New York City lawyer Marco Santori has worked with Bitcoin clients for a little over two years. E-commerce, web, financial technology and the evolving digital currency space are all specialties of his, and his business practice focuses on early-stage high-tech companies.
Santori chairs the Regulatory Affairs Committee of the Bitcoin Foundation, and he represents exchanges, payment processors and clients in digital currency litigation, securities, mining, Bitcoin payments, smart contracts, chain of title and other Bitcoin 2.0 applications. He is recognized as an authority on Bitcoin law, and an American Banker reporter recently described him as “the dean of digital currency lawyers.”
Through the global law firm Pillsbury Winthrop, he also counsels his clientele on regulatory matters, involving compliance with and avoidance of money services and securities regulations. He is very knowledgeable in the application of the Patriot Act and the Bank Secrecy Act to digital currency businesses, including Anti Money Laundering and Know Your Customer regulations. In addition, he helps his clients in protecting their own intellectual property as licensing the property of other rights holders.
His aim, as described in his article, Bitcoin Law: What US Businesses Need to Know, is to “help Bitcoin businesses assess their risks and develop an informed business model.”
Santori says he initially learned about Bitcoin when he was helping to form a currency-trading fund, and his colleagues would joke that they were “trading Bitcoin,” even though at the time they were engaged in very conservative pursuits such as shorting the Euro.
“Back then [trading Bitcoin] was a joke,” says Santori. “Now it’s of course no joke at all; it’s a billion dollar industry.”
According to Santori, every day as he represents clients, they teach him what are “the latest and greatest things out there.” He added that the bulk of his knowledge comes from spending time with the regulators. Sitting in the same room across the table from people who are creating policy and regulations, helping them to understand the technology and trying to get the way that they think and what their priorities are – this is what he sees as his Bitcoin education.
Santori credits word of mouth from clients as the biggest contributor to the building of his brand. He says if he does well for one client, that client spreads the word, and “that’s the most effective way anyone can build a brand or market their services, and that’s no less true in the legal space.”
He cautions clients who want to get involved in Bitcoin that anyone who has been involved in the digital currency for long enough can tell when somebody is just pretending, or trying to tread water in a conversation about digital currency. As such, he advises these clients to do their homework and spend time at conferences and meetups so they can get to the people behind the scenes in the Bitcoin industry. “There’s no faking it when it comes to this stuff,” says Santori.
His advice to professionals looking to build businesses related to Bitcoin is similar – “if you’re looking to service the Bitcoin economy,” he says, “any potential client can tell within five minutes of talking whether you’re truly an expert or not. Don’t try to fake it. Just go to the conferences and start learning.”
He added that there are many new professionals who have a lot to offer the industry, and if they can do some free work at first to get their bearings and learn a bit more about the industry – who the players and stakeholders are – it will redound to their benefit.