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Lawyers with Headsets? A Preliminary Outlook for the legal landscape in the Metaverse 

22 June 2023

On 5th June 2023, Apple unveiled the “Apple Vision Pro,” an augmented reality headset that promises to revolutionise the way we interact with digital spaces.

Apple CEO Tim Cook described it as a device that “seamlessly blends the real and virtual world.”

But what – if anything – does this mean for the legal profession?

Well, that depends on whether the growing discussion around “The Metaverse” will move onto the radar of law firms. 

The term “metaverse” originated from science fiction, but has rapidly become a tangible reality in our digitally connected world.

It signifies a collective virtual shared space, created by the convergence of virtually enhanced physical reality and physically persistent virtual reality.

Essentially, it’s an immersive 3D internet where digital and physical reality coexist and interact in real-time. While the gaming community has been at the forefront of this revolution, with titles like Fortnite and Roblox pioneering the interactive virtual environment, the broader implications for businesses, including the legal sector, are significant.

Augmented reality (AR) headsets like the Apple Vision Pro provide an immersive portal into the metaverse. Through these devices, users can access a virtual world that overlays and integrates with their physical surroundings. They enable real-time interaction with digital content and provide a unique perspective that integrates both physical and virtual realities.

So, how can the metaverse benefit the legal profession?

Firstly, client meetings and consultations could transition to this digital realm. The use of AR could allow lawyers to review and interact with digital evidence, contracts, or case precedents in a 3D virtual environment. 

The potential for ‘virtual’ courtrooms could also transform the way justice is delivered, making it more accessible and efficient. This solution may become increasingly appealing bearing in mind the current court crisis. 

Secondly, the metaverse could potentially offer new revenue streams and service areas. As businesses begin to operate within the metaverse, new forms of disputes could arise, necessitating legal expertise in this emerging field. Property rights in virtual real estate, digital asset disputes, intellectual property rights for virtual goods, and even avatar rights could become key areas of legal practice.

Thirdly, training and education for legal professionals could be revolutionised. Instead of traditional lecture-style legal education, interactive scenarios could be developed in the metaverse, enhancing the learning experience and providing a more practical understanding of legal principles.

However, while these possibilities are tantalising, it’s important for law firms not to be swept up in the current hype. The metaverse remains an emerging concept, and it would be premature for law firms to rush into heavy investments in AR headsets or metaverse-related legal tech products.

The current state of the metaverse, while promising, has limitations. Technological challenges, such as latency and privacy issues, need to be addressed. Further, our understanding of the social, legal, and ethical implications of a society partially existing in the metaverse is far from comprehensive. Until the infrastructure of the metaverse is robust and widely adopted, it remains an unproven realm for legal practice.

Moreover, there’s a more immediate challenge: many legal professionals are still adapting to the ongoing digital transformation in the sector. We should therefore view this advancing technology as a great opportunity to make smart decisions on our current technology whilst prioritising education about the digital landscape and the potential impacts of technologies such as the metaverse. These steps should certainly precede any significant investment.

In conclusion, the metaverse promises a new frontier for the legal profession, and devices like the Apple Vision Pro might be our future tools of the trade. However, for now, they remain promising signposts on the horizon. A measured approach, prioritising education and gradual engagement is advisable as we navigate this uncharted territory. After all, even in a virtual world, the old adage holds true: look before you leap.