From gaming to the workplace, the Metaverse is making waves everywhere. Law firms are among the new users, and many are entering the metaverse to buy real estate and establish law firms. These companies handle common legal situations in the virtual world, including metaverse marriages and intellectual property issues.
The legal industry has historically been traditional, conservative and risk averse. In fact, many law firms are hesitant to embrace technological solutions, let alone conduct business in a virtual space.
What is the appeal of the Metaverse to law firms and should other firms step in?
What is the Metaverse?
With major news like Facebook’s rebranding as Meta, the popularity of Fortnite and its immersive virtual world, and digital replicas of real-world locations like Decentraland’s art galleries, 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 Snowfall (1992). According to the novel, the Metaverse is a global digital universe that parallels the real world. However, this may differ from the actual metaverse.
Essentially, the Metaverse is a three-dimensional version of the Internet and computers. People can enjoy a digital life alongside their real life in the physical world. All metaverse users have an avatar and can communicate with each other through avatars.
A similar iteration in the real world is the game second Life, which uses simulations to let users experience virtual reality through the avatar of their choice. However, Metaverse will take this to the next level, with options to plan parties, buy land, buy and sell assets, and get married.
Finally, the Metaverse is interactive, immersive and hyper-realistic, encompassing digital assets on blockchain. Therein lies the attraction for companies, such as law firms.
Here’s why law firms come early:
New marketing opportunities for law firms
As more brands enter the Metaverse, including big names like Coca-Cola and Nike, the virtual universe expands. Much like the early days of the consumer internet, the Metaverse presents an opportunity that businesses can capitalize on as early adopters, including law firms.
Clients are in the metaverse, giving law firms the opportunity to increase their visibility and reach clients in new ways. The entire legal industry is shifting towards more modern marketing solutions, such as social media, and early metaverse businesses have the potential to gain a competitive advantage.
Better customer access
Like other industries, the legal industry is struggling to adapt during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the challenges of meeting and networking with clients without in-person experiences. More and more law firms have switched to remote or hybrid working and serve their clients virtually with software such as Zoom or Google Meet.
The metaverse provides another way to access and interact with customers. In fact, the Metaverse may even be better for certain client situations, such as clients unable to visit brick-and-mortar law firms due to time constraints, security concerns, or disabilities.
Privacy and confidentiality are crucial for the legal sector.
Each Metaverse user is given a unique avatar – which may or may not resemble them in appearance, gender, age or other identifiers – which provides greater anonymity. For example, a client seeking help with domestic violence, workplace harassment, or other sensitive issues may anonymously request an attorney before revealing identifying information.
In addition to serious issues that could put a client at risk, some clients may prefer anonymity from the start for simpler reasons, such as discrimination. With an avatar, all prejudices disappear, allowing the client to express themselves more freely.
The Metaverse is its own virtual world within the real world and has its own virtual legal issues. Where there are businesses, relationships, property and other situations that would be legally handled in the real world, they are also legally handled in the metaverse – and the avatars entering into these contracts need to be represented.
Law firms operating in the metaverse know how it works, especially when compared to more traditional firms. Users seeking help with Metaverse issues may prefer to work with a Metaverse company.
Some examples of these situations include prenuptial agreements, Metaverse marriage certificates, Metaverse divorces, property disputes, and trademark disputes involving non-fungible tokens (NFTs). Even if a company chooses not to operate entirely within the metaverse, it can be helpful to understand how it works to meet the needs of those specific customers.
As the metaverse spreads through the legal industry, much of the technology and legal technology that is gaining ground in practice can be exploited in the metaverse. This can be virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) for crime scenarios and court hearings or virtual meetings for sensitive matters such as contract negotiations, mergers and acquisitions and lawsuits.
The law also tends to be a step backwards from technology. All technology evolves quickly and the law responds to it. There are legal implications in the metaverse – some known and some unexplored. Notable concerns include fraudulent transactions, compromised data, invasion of privacy, unregulated spaces, etc., which can cause problems.
While little research has been done on Metaverse and law firms, the curious may have the opportunity to participate in shaping the changing landscape that could benefit the way they interact with and retain a particular group of clients.
The future of law firms and the metaverse
Experts have a lot of ideas about what the Metaverse is and what it could be, but no one really knows what it will become completely – until now. As more and more users and businesses enter the Metaverse and integrate it into their real and virtual worlds, the Metaverse will evolve and grow. This will lead to more legal and regulatory problems, and metaverse clients will benefit immensely from law firms that already have a solid foundation.