21 Feb 2022

Gunnercooke becomes first top 200 UK law firm to take cryptocurrency payments

Firm says decision means it can work with a wider variety of clients and its partners can be paid how they choose

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Gunnercooke has become what it believes to be the first UK law firm in the top 200 to accept payment in cryptoassets.

The City litigation firm said it had partnered with coinpass, a cryptoasset exchange registered with the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority, to make the exchanges and will take cryptoassets such as ether and bitcoin.

“Up to now, only a few US law firms allow for cryptoasset payments so we are proud to be at the forefront of innovation in the UK,” said Gunnercooke finance director Naseer Patel. “We will now be able to work with a wider variety of clients across different jurisdictions, plus offer our partners the flexibility to be paid securely in the way they choose.”

US firms to accept payment in crypto include Big Law players Perkins Coie, Steptoe & Johnson and Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan as well as regional firms like Frost Brown Todd and McLaughlin & Stern.

The Global Legal Post understands that so far in the UK only sole practitioners and smaller boutique firms, like London media outfit Sheridans and Isle of Man firm Quinn Legal, have done so.

Gunnercooke's decision to accept crypto payments has come as the firm has pushed for growth in its fintech and crypto practices, having built a client base of around 100 crypto developers, platforms and exchanges since it was founded in 2010.

One of Gunnercooke’s clients, crypto-staking business Attestant, paid the firm for legal consultancy services this week using Ethereum. The firm advises Attestant on legal and regulatory matters related to staking, a process used to verify cryptocurrency transactions.

Gunnercooke financial services and fintech partner Jamie Burnie said it was “vital that we accept payment in this way for our substantial client base, which spans the entire blockchain and cryptoasset ecosystem”, adding that over the next decade he expected to see a “gradual transition towards cryptocurrency becoming increasingly accepted as a means of payment generally”.

US firms deciding to accept payment in crypto cite client demand and the potential to attract new clients, with a lawyer at Frost Brown Todd telling Bloomberg Law that clients who work with crypto often have more crypto-based assets than they do fiat currency and want to pay using crypto to avoid converting it to cash.

However, while crypto is gaining a foothold as a means of payment among law firms, it is still only a small minority that accept it and then only for a small number of clients, though that is increasing. Firms that do emphasise the importance of due diligence to make sure clients’ real identities are known and the necessity of converting the cryptocurrency to cash to avoid being invested in it and exposed to its volatility.

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