OpenLaw Core

The Scala core of the OpenLaw project contains two sub-projects, shared and client (under openlawCoreJs subfolder). The client library is well documented elsewhere in our docs.

The shared sub-project contains four key components: (1) the oracles (in the oracles folder), (2) a set of custom value types related to contracts and templates (in the values folder), (3) the OpenLaw Markup Language parser and associated types and rules (in the parser folder), and (4) the OpenLaw Virtual Machine (hereafter called the "VM") (in the vm folder).

General Concepts

In order to understand these components, we need to understand some fundamental concepts within the OpenLaw protocol. The lifecycle of an agreement on the OpenLaw platform is as follows. It starts as a template: a legal agreement, marked up using the OpenLaw Markup Language, with empty fields corresponding to various provisions. When the user fills out some, but not all, of the fields, it becomes a draft. Once all fields have been filled out, the draft becomes a contract. A contract can then be sent to signatories and its signing will be registered and verified on the Ethereum blockchain. Signing by all parties will also cause any smart contracts embedded in the document to execute according to the provisions which the user has specified.


Under the hood, much of the workflow above is managed and moderated by the OpenLaw VM. The VM is a secure execution environment for contracts. It has several functions. First, it keeps track of the series of events over the contract's lifetime using the custom OpenlawVmEvent type. The VM uses Oracles to verify event requests. They will be discussed in greater detail below.

Second, the VM keeps track of the state of the contract itself at any given time using the OpenlawVmState private variable. One important aspect of state involves the status of smart contracts embedded in the contract. The VM uses OpenLaw's Action API to query and store actions in the life of smart contracts. These actions may include starting, stopping, and resuming smart contract executions at time intervals which the user has specified.

In order for the legal agreement to be interpreted properly, the OpenLaw Markup Language, like many other computer languages, needs to know how to interpret and compile custom language types. The VariableExecutionEngine and its sub-type the OpenlawExecutionEngine help handle some of the logic for this. For example, the processExecutedElement function in the OpenlawExecutionEngine pattern matches on the type of the variable to provide specific execution instructions.

The OpenlawVmProvider class contains just one method, create, which returns an OpenlawVm type. This is useful for integrating the OpenlawVm into the server and other applications.


OpenLaw's oracles are designed in a modular way so that they can be integrated with mainnet, testnet, or other backends without much extra customization. In general, OpenLaw prefers to develop high-level components which are broadly functional, so that they can be plugged into a wide variety of environments and use cases, and the oracles are an example of that.

All oracles share a similar workflow:

  • Validate the event being passed to the VM. This is typically done using a cryptographic proof.

  • If the validation check passes, allow the event to occur.

Currently, the following oracles exist:

OpenlawOracle: This is a trait which EthereumSmartContractOracle, ResumeContractOracle, StopContractOracle, and TemplateLoadOracle extend. It requires passing in the type of the event to be executed if the validation is successful. For example, EthereumSmartContractOracle executes an EthereumSmartContractCallEvent if successful.

EthereumSmartContractOracle: This handles validation of events of type EthereumSmartContractCallEvent to process calls to execute embedded smart contracts.

StopContractOracle: This handles validation of events of type StopExecutionEvent to stop calls to execute embedded smart contracts.

ResumeContractOracle: This handles validation of events of type ResumeExecutionEvent to resume calls to execute embedded smart contracts which had previously been stopped with a StopExecutionEvent.

TemplateLoadOracle: This handles validation of events of type LoadTemplate to load a new/altered version of a template into the VM.

OpenlawIdentityOracle: This is a trait which OpenlawSignatureOracle extends. It contains helper functions and values such as isSignatureValid (for checking the validity of an incoming signature) and providerId (for storing the identity provider).

OpenlawSignatureOracle: This handles validation of events of type SignatureEvent to process a signature on the Ethereum blockchain once the signature and Ethereum address of the signee have been verified.

In addition to the seven oracles mentioned above, the oracles folder also contains a CryptoService with helper functions for sha256 checksums and validating ECS signatures.


The parser stores information regarding custom types in the OpenLaw Markup Language and how they should be processed. This folder has three sub-folders: contract, field, and template.

The contract folder is the simplest, containing just the ParagraphEdits type, which is used to represent paragraphs added to templates by the user.

The fields folder contains various case objects which extend the base type ContractField. They provide mappings between custom Scala types and field names in the TemplateEditor for an agreement. For example, a Name field in the editor corresponds to a custom FullName type internally.

The template folder is the most complex of the three. Definitions of features of the OpenLaw Markup Language and their expected behavior can be found here. In general, the Markup Language docs are a solid companion to keep open while perusing this part of the codebase.

For example, the formatters folder contains all classes extending the Formatter trait, which corresponds to the formatting features of the markup language as discussed in the documentation. The EthereumSmartContractCall type declared in variableTypes defines the logic for the smart contracts described in the docs. (The eagle-eyed may also notice the correspondence with the EthereumSmartContractCallEvent we mentioned in our EthereumSmartContractOracle above). The custom IdentityType, also in variableTypes, corresponds to the Identity type which must be added to any agreement before it can be sent for signature.

Another key utility here is the printers sub-folder. This contains case classes extending the HTMLAgreementPrinter trait. These custom types specify various means of outputting a marked-up legal agreement in HTML, which may be useful if integrating an OpenLaw legal agreement into a custom web application.

Finally, but perhaps most crucially, the OpenlawTemplateLanguageParserService provides many essential methods for interacting with marked-up legal agreements, including compiling templates, parsing expressions, and rendering output based on variable type.


Finally, the values folder contains several other types which are key to OpenLaw's formulation of templates and contracts.

ContractAccess defines permission levels for contracts, which, when integrated elsewhere, enable granularity of access based on the use case.

ContractDefinition holds the definition of a contract and contains the following parameters:

  • creatorId: The creator of the contract with type UserId.
  • mainTemplate: The main template of the contract with type TemplateId, analogous to the main class in a program. The TemplateId type is defined elsewhere in the values folder.
  • templates: Other templates which may be included in the contract with type Map[TemplateSourceIdentifier, TemplateId].
  • parameters: The parameters of the contract, as input by the user in the template editor, with type TemplateParameters. The TemplateParameters type is defined elsewhere in the values folder.
  • paragraphs: Paragraphs within the contract which have been edited by the user in the template editor, with type Map[Int, ParagraphEdits].

Note that a ContractDefinition needs the VM in order to be executed.

More broadly speaking, on the OpenLaw platform, a contract has an ID which is a hash representing the contract, based on the creator ID, ID of the main template, all the parameters, and the template scope. This hash gives significant security advantages. First, as with any hash, since its ID will change if any of the above changes, it serves as a useful, unique means of identifying the contract, as well as determining if it has been tampered with. Second, though the hash will be stored on the Ethereum blockchain, it will be difficult to derive any useful information from the hash alone. Finally, since a contract has multiple signatories, any attempts at tampering from one signatory's side will not get very far, since the versions between the two signatories have diverged, as indicated by the conflicting hashes, and thus the consensus will fail.

Functionality relating to the ID is stored in the ContractId case class and corresponding object.