Charles is an LA-based lawyer, consultant and serial entrepreneur who owns and operates multiple hospitality concepts across the nation.
You have seen it in movies and read about it in the news, but what is the metaverse? Is it the new frontier for the practice of law?
The term was coined 30 years ago by author and futurist Neal Stephenson in his 1992 sci-fi novel Snow Crash, where he describes a dystopian virtual reality in the future. This cult classic is still revered as a prescient vision of our world today. Not only is it rich and fastidiously detailed in its description of a metaverse, but it’s also a dynamic account of the seemingly unfettered power of massive tech corporations.
You won’t soon find any two definitions of the metaverse in total alignment, but the description that throws a life vest to our neophyte brain, drowning in the metaocean, was that it’s “the convergence of two ideas that have been around for many years: virtual reality and a digital second life.”
With this definition in mind, what might be some opportunities in the metaverse as it relates to the practice of law? The immediate thought is intellectual property. In my prior Forbes article, I spoke about how the value of intellectual property can only increase in relation to the growth and development of the digital world. We are witnessing this now as companies such as Nike and Adidas expeditiously file to protect their names and iconic logos in the virtual goods and services space.
Not only are companies seeking to protect their intellectual property, but they are also eyeing the metaverse as a place to meet and engage in discourse; perhaps even sharing a virtual drink. Now, enter digital real estate. In 2021, the sale of real estate in the metaverse exceeded $500 million and is expected to reach nearly $1 billion in 2022. These numbers would spark the interest of any real estate lawyer, and it’s not just the purchase and sale of digital properties. We are already seeing indications of an extremely robust digital leasing and rental market, as well as the potential for incredibly lucrative billboard and advertising contracts.
What about our friends practicing in the personal injury sector? While your initial thought may be that with no cars to crash, and no physical bodies to slip and fall, the metaverse may be a desert wasteland for our tort practitioners—but not so fast! Personal safety concerns in the metaverse are very real and for good reason.
Couple this somewhat harrowing statistic with Meta’s exploration of haptic gloves and you can quickly imagine multiple scenarios that would pique the interest of any personal injury attorney.
Is now the time to develop your firm’s presence in the metaverse? Arguably, the answer is a resounding “YES!” If the above examples did little to rouse your legal curiosities, think about the following opportunities: Access to justice on a global scale; virtual contracts transferred, viewed and negotiated in real time; employment practices for virtual employers and employees; enhanced digital filings, registrations, permits and licenses; and of course, virtual trials, arbitrations and mediations.
In many respects, the practice of law has changed very little in the past 400 years. Though that may have held true to date, the metaverse is undoubtedly revolutionizing our practice in ways never before seen. Put your seatbelt on because this digital roller coaster is going to be a wild ride.