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The metaverse – it sounds like some kind of weird alternate dimension that a superhero fell in, right? Not quite. However, the metaverse is similar to the multiverse in that it does create a different dimension of sorts where an alternative world exists in a digital format. If you are confused about the metaverse and how the metaverse and law firms may affect each other, you are not alone. At Law Quill, we stay up to date on the latest technological advancements, including the metaverse. We can explain what the metaverse is and how it may impact your law firm.
What Is the Metaverse?
The metaverse is a shared virtual space where users interact with a computer-generated environment and other users. It is not limited to a single online location. Instead, it encompasses multiple virtual environments and provides a greater chance to immerse yourself in the digital world than other mediums do.
Some experts define the metaverse as a 3D version of the internet. Others say it is a digital version that runs parallel to the physical world where users spend their digital life. Users may have an avatar that represents them as a person and be able to interact with the digital world. Looking at the current iteration of the metaverse, the metaverse may resemble virtual video games to some.
History of the Metaverse
While you may have only heard about the metaverse within the last few years, author Neal Stephenson coined the term “metaverse” in his 1992 sci-fi novel Snow Crash (which I actually read decades ago and have to say was a really great book!)
Stephenson described the metaverse as a digital world that existed parallel to the real world.
One of the first industries to embrace the concept of the metaverse was the gaming industry. Video games such as Fortnite allow users to go to a shared virtual space where they build small bases and attack other gamers who are in the world. Users are also able to earn virtual currency to unlock outfits and other items for their digital avatars to use.
In more recent times, Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, announced that the company would be changing its name to “Meta” and unveiled the company’s plans to enter the metaverse during a Facebook Connect presentation.
The metaverse is the latest version of the internet. Just as online activity has progressed from text-based messages such as emails to videos and livestreams, the metaverse is the latest step in the chain where users can experience the digital world in 3D.
Now, the metaverse consists of:
- Social networks
- Virtual workspaces
- Live entertainment
- Real estate
- Education delivery
- Technology infrastructure
- User-generated content
Future of the Metaverse
The metaverse market is expected to surpass $800 billion by 2024, according to Bloomberg. More than 10% of this is expected to come from non-fungible tokens (NFT). The real value of the metaverse is still theoretical, but it will be based on how the metaverse values the people who are in it and use it.
Is There Currency in the Metaverse?
Because the metaverse is not a single location, there may be different types of currency. Each virtual world currently has its own form of cryptocurrency, such as NFTs. In the future, there may be more of a universal cryptocurrency.
What Are NFTs?
NFTs are unique digital goods individuals can own. For example, that may take the form of an avatar, branded materials, outfits, or a plot of land.
The Metaverse and Law Firms
All of the potential legal implications may have not yet been discovered because the metaverse is so new and continuing to evolve. However, it is likely that the emergence of the metaverse will create additional legal challenges and issues. Law firms who can anticipate these needs and address them may be better positioned to take advantage of this legal landscape. Here are a few ways that law firms may be able to interact with the metaverse:
Advertise to Specific Clients
If you have clients who are talking about the metaverse, are in the technology sector, or otherwise would be more likely to engage there, you may want to use the metaverse to advertise your services. Some early adopters of the metaverse are taking advantage of marketing opportunities by purchasing digital space while properties are generally less expensive.
Meet with Clients
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many law firms suffered from not having physical access to clients. The New York State Bar Association reported that 16% of firms reported fewer clients, and 35% reported decreases in revenue in 2020. Lawyers who were unable to establish a separate office space faced greater difficulties. While some lawyers pivoted to offer client meetings over Google Meet or Zoom, the metaverse may provide another opportunity to interact with clients. Some individuals may even prefer meeting in the metaverse if they want to receive one-time legal advice or need to communicate about a sensitive subject and want to remain anonymous. Potential clients could use VR or AR for meetings with lawyers.
Create a Virtual Office
Some law firms have already purchased land in the metaverse and created virtual offices there. This first step may allow offices to leverage their presence in the digital world and offer legal services to clients there.
Resolve Virtual Legal Needs
The metaverse may involve complex legal issues that metaverse-based businesses may want to resolve and could benefit from having legal services to address. Some of these legal issues may need to be addressed in the metaverse. Law firms may benefit from being in the metaverse so that they can properly advise clients about virtual legal issues. Some of these issues may include:
- Family law matters – Believe it or not, people get married and divorced in the metaverse. You could potentially assist with the dissolution of such virtual relationships. You could also be responsible for helping to resolve property disputes related to property owned in the metaverse, including NFTs. Lawyers may be able to help assist with virtual asset evaluations and audits.
- Intellectual property disputes – Because NFTs comprise a significant portion of the metaverse, there may be more disputes regarding intellectual property, including trademark conflicts and licensing issues.
- Privacy matters – Because the metaverse is relatively new, issues like an invasion of privacy, compromised data, and unregulated spaces may pop up. Lawyers may be able to help resolve these types of issues. Metaverse lawyers may be able to advise on cybersecurity and related matters.
- NFTs – Due to the anonymity surrounding cryptocurrency, it can be difficult to identify and prove fraudulent transactions. A lawyer may be able to investigate these types of claims and help resolve disputes. Additionally, lawyers can help with registering and legally protecting NFTs and other cryptocurrencies. They can also advise clients on navigating the legal intricacies of cryptocurrency and mitigating risk for digital assets. Lawyers with their own presence in the metaverse may be entrusted with these types of cases because they may appear more credible in the environment.
- Contracts – Various types of contracts may need to be created and contract disputes resolved in the metaverse. Lawyers may help to create land contracts, business purchases, smart contracts, event contracts, intellectual property contracts, and licensing agreements.
- Regulatory matters – Lawyers can also help with regulatory investigations and defense, handle communications with regulators, and carefully monitor the status of any changes in the regulatory framework involving the metaverse.
- Alternative dispute resolution – Because the law tends to lag behind technological changes, alternative dispute forums may be better to resolve legal issues that pop up in the metaverse, rather than litigating such issues in traditional courts that may not yet have a legal framework to reference.
These matters are just touching the surface of the potential legal conflicts and issues that may arise within the next few years. Law Quill can help you emerge into the metaverse with a solid plan in place.
Possible Challenges with the Metaverse and Law Firms
Before you decide to create a law firm in the metaverse, it is important that you consider the possible challenges or drawbacks of taking this action. For example, you may not be licensed to practice law in the state where the digital user is physically located without running afoul of professional responsibility rules. You would have to consider if setting up a firm in the metaverse would be worth the potential hassle and lost time of having to sift through communications from these virtual users to determine if you are legally able to serve them.
The metaverse is also in its early stages. It does not currently have regulatory oversight, but it may in the future. People who are currently using the metaverse may be early adopters of it and may not make up your target clients.
Discuss the Metaverse with Law Quill
The metaverse represents potential opportunity and risk. If you are considering entering this emerging technological landscape, it is important you consider such a move carefully and methodically. If you decide to take this leap, you will want to ensure your metaverse presence appears professional and trustworthy. Law Quill can discuss your strategy with the metaverse and your law firm during a free consultation you can schedule. You can also email us at email@example.com to discuss your law firm’s needs.