According to some observers, smart contracts based on blockchain technology have the potential to (partly) replace the legal system as an infrastructure for transactions. This lecture addresses some of the limits of smart contract technology. These limits arguably make it unlikely that smart contracts will render (contract) law irrelevant, even if transactions are entirely structured by way of smart contract. The lecture will also report preliminary results from a large-scale empirical study investigating the landscape of smart contracts on the Ethereum blockchain.


Jens Frankenreiter is a Postdoctoral Fellow in Empirical Law and Economics at the Ira M. Millstein Center for Global Markets and Corporate Ownership at Columbia Law School. Jens’s research and teaching focus on business law, in particular corporate and contract law, and the functioning of legal institutions. 

Recommended readings:
Szabo (1994), Smart Contracts: http://www.fon.hum.uva.nl/rob/Courses/InformationInSpeech/CDROM/Literature/LOTwinterschool2006/szabo.best.vwh.net/smart.contracts.html.
Buterin (2014), Ethereum: A Next-Generation Cryptocurrency and Decentralized Application Platform:https://bitcoinmagazine.com/articles/ethereum-next-generation-cryptocurrency-decentralized-application-platform-1390528211
Sklaroff (2017), Smart Contracts and the Cost of Inflexibility:https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3008899#
Cohney/Hoffman (2020), Transactional Scripts in Contract Stacks:https://scholarship.law.upenn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3140&context=faculty_scholarship