By Shawn Lehocky and Dylan Pond
Over the past year, the metaverse has been taking the tech world by storm. It’s the evolution of the internet that has tech CEOs like Mark Zuckerberg and Satya Nadella changing their business strategies (and in Zuckerberg’s case, his company’s name), real estate speculators finding new (virtual) lands on which to plant their flags, and blue-chip companies like Disney, McDonald’s, and Nike racing to establish their presence there.
As a law firm that has always been an early adopter of technology (including our use of Litify, which the National Law Journal profiled last November), and one that has a mission of helping as many people as possible successfully resolve their legal needs, Pond Lehocky Giordano increasingly believed the metaverse will become another place where lawyers and law firms could connect with current and prospective clients and referral sources.
That’s why, last month, we became one of the first law firms in the world to open a metaverse office.
The importance of harnessing new technologies
The metaverse refers to 3D digital worlds with virtual spaces that allow users to buy art, socialize, play games, interact with other people, and engage in similar real-world activities in a digital environment. For the unfamiliar, the metaverse resembles a 3D model of the internet.
The rise of the metaverse isn’t unlike other technological innovations before it. There’s a sense among early adopters that the metaverse in 2022 feels like the internet in the mid-1990s and social media in the early 2000s—innovations that could transform the way we live and work. There’s also a sense that the metaverse is an immense business opportunity. Bloomberg Intelligence predicts revenues from metaverse-related businesses and activities could come close to $800 billion in 2024.
Pond Lehocky Giordano is no stranger to navigating uncharted technological waters. For the approximately 12 years our doors have been open, we’ve embraced technological advancements that have allowed us to serve our clients more efficiently and effectively, enabling us to provide and secure what we feel are better client service and legal results than would have been possible without adopting such advancements. We also have a proud history of helping other law firms incorporate technology into their internal processes and client communications.
At the same time, it is our mission to educate the millions of people (i) who believe they have been wronged and want to pursue a legal remedy, (ii) who are not receiving benefits they believe they should, and (iii) who may have no idea they’ve been wronged or that they qualify for certain benefits. The only way to meet these people where they are, and at scale, is through technology like the internet, email, social media, and now, the metaverse.
Why the metaverse?
Opening law offices inside the metaverse offers new opportunities for law firms to connect with their clients and referral sources—no matter the type of clients those firms serve or the areas of law they practice.
Like other law firms, we want to, in an ethical and client-focused manner, meet potential clients where they are, engage with them, answer their questions, and earn their trust so they retain us. The internet and social media have knocked down barriers potential clients previously faced when it came to learning about their legal issues, vetting potential lawyers, and connecting with those lawyers for an initial meeting or to retain them.
We see law firms’ offices in the metaverse as the latest way to knock down these barriers and to be where those firms’ clients are focusing their attention. But the metaverse isn’t just another way to engage with clients and referral sources—it is a new way to engage that brings with it unique benefits.
One unique benefit is that the metaverse provides an opportunity for would-be clients facing sensitive legal issues to connect “in person” and in real time via messaging or a voice connection with a lawyer or a law firm representative without having to identify themselves. We realize that, theoretically, the same effect could be achieved by calling a law firm on a phone with no caller ID, or by attending a Zoom meeting with the video turned off.
But some prospective clients will like the added anonymity, and perhaps the disassociation from their trauma or legal difficulties, that a metaverse avatar provides. We believe meetings in the metaverse will become the norm for lawyers whose clients include sexual assault survivors, employees fearful of being retaliated against by their employers, and other survivors of crime or unlawful conduct who do not feel comfortable revealing their identities when initially speaking with lawyers or law firm staff.
Another unique benefit, that is in a way directly contrary, is that the metaverse offers ways for past, current, and prospective clients and referral sources looking for human interaction to find it. These individuals might want more engagement than exchanging emails, listening to your voice on the phone, or staring at their screens and their webcams during Zoom calls. But they are unwilling or unable to have conversations in your office because of their work schedules, childcare or elder care responsibilities, or simply their preference to not do so.
In a virtual world, they could have a private and confidential conversation with you or someone at your law firm while walking with you or that colleague in the metaverse, playing chess, shooting a virtual basketball, or just sitting across from you or a colleague inside of a replica of a conference room at your firm. The metaverse provides unique opportunities for this kind of bonding.
(If you think this is an unrealistic way to bond with other people, talk to someone who plays video games online and has built relationships with others based solely on talking to them while playing those games together.)
A third unique benefit is that the metaverse provides an opportunity for law firms of all types to provide immersive and visually compelling educational content to current and prospective clients and referral sources. The metaverse will allow you and your firm to produce a new generation of marketing content and client communications that could include 3D diagrams, first-person perspectives of reenactments, visual depictions of alleged wrongdoing by an opposing party, and anything else you and your colleagues could dream up. This content will make sharing your screen during a video call the equivalent of watching a black-and-white television from the 1950s.
Now is the time to test the metaverse waters
Admittedly, it might seem unusual for the CEO and chief investment officer of a law firm to do what we’re doing here: explaining why they and their firm are pursuing a new opportunity like the one our firm is pursuing in the metaverse. We feel compelled to explain why we’re doing what we’re doing because we believe the metaverse will become, like the internet and social media, a vitally important way for all lawyers and law firms to interact with clients and referral sources.
Lawyers tend not to be on the bleeding edge of adopting new technologies. We understand that perspective and the need to crawl before walking. But we urge all lawyers and law firms to do their due diligence concerning the metaverse and to think about what it could offer their practices and their clients. Far too many lawyers and law firms came late to the social media game, which forced them to have to settle for lower organic reach and higher advertising costs.
We’re still early in the days of the metaverse. There is a chance it never grows larger than a small corner of the internet with limited mass appeal. But there’s also a chance it becomes a key component of a marketing-savvy law firm’s marketing arsenal, like the internet and social media.
Lawyers and law firms do not have to pay a dime to enter a metaverse and explore it. Now is the time to do so. (If you’re curious, our offices are at Parcels -51, -97 and 25, -28 in Decentraland.)
They may find it much ado about nothing.
Or they might see what we see: a (virtual) world of opportunities for engaging with the people that are vital to the growth of all of our firms.
Regardless of which side you find yourself on, we’d be happy to discuss with you the pros and cons, and ins and outs, of opening a metaverse office for your law firm.
Shawn Lehocky is the chief executive officer of Pond Lehocky Giordano LLP. Dylan Pond is the firm’s chief investment officer. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com, respectively.
Reprinted with permission from the July 5, 2022 edition of The Legal Intelligencer © 2022 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All rights reserved. Further duplication without permission is prohibited, contact 877-257-3382 or firstname.lastname@example.org.