WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
One of the best ways for lawyers to understand a new technology is to immerse themselves in it, and that’s exactly what’s happening.
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Clients in need of real estate or intellectual property advice can usually find lawyer Madaline Zannes at offices on Toronto’s Yonge Street – in the physical world, that is. Her assistant has also started greeting walk-ins each morning at Somnium Space Parcel #2444.
That’s Zannes’s address in the metaverse, where she took 58.8 per cent of her meetings in May. She made a personal goal to maximize her virtual-world appointments in the spring, setting her calendar to offer only two options: metaverse meetings and phone calls.
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Now, as for how this all started Zannes was securing more clients in the Web3 industry and wanted to understand the legitimate business opportunities – and which ones might be liable to go belly up. She decided to get “skin in the game” and buy an NFT when she spotted one that would be a perfect law-office logo, and an idea formed.
She told reporters in an interview – from her metaverse office – that she spent the equivalent of about $13,000 in Ethereum at the time to buy the virtual property. Then, she hired a metaverse builder for 0.25 ETH (about $1,000 at the time) to design the bones and eventually learned some DIY renovations before opening for business.
With most opting for the metaverse in May, another 23.5 per cent of her meetings opted for phone calls and 17.6 per cent insisted on Zoom.
Lawyers often help meet people in the midst of complex conflicts, and Zannes said she tested some of the major metaverse platforms with that in mind.
“I don’t know if a client would want to meet with me looking like a Lego. I don’t think a client is going to take me seriously in a dino costume,” she said. After running her plans past legal regulators, she looked for a platform that allowed her to create confidential links for meetings. Somnium Space also doesn’t require much in-world navigating, she added.
Many clients were pleasantly surprised by the metaverse experience even after months of Zoom fatigue. Zannes said she expected that mostly younger people would attend the events in her offices, but that wasn’t the case.
“There’s something about how you hold yourself [on Zoom], because you know you are being looked at. That’s not something you experience in normal communication,” she said. In the metaverse, “if people don’t want to turn [the camera] on, it’s fine, because we can still see each other.”
Now, as for what’s next she aims to expand into a larger metaverse office at Parcel #651. As she marks one year since opening her own independent legal practice, she’s also seeing growth in her second business, which is consulting to help people break into the metaverse and even renting out the virtual office for corporate events. For now, she said, “there aren’t a lot of law firms” in the metaverse, but she expects demand will increase and some platforms might even run out of room. “I don’t plan on being the only one.”