and corporate commercial matters.

Upcoming & past events

  • Rotman School of Business – Usman Sheikh and Anthony Diiorio, co-founder of Ethereum and founder of Decentral, will deliver a lecture entitled "Fintech, Blockchain, Crypto Currencies & Cybersecurity” – January 25, 2018
  • Blockchain Impact: Bootcamp & Event – Gowling WLG’s Usman Sheikh will be speaking on blockchain regulatory developments at this event presented by Fintech Canada – December 8, 2017
  • Blockchain Expo – Usman Sheikh will be speaking on “Smart Contract Management & Innovation” at the Blockchain Expo in Santa Clara, California – November 29-30, 2017
  • New Frontiers in Capital Innovation: ICOs – Gowling WLG’s Toronto office will be co-sponsoring an event with the National Crowdfunding Association of Canada on blockchain innovations and ICOs for investors, issuers, traders, key participants and stakeholders – November 16, 2017
  • Blockchains, Smart Contracts and the Law Conference – Gowling WLG practitioners Usman Sheikh and Parna Sabet-Stephenson will be speaking at an Osgoode CPD program on blockchain litigation and differences in blockchain business models – November 15, 2017
  • Blockchain Research Institute (BRI) All-Members Summit – Gowling WLG Partner Usman Sheikh will lead a BRI workshop on CLO & Legal/Regulatory Developments – November 8, 2017
  • Blockchain Breakfast: Leading Movers and Key Developments – Gowling WLG’s Toronto office is hosting a breakfast session with pioneers in the blockchain community who will describe blockchain’s application to their businesses, followed by a legal update from Gowling WLG lawyers at the forefront of capital markets and litigation developments – November 2, 2017
  • Benchers Retreat: Law Society of Upper Canada – Usman Sheikh will provide the lunchtime address to the Benchers of the Law Society of Upper Canada on blockchain technology and its application to the legal profession – October 25, 2017
  • Blockchain for everyone! The Bitcoin and Blockchain Revolution – Gowling WLG’s Vancouver office co-hosted this event that featured special guests Manie Eagar (Blockchain Association of Canada) and Thomas Linder and Lukas Sieber (MME) from Switzerland – October 16, 2017
  • ETHWaterloo – Gowling WLG sponsored a key Waterloo 36-hour hackathon attended by over 400 leading developers from around the world – October 13-15, 2017
  • Pillsbury Blockchain Seminar: When Will Blockchain Matter? – Usman Sheikh spoke on Blockchain and litigation developments in New York at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP – June 7, 2017
  • The Blockchain Revolution: A Technology Primer – Gowling WLG’s Blockchain & Smart Contract Practice Group hosted blockchain experts from the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC) and independent blockchain engineers to explain the technical underpinnings of blockchain technology as well as where this technology stands today and where it might go – March 14, 2017
  • Blockchain Symposium – Gowling WLG’s Blockchain & Smart Contract Practice Group hosted a full-day conference in the Toronto office featuring discussion from leading experts on the latest developments in blockchain technology and what the future might hold – December 7, 2016
  • IIROC-CLS Conference – Usman Sheikh spoke on Blockchain & the Capital Markets to the financial services and compliance industry at an event hosted by the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC) Education Sub-Committee – December 5, 2016

Media highlights

Learn more

To find out more about how we can help you with your blockchain-related legal matters, please contact our Head of Blockchain & Smart Contracts, Usman Sheikh, or any member of our team.

Key Contact

Usman M. Sheikh
Usman M. Sheikh

Meet our Blockchain & Smart Contracts professionals

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