The Law and Legality of Smart Contracts

1 Georgetown Law Technology Review 304 (2017)

37 Pages Posted: 25 Sep 2016

See all articles by Max Raskin

Max Raskin

New York University School of Law

Date Written: September 22, 2016


A new technology called “smart contracts” has emerged. What makes these legal agreements innovative is that their execution is made automatic through the use of computers. This Article examines smart contracts from a legal perspective. Specifically, this Article explains smart contracts’ operation and place in existing contract law. It introduces a distinction between strong and weak smart contracts, as defined by the costs of their revocation and modification. The article concludes that smart contracts are simply a new form of preemptive self-help that should not be discouraged by the legislatures or courts. While certain unconscionable examples of strong smart contracts may need to be policed, judges and policymakers should foster a climate that treats smart contracts as another form of more traditional agreements.

Keywords: smart contracts, self-help, blockchain, blockchains, bitcoin, technology, innovation

JEL Classification: K12, K42

Suggested Citation

Raskin, Max, The Law and Legality of Smart Contracts (September 22, 2016). 1 Georgetown Law Technology Review 304 (2017), Available at SSRN: or

Max Raskin (Contact Author)

New York University School of Law ( email )

40 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012-1099
United States

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