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The Metaverse will offer a virtual world of opportunities for the legal profession. There are always need technologies that law firms need to consider, like Clio and ClearwayLaw, but lawyers who ignore them will do so at their peril. So what about the metaverse?

With the advent and adoption of any new emerging technology, it’s hard to separate the truth from the hype, and the metaverse is certainly no different. For the general public, sitting on the sidelines and waiting to see how things play out may be a smart option. Just ask anyone who bought a laserdisc player. But for lawyers and those in the business world, ignoring technological developments in the digital age is simply not an option. Just ask anyone who could’ve bought Bitcoin when it was worth less than $10 apiece but didn’t. 

Lawyers by nature are skeptical of new technologies and their implications, and there are many reasons to doubt the impact the metaverse will truly have on the practice of law. First off, even the term “metaverse” is somewhat ill-defined, as evidenced by the number of explainer articles online about just what the metaverse is.

Immersive virtual world

Secondly, the virtual world of the metaverse is still being built and its applications remain speculative, even as companies and investors appear to be flooding into the space. But as people, especially those from younger generations, live their lives increasingly online, immersive virtual worlds are no longer a realm solely occupied by video gamers and techno geeks. 


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Lawyers need to be open to the metaverse

Indeed, as analysts have pointed out, the metaverse represents a “convergence of trends” as it shapes up as a nexus potentially affecting a number of both traditional and emerging practice areas including intellectual property, contracts, real estate, entertainment, blockchain, and defamation law. But the metaverse also has the potential to revolutionize and disrupt not only the practice of law but also the entire industry and justice systems in which it operates. 

Imagine a virtual courtroom where judges and opposing counsel and plaintiffs and defendants could all be in different cities or even countries, such as a multi-jurisdictional class action involving a massive worldwide product liability claim. Imagine a virtual space created by a law firm in the metaverse that could bring together like-minded members of a class as they build a case against a multinational corporation.

Moreover, the anonymity afforded by a metaverse digital avatar could allow whistleblowers and confidential witnesses to interact with lawyers in potentially safer and less-impersonal ways than traditional emails, phone calls, or instant messages. 

3D virtual worlds

Moreover, during the COVID-19 pandemic, governments and the justice systems they oversee had to rapidly adapt to online technologies like Zoom and Microsoft Teams to keep the wheels of justice moving, often with mixed results. While the technology was far from perfect, the pandemic forced the hands of lawyers, judges, and court administrators to adjust their longstanding practices to fit the new harsh realities of life and work during a once-in-a-century deadly health crisis.

Court systems are notoriously slow to embrace new technologies, some still relying on fax machines even as emailing PDF files became the norm across so many industries. The pandemic’s silver lining, however, showed that new technologies can be implemented relatively quickly and efficiently, even if it took a while to iron out the bugs and glitches. In other words, courts adapted to the new reality of social distancing by embracing a form of virtual reality, a de facto beta test of existing technologies whose lessons can be applied to the metaverse, if you will. 

Law firms metaverse

Law firms are already in the metaverse

While this may seem like pie-in-the-virtual-sky speculation, the real world has already seen law firms enter the metaverse space and open up virtual offices by buying up virtual real estate to establish operations. Back in December 2021, for example, New Jersey personal injury firm Grungo Colarulo LLC “opened” an office in Decentraland, which touts itself as a metaverse marketplace for digital assets. 

“Given how early we are in the development of the metaverse, many lawyers and law firms may be tempted to label it a gimmick and pay little attention to it,” the firm’s founding partner Richard Grungo Jr. stated at the time. “But those same lawyers and law firms likely looked at social media the same way in the late 2000s before it revolutionized the way clients interact with lawyers and law firms. We believe the metaverse has the same game-changing potential and are putting our virtual flag in the ground today for that very reason.”

Whether the metaverse is truly “game-changing” for the legal profession remains to be seen. But there’s little doubt that older, more traditional approaches to marketing and client retention are on their way out. How many times, for instance, have you seen a lawyer’s television commercial lampooned on late-night comedy shows?

Take the metaverse seriously

While becoming fodder for comedians might not be a top-of-mind concern for most serious lawyers, having their firms and practices driven into irrelevance by failing to embrace new technologies should certainly be. 

Analogies abound when thinking about the metaverse and its disruptive potential as a game changer or simply another over-hyped dud. But is it another Myspace before Facebook? A Napster before Spotify? A laserdisc player before Netflix? It’s perhaps too early to tell, but lawyers and law firms that fail to recognize its potential run the risk of being left in the digital dust.