In a new Q&A interview, Thomson Reuters’ technologist and futurist Joseph Raczynski offers his insight about the Metaverse and how it will impact the legal industry
In February this year, ArentFox Schiff announced that it had become the first major US law firm to “join the Metaverse” by acquiring a land site in Decentraland, a fact that underscored how seriously lawyers are taking one of the latest technology trends. Thomson Reuters’ technologist and futurist Joseph Raczynski talks about how the Metaverse will impact the legal space, and what lawyers should do to prepare.
Asian Legal Business: You’ve written previously about the Metaverse and the preparedness of lawyers. How widespread do you think the use of this will be in the near future, and how can lawyers make sure they are sufficiently prepared?
Joseph Raczynski: If by the near future we are saying three to five years, I would say 100% that the Metaverse will be used in various forms by the majority of the population in the industrialized world. It has already started. There are two forces at play that are enabling the Metaverse: One, blockchain, which is a unique way to store information in a provable, unalterable way. Second, the emerging hardware is key. When Apple releases its Virtual Reality (VR) or Mixed Reality (MR) headset in the coming year or so, it will force all of us to head into the Metaverse. Just for perspective, VR is fully immersive, while MR allows you to see the physical world and places digital imagery on top of that.
I have likely spoken to thousands of lawyers over the last several years. They are extraordinarily bright, but with one limiting factor — their dedication to their craft. This means that they do not have the time to lift their heads to see what is coming. All these emerging technologies will impact their practices in some way, as well as the business of law. At a minimum, lawyers need the opportunity to focus on the big four: AI, blockchain, workflow, and the grab bag of general emerging technology. There are a multitude of places to learn about these things, but I would include some of the classics such as Google Alerts, Twitter threads on these topics, and magazines like Wired, which should be a staple for everyone.
Asian Legal Business: What kind of opportunities could the Metaverse bring to lawyers?
Joseph Raczynski: Imagine a world, much like what we have now, but only digital. It is nearly as immersive and interactive. Then, extrapolate all the problems, issues, benefits, and challenges we have currently in real life, and think about where lawyers play a role. It will be similar. In the beginning, much of the involvement of lawyers will be around intellectual property (IP) issues and copyright.
Soon thereafter, insurance and contractual disagreements will ensue, but these contract issues could be interesting because of the nature of the platform a Metaverse will be built upon. Since it should rely on blockchain and smart contracts, these disputes could likely be easier to solve at a lower tier, leaving lawyers to resolve more complex issues.
Asian Legal Business: How does our engagement with digital worlds and environments shape the way we work and the kind of work we carry out?
Joseph Raczynski: If we presume that we are moving increasingly into a digital world, then every nuance surrounding that space will become increasingly important. Start with artificial intelligence (AI). Algorithms will increasingly be able to make decisions for us. Yes, this includes much of the legal work out there. These algos start off simply, but will become far more complex, freeing us from some decisions or work.
Stack on top of that blockchain, which is trustless (as in, you don’t have to trust a third-party) database, meaning both AI and blockchain can work in tandem to begin doing some pretty impressive workflows that are automated. When we move into the Metaverse for both fun and business, everything can be quantified, e.g. a house, shoes, art, tickets to a concert, via a non-fungible token (NFT) which uses a blockchain. Processes will increasingly be leveraging data and AI to make decisions which will rely less on human intervention.
I know this can sound frightening, and it could be — which is why as this progresses, we need the best legal minds to understand the implications, yet keep a progressive mindset to guide the path forward. We do not merely wish to replicate everything we have in the real world, but try to evolve it to the best we humanly can.
This interview was written by Elizabeth Beattie, a Hong Kong-based journalist at Thomson Reuters, and originally published in Thomson Reuters Asian Legal Business.