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Blockchain-Enabled Consensus Community Engagement App Launches in South Burlington, Vermont

 

 

 

 

 

The City of South Burlington and the Toronto-based artificial intelligence/ blockchain company Consensus announced the official launch today of a groundbreaking app using blockchain technology to gather real-time feedback from residents about municipal issues. The Consensus app is the first blockchain-based citizen engagement platform in use by a city government in the U.S.  The app pushes questions the city government generates to users in real-time and seamlessly feeds their responses to city leaders. This allows people to voice concerns or register their satisfaction quickly and directly to the city government on a wide variety of issues, from paving schedules and commutes to parks and recreation options.

The new Consensus app was unveiled at the South Burlington City Hall today.  City Council Chair Helen Riehle, City Manager Kevin Dorn, Vermont Attorney General TJ Donovan, Consensus Founder and CEO Oleg Gutsol, and Consensus Chief Strategy Officer Dustin Plett all attended the announcement. They invited South Burlington residents to get involved and make their voices heard by downloading the app, responding to survey questions, and giving Consensus and the City feedback about improving the app. The free Consensus app is now available for Apple and Android users in the iTunes Store and in Google Play, and via a link on https://sb.consensus.ai/.

City and state government leaders touted the Consensus app as an invaluable and innovative tool for the city to keep its pulse on residents’ concerns, as well as another sign of the City’s competitiveness in attracting tech jobs to Vermont.

Riehle explained that “effective government leaders” need “timely, informed and thoughtful feedback from residents.”  She characterized the feedback the City will receive through the Consensus app “so important to our form of representative government.” Attorney General TJ Donovan added that the “bold leadership” shown by South Burlington leaders in adopting the Consensus pilot project would allow the City to be “more responsive, more competitive” and to increase access to government.

Consensus, the company that developed the app, also highlighted the Consensus app’s value as a secure tool to improve citizen engagement and enable rapid decision-making in government. Plett called the pilot “an incredibly innovative initiative” to foster citizen engagement and improve democracy. He added that the three- to four- month pilot would allow Consensus to test user adoption and scalability of the secure Consensus app while preparing for its commercial launch. Plett confirmed that the Consensus app includes security features that protect users’ personal information and  “ensures no outside influences” affect or corrupt residents’ votes.

Blockchain supporters who gathered for the launch echoed the enthusiasm of Consensus’ developers and the government officials at the launch.  The “race is on for states to attract blockchain companies,” said David Thelander, Special Counsel at Gravel & Shea PC, which aided Consensus in landing the pilot in South Burlington. Thelander noted that the City of South Burlington had distinguished itself as a leader in that race, including through its earlier partnership with Propy to complete the first U.S. real estate transaction conducted entirely on the blockchain. “Our firm, and the rest of the blockchain industry, are eager to see how this pilot helps improve blockchain products and paves the way for their use by cities, states, and towns,” Thelander added.

Those interested in downloading the Consensus app or getting more information about the pilot project are encouraged to visit https://sb.consensus.ai/.

Gravel & Shea PC June 3, 2019

Jeanne C. Blackmore Selected for the 2019 Chambers Guide High Net Worth Category

We are proud to announce that partner Jeanne C. Blackmore has been selected for the 2019 Chambers Guide High Net Worth Category.

Jeanne, who specializes in Private Wealth Law, came to Gravel & Shea after over ten years in Ernst & Young’s national office tax practice. Her specialty areas are tax and estate planning, probate and trust administration, and general business taxation.

Jeanne has been listed in the Chambers High Net Worth Guide for several years running and has also been listed in the New England Super Lawyers. She is a member of the Chittenden County, Vermont, California and American Bar Associations, and has co-authored several books.

The firm wishes a warm congratulations to Jeanne for her hard work and outstanding contributions.

 

The Chambers and Partners Ranking Guides offer detailed insight into the global legal market. For almost 30 years, the Chambers team, now made up of 200 research analysts, has undergone intensive research via their London office to develop a database of the best law professionals across the globe.

The rankings are meant to offer a comprehensive overview of firms and attorneys based on a number of criteria, including professional conduct, overall dedication and ability, client service, strategic effectiveness, and commercial astuteness. The Chambers team’s assessment process is based on a combination client opinions and internal assessments such as interviews.

The guide, now in the form of a comprehensive digital database, is the most authoritative and up-to-date overview of law firms and attorneys, and as such is the premier resource for business organizations seeking top-notch legal counsel.

Gravel & Shea PC May 8, 2019

Gravel & Shea Listed as Leading Firm in Chambers USA 2019

Gravel & Shea is on pleased to announce their listing as a top-ranked firm in the 2019 Chambers & Partners Guide. The firm has been featured in the Chambers Guide for the past several years, a testament to the high level of quality service they offer clients, and their overall dedication to case work. The Chambers Guide is the world’s foremost resource ranking the best law firms and attorneys throughout 200 jurisdictions globally.

Firm attorneys are listed in three key categories:

  • Corporate/Commercial
  • Litigation: General Commercial
  • Real Estate

Corporate/Commercial

The Chambers Guide notes that the firm has an “impressive track record” supporting business and commercial clients, with a focus on M&A, finance, taxation, construction, and renewable energy, blockchain and securities.
 

Peter S. Erly

William A. Mason, IV

Keith A. Roberts
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Litigation: General Commercial

Gravel & Shea’s litigation team is known for its ability to tackle a range of commercial litigation issues and complex disputes. Notable specialty areas include product liability, bankruptcy litigation, alternative dispute resolution, insurance, and securities.

Matthew B. Byrne

Robert B. Hemley
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Real Estate

Gravel & Shea’s highly regarded attorneys are known for their thorough knowledge and dedication to cases in a range of real estate matters in residential, commercial and mixed-use zoning. They are particularly noted for their work on environmental and land use cases, and are well-versed in the areas of acquisitions, financing and permitting.

Timothy M. Eustace

Michelle N. Farkas

Robert H. Rushford

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Real Estate: Zoning/Land Use

Timothy M. Eustace has been recognized for his work in Zoning /Land Use.

Chambers & Partners also recognized Jeanne C. Blackmore as a leading attorney in the Chamber’s and Partners High Net Worth Guide and Heather Rider Hammond for her labor and employment practice.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Gravel & Shea congratulates each attorney for their outstanding contributions to the firm.

The Chambers and Partners Ranking Guides offer detailed insight into the global legal market. For almost 30 years, the Chambers team, now made up of 200 research analysts, has undergone intensive research via their London office to develop a database of the best law professionals across the globe.

The rankings are meant to offer a comprehensive overview of firms and attorneys based on a number of criteria, including professional conduct, overall dedication and ability, client service, strategic effectiveness, and commercial astuteness. The Chambers team’s assessment process is based on a combination client opinions and internal assessments such as interviews.

The guide, now in the form of a comprehensive digital database, is the most authoritative and up-to-date overview of law firms and attorneys, and as such is the premier resource for business organizations seeking top-notch legal counsel

Gravel & Shea PC May 8, 2019

New Blockchain-Based Smartphone App Helps Connect South Burlington Community with Local Government

The Gravel & Shea Blockchain team are excited to announce a new blockchain-based pilot project.

Consensus, a Toronto-based company and Gravel & Shea client, has designed a smartphone app to connect the local community to municipal government. The goal is to encourage South Burlington community members to share their thoughts on municipal issues right from their smartphones.

Kevin Dorn, South Burlington City Manager, is enthusiastic about this opportunity to connect the public with policymakers in a real and accessible way. He considers it imperative that community members become more engaged with local government, to make sure they are seen and heard as a part of a transparent and effective democratic process.

Consensus is joining forces with Champlain College to bring the app into reality and into the community. Consensus will tap Champlain College math and science students to assist in the project.  Dorn made the announcement about the pilot project last week, alongside Consensus, Champlain College, the Vermont Attorney General’s office and Gravel & Shea.

Left to right: DLGA Chair John Burton; Champlain College President Don Laackman; Consensus’ Dustin Plett; Kevin Dorn, South Burlington City Manager; Chris Curtis, Attorney General’s office; David J. Thelander, Gravel & Shea.  

The Consensus app marks another positive step in Gravel & Shea’s success in attracting blockchain-focused businesses to the region. The firm has been working to build partnerships to facilitate local blockchain-based initiatives in a range of industries, including real estate, since VT passed landmark blockchain legislation last spring.

Blockchain technology is highly resistant to hacking, which means that it offers an exceptional levels of security and privacy for applications which incorporate public sector data. Blockchain’s ability to simultaneously keep records confidential and streamline citizen communication makes the technology an ideal support tool for civic engagement.

Through the coming months, Gravel & Shea will work with both Consensus and South Burlington to launch the project, with the app expected to be available to local residents via the App Store this summer.

For further information, see our NBC and WCAX coverage.

Gravel & Shea’s Blockchain Technology group specializes in analyzing and resolving legal issues related to blockchain technology.

Gravel & Shea PC April 4, 2019

Gravel & Shea Attorneys Present on Probate and Food Law at VBA Mid-Year Meeting

Three Gravel & Shea attorneys gave presentations last week at the Vermont Bar Association Mid-Year Meeting in Lake Morey.

Shareholder Navah Spero and Associate Livia DeMarchis presented Probate 101. The session, intended to provide a broad overview of the Vermont probate court, was geared toward attorneys new to practicing in Vermont and attorneys who are starting or interested in starting their own probate practice.

“The participants were very engaged and asked good questions,” said Spero. “It’s a smart practice area to be getting into right now as the Baby Boomer generation ages, bringing more and more cases before the probate court.”

Spero is a member of Gravel & Shea’s litigation practice group and specializes in probate litigation. DeMarchis’s practice focuses on tax and estate planning as well as trust and probate administration.

Special Counsel Cassandra LaRae-Perez presented a detailed overview of food and beverage law at the state and federal levels. She also provided the attending attorneys with information on current litigation trends and recent developments in both case law and regulatory regimes, like class actions suits based on similar claims across the country and the changing nature of regulations related to CBD products, particularly dietary supplements.

“It’s a dynamic area of the law consistently challenged by an active plaintiffs’ bar and recent sweeping changes in regulation,” said LaRae-Perez. “Even companies doing their best to do the right thing can find themselves at the business end of a daunting lawsuit, and it’s hard for new companies to navigate all the regulations and myriad agencies involved. But that’s also what makes it interesting.”

LaRae-Perez is the only Vermont attorney with a dedicated food and beverage practice.

Gravel & Shea PC April 2, 2019

Attorney Keith Roberts Joins Gravel & Shea Corporate Team

Gravel & Shea is happy to welcome Keith Roberts to the firm. As Special Counsel on the corporate team, Keith’s practice will focus on a wide range of corporate transactional and governance issues, including purchase and sale transactions, financing on both the borrower and lender sides, and representation of boards.

“Joining the team at Gravel & Shea was an opportunity that I couldn’t ignore,” says Keith. “The firm offers me the perfect opportunity to do more of the types of legal work that I really enjoy, and I’m looking forward to growing the firm’s representation of non-profits and participating in public finance transactions.”

Prior to joining Gravel & Shea, Keith was a shareholder at another prominent Vermont law firm for nearly 15 years. He began his law career clerking for the Honorable Nathaniel M. Gorton, United States District Judge, District of Massachusetts and then worked at Ropes & Gray in Boston before returning to Vermont in 2004.

“We are pleased to welcome Keith Roberts,” said Gravel & Shea Shareholder William Mason. “Keith brings significant experience working with municipalities and businesses on their governance, transactions and day-to-day legal affairs.”

Gravel & Shea PC March 11, 2019

ABA Journal Features Vermont Blockchain Laws and Gravel & Shea Special Counsel

In a recent article, the ABA Journal highlighted actions states like Wyoming and Vermont are taking to improve the legal landscape for blockchain companies.

While Wyoming has opted for a deregulation model, Gravel & Shea attorneys have been active in Vermont’s efforts to create a useful legal structure based on the needs of blockchain companies.

Oliver Goodenough, Gravel & Shea Special Counsel and a law professor at Vermont Law School, told the ABA Journal that the purpose of recently passed blockchain legislation was to “provide the ability to opt into a structure rather than wait for the courts to impose something on top of you.”

To that end, the 2018 law created blockchain-based limited liability companies (BBLLCs) and personal information protection companies (PIPCs).

To read the full article, click here.

Gravel & Shea PC March 6, 2019

Gravel & Shea Sponsors Vermont Women’s Fund Breakfast of Champions: Men Moving Forward

On February 5, 2019, Gravel & Shea proudly continued its decade-long support of the Vermont Women’s Fund by sponsoring the “Breakfast of Champions: Men Moving Vermont Forward,” the Vermont Women’s Fund’s most recent event at the sold-out UVM Davis Center.  Ten attorneys from Gravel & Shea attended the Breakfast of Champions, which focused on gender, respectful workplace culture, and how we raise the next generation of men.  Leading the discussion was Ted Bunch, co-founder of A CALL TO MEN, an organization that is devoted to creating “a world where all men and boys are loving and respectful and all women and girls are valued and safe.”

The Vermont Women’s Fund’s mission is to support “the advancement, self-sufficiency, and economic and social equality of Vermont women and girls.”  For more than ten years, Gravel & Shea has promoted this important mission by supporting the Vermont Women’s Fund in a number of its endeavors.  This year, we are proud to be one of the organization’s two 25th Anniversary Sponsors, and we look forward to furthering Vermont Women’s Fund’s vital work well into future.

Gravel & Shea PC February 6, 2019

Gravel & Shea Partner Working to Help Pass Equal Rights Amendment

 

Gravel & Shea Partner Michelle Farkas joined Vermont Senator Ginny Lyons and other panelists at a conference held last weekend to provide information about an upcoming action to amend the Vermont Constitution.

The Champlain Valley League of Women Voters presented the event: Building Equality – Discussing an Inclusive Equal Rights Amendment for Vermont.  The panel also included Cary Brown, Executive Director of the Vermont Commission on Women, and Ella Spottswood, Deputy Attorney General in the Vermont Attorney General’s Office.

Farkas served on the initial committee that developed an Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) resolution in 2018 (S.R. 11), which was passed by the Vermont Senate that same year. The resolution called for a constitutional amendment to be offered in 2019 that would provide that “equal protection under the law shall not be denied or abridged because of race, sex, age, religion, creed, color, familial status, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or national origin.”

Under the Vermont Constitution, amendments can only be introduced every four years. If they’re passed by both chambers in the year they’re offered, they must go up for vote and pass again in the next legislative session, and then be approved by a public referendum. 2019 is the appropriate year for introduction of a new amendment, and the earliest it could become effective is 2022.

Passage of a similar amendment was attempted in the 1980s but failed the public referendum. That amendment, says Farkas, was less inclusive. “That was just addressing gender. This is addressing many protected classes.”

Speaking to a reporter after the event, Farkas explained why an amendment is important. “Once it’s there, it’s also very hard to unravel. [I]t…ensures and guarantees these equal protections going forward.”

https://www.mychamplainvalley.com/news/local-news/lawmakers-to-begin-process-to-amend-vermont-s-constitution/1730714552

Gravel & Shea PC January 30, 2019

Gravel & Shea Completes Vermont’s First 100% Cryptocurrency Real Estate Transaction on the Blockchain

 

A 12-foot strip of land in the City of Burlington provided the opportunity to close an innovative real estate transaction this month. Dozens of homes in Burlington’s South End, including one along Lyman Avenue, back up to a 12-foot strip of land that was historically owned by a public utility but is no longer used in that capacity. The strip of land is now owned by an individual who resides in North Carolina.

Several of the homeowners had done boundary adjustments to purchase the strip of land behind their homes, but the cost of the process can be prohibitive to some landowners. With support from Propy and using their online platform, one of the Lyman Avenue homeowners worked with Michelle Farkas, real estate partner at Gravel & Shea, to purchase the strip of land directly behind their home.

Farkas reached out to the existing owner of the strip of land, who agreed to put the strip up for sale on the Propy platform. Both the seller and the purchaser created Coinbase accounts. The purchaser (the Lyman Avenue homeowner) then accepted the offer on the platform.

Using the blockchain platform, they went through the purchase and sale process, transferring the cryptocurrency with Gravel & Shea acting as escrow agents to hold the funds, performing a title search and due diligence, and completing the transaction with the creation of the deed. The deal closed and was solidified with a deed that was recorded in the City of Burlington Land Records, and includes a hash and QR code recorded on the blockchain.

This transaction represents the first transaction in Vermont completed from offer through closing on the blockchain and demonstrates the potential ease of property transactions in the future (especially for remote buyers and sellers).

Gravel & Shea’s Blockchain Technology group specializes in analyzing and resolving legal issues related to blockchain technology.

Gravel & Shea PC January 28, 2019