Law Firms and the Metaverse: Should you buy property?
From gaming to the workplace, the Metaverse is making waves everywhere. Law firms are among the new adopters, with many getting into the Metaverse to buy property and set up law offices. These firms are handling common legal situations in the virtual world, including Metaverse marriages and intellectual property issues.
The legal industry is historically traditional, conservative, and risk-averse. In fact, many law firms are hesitant to adopt technology solutions, let alone jump into business in a virtual space.
What’s the appeal of the Metaverse for law firms and should other firms get on board?
What Is the Metaverse?
With major news like Facebook rebranding as Meta, the popularity of Fortnite and its immersive virtual world, and digital replicas of real-life locations like art galleries in Decentraland, the Metaverse is becoming the hottest new thing.
The term “Metaverse” has been around for a few years and was coined by author Neal Stephenson in his novel Snow Crash (1992). According to the novel, the Metaverse is an all-encompassing digital universe that parallels the real world. This may differ from the real-life Metaverse, however.
Essentially, the Metaverse is a three-dimensional version of the internet and computing. People can enjoy a digital life alongside their real life in the physical world. All users in the Metaverse will have an avatar and can interact with each other through avatars.
One similar iteration in the real world is the game Second Life, which uses simulations to allow users to experience virtual reality through their chosen avatar. Metaverse will take this to the next level, however, with opportunities to plan parties, buy land, buy and sell assets, and get married.
Finally, the Metaverse is interactive, immersive, and hyper-realistic, and includes digital assets on blockchain. This is where the appeal lies for businesses, such as law firms.
Here’s why law firms are getting in early:
New Marketing Opportunities for Law Firms
As more and more brands enter the Metaverse, including big names like Coca-Cola and Nike, the virtual universe expands. Like the early days of the consumer internet, the Metaverse offers an opportunity that businesses can take advantage of as early adopters, including law firms.
Clients will be in the Metaverse, giving law firms a chance to increase exposure and reach clients in a new way. The entire legal industry is shifting to more modern marketing solutions, such as social media, and the first firms in the Metaverse have the potential to gain a competitive edge.
Better Client Access
Like other industries, the legal industry struggled with how to adapt during the COVID-19 pandemic with the challenges of meeting clients and networking without in-person experiences. More law firms shifted to remote or hybrid work and served clients virtually using software like Zoom or Google Meet.
The Metaverse offers another way to access clients and interact with them. In fact, the Metaverse may even be better for some client situations, such as clients who are unable to get to brick-and-mortar law offices because of time constraints, safety concerns, or disabilities.
Privacy and confidentiality are crucial to the legal industry.
Each user in the Metaverse gets a unique avatar – which may or may not resemble them in looks, gender, age, or other identifiers – offering more anonymity. For example, a client seeking help for domestic abuse, workplace harassment, or other sensitive issues can seek counsel anonymously before revealing identifying information.
Aside from serious issues that may put a client at risk, some clients may prefer anonymity early on for simpler reasons, such as concerns of discrimination. With an avatar, all preconceived biases are gone, allowing the client to speak more freely.
The Metaverse is its own virtual world within the real world, and it comes with its own virtual legal issues. When there are businesses, relationships, property ownership, and other situations that would be handled legally in the real world, they’re also handled legally in the Metaverse – and the avatars entering into these contracts need representation.
Law firms that operate in the Metaverse are familiar with how it works, especially compared to more traditional firms. Users seeking help for Metaverse issues may prefer to work with a firm in the Metaverse.
Some examples of these situations include prenuptial agreements, Metaverse marriage certificates, Metaverse divorces, property disputes, and trademark conflicts surrounding non-fungible tokens (NFTs). Even if a firm chooses not to operate in the Metaverse completely, understanding how it works can be beneficial in addressing the needs of these particular clients.
How the Law Firms in the Metaverse May Evolve
If the Metaverse catches on in the legal industry, much of the technology and legal technology that’s gaining ground in real-world law could be leveraged in the Metaverse. This may include virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) for crime scenarios and court sessions or virtual meetings for sensitive issues like contract negotiations, mergers & acquisitions, and litigations.
The law also tends to be a step behind the technology. All technology moves rapidly, and the law reacts to it. There are legal implications in the Metaverse – some known, and some not yet explored. A few notable concerns include fraudulent transactions, compromised data, invasion of privacy, unregulated spaces, and more that can present issues.
While there is little research on the Metaverse and law firms, those curious may have an opportunity to be part of shaping the evolving landscape that could prove to be beneficial to how they interact and retain a certain group of clients.
The Future of Law Firms and the Metaverse
Experts have a lot of ideas of what the Metaverse is and what it could be, but no one really knows what it will become fully – yet. As more users and businesses enter the Metaverse and incorporate it into their real- and virtual worlds, the Metaverse will evolve and expand. With that will come an increase in legal and regulatory issues, and clients in the Metaverse will greatly benefit from law firms that already have a strong foundation.