Blockchain Explained

Meet Joyce Lai — ConsenSys Legal's Eyes on Blockchain and Regulation

Joyce Lai of ConsenSys Legal tells the story of coming to ConsenSys, and her passion for facilitating productive discussions on the topic of blockchain and regulation.

By ConsenSys

November 27, 2019

Joyce Lai has been working at ConsenSys for over two years. She sat down to discuss her passion for blockchain and regulation, as well as some of her insights about the latest ecosystem discussions happening in her field. 

Can you tell us about yourself?

“I am an attorney here at ConsenSys and I have been at ConsenSys for over 2 years now. Before that, I was a private funds attorney at a New York City law firm. My clients were hedge funds, and I would help them set up their business and think through the Investment Advisers Act and various Securities Act issues.  But I knew I always wanted to move into tech. Tech is an industry where you get to not only think about how things work now, but also how things will look in the future, and ultimately, be able to shape the future.”

Can you tell us about your role at ConsenSys?

“My job here falls into three main buckets: in-house counsel, working with product teams and policy advocacy. ConsenSys is a very unique company to serve as in-house counsel, because not very many companies expands from 300 to 1,000 globally from your first day of work to a little over two years! I also work with the product teams to help them understand and take into account regulatory issues that affect their products so that they can build the best product from the beginning.  Finally, policy advocacy is an important part of the work for the legal team because we live in a world of regulatory uncertainty. So this is not only about navigating those rules and regulations as a lawyer, but also helping the world understand what we are trying to do and how possible it is for the new technologies might actually fit within existing regulation.”  

How did you become interested in the field of blockchain technology?

“At the time I was exploring new opportunities and I attended lots of meet-ups around New York City and ended up at a few blockchain meet-ups. It was early 2017 so there were a lot of blockchain meet-ups going on and naturally, I met a ton of people there, including some ConsenSys folks.  I distinctly recall how approachable everyone was and how philosophical the topics of discussion were. People discussed very fundamental things such as how humans should act and can interact with each other.”

What were some of the topics that came up in dialogue?

“I remember going to some meet-ups and hearing discussions about how to ensure voting integrity.  Other topics included how to document land titles so that you can give access to credit and money to people who may not have the ability to fight for themselves. The discussions were always around really difficult problems without easy answers. This showed me how fundamental blockchain and Ethereum is.” 

Joyce Lai and Donna Redel at The Fordham Law Blockchain Regulatory Symposium. Photo Credit: Chris Taggart

We’ve heard about your participation in some activities outside of ConsenSys that focus on the conversation relating to blockchain and regulation. Can you talk about these additional endeavors?

“I am a Co-Founder of the Fordham Law Blockchain Regulatory Symposium. We held the inaugural symposium on November 11th. Despite NYC being the financial capital of the world, my friend Professor Donna Redel and I realized that there wasn’t a full day NYC based event focusing on blockchain and regulation. So we decided to create our own and got our alma mater involved. We both felt that the U.S. industry was not moving fast enough to keep up with the international competition. To help facilitate dialogue needed to move the industry along, we gathered the brightest academic, legal, regulatory, judicial and business minds in the blockchain industry in one room.   

We operated the symposium under Chatham House Rule and got sponsors so that we didn’t have to sell speaking slots or charge for tickets. What we ended up with was truly a very high-quality event in both speakers and audience. For keynotes and fireside chats, we hosted FTC Commissioner Noah Phillips, Amy Starr from the SEC, Superintendent Linda Lacewell from NYDFS and Caitlin Long from the Wyoming Blockchain Task Force. My goal was to create more opportunities for regulators, policymakers and technologists to have the right type of dialogue that will move us forward.”

Joyce interviewing  FTC Commissioner Noah Phillips. Photo Credit: Chris Taggart

In the past few years, we have seen a lot of talk about blockchain and more broadly responsible tech innovation. How are these conversations taking shape today?

“2019 has been a very interesting year because Facebook’s Libra project has forced everyone to pay attention to cryptocurrencies in the U.S. In addition to the ongoing issues such as custody of digital assets, anti-money laundering, securities law, we see a wider group of regulators and government joining the conversation.  For example, on November 19, Jerome Powell, Chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System responded to a letter from Congressman French Hill on the Federal Reserve’s views on developing a U.S. central bank digital currency. A few years ago, we could not have expected that type of attention on these topics.”

Disclaimer: The views expressed by the author above do not necessarily represent the views of Consensys AG. ConsenSys is a decentralized community with the ConsenSys Blog being a platform for members to freely express their diverse ideas and perspectives.