In January of 2022, Toronto-based Grinhaus Law became the first legal firm in Canada to open an office in the metaverse. The building, made of pixels instead of concrete, is a place to meet clients and a way to keep up with new technology. “ It wasn’t okay if you didn’t have a fax machine in 1985 ” says Aaron Grinhaus, the firm’s founder and co-chair of Osgoode Law School’s Web3, blockchain and metaverse law program. In this context, we now expand the options for Clients to meet with us, either – “ in-person “ or “ virtually “.
What inspired you to go virtual ?
I’ve always been interested in cutting-edge technology. In 2018, I wrote the first ever textbook on blockchain technology and the law. Later that year I became the co-director of Osgoode Hall’s program in Web3, blockchain and metaverse law. This kind of innovation requires regulation. If you’re a law firm, or any kind of business that wants to set up a presence in the metaverse, there are a lot of legal questions that go along with that. I kept getting questions from colleagues and clients: How does this work? How do I implement this technology into my practice? I couldn’t give advice before testing it out myself, and that was the push we needed to create our own virtual office.
How do you shop for real estate in the metaverse ?
First, you have to decide where you want to buy real estate. There are several platforms in the metaverse, the more popular ones being Facebook’s Meta, and Roblox, which is a global gaming platform. I chose to buy in Decentraland because—as the name suggests—it’s decentralized, meaning the platform is co-owned and operated by its users. There are a few dozen different districts within Decentraland, where people congregate based on their interests: there’s a fashion district, Chinese district, dance district, yoga district, etc. We wanted to keep things professional and academic, so we bought a parcel in the university district for five figures. “Land” comes in the form of NFTs or non-fungible tokens, so you have the exclusive ownership right to that land and can build whatever you want on it.
When you say “ build “ – Are you hiring a virtual architect ? Or, is it more like buying a house in Monopoly ?
There are prefab home options, but we built our office from scratch since we had employees who had some experience. It’s like a Lego set : you have different options for windows, walls, stairs and banisters that you can use to build your space. Some of the basic options are free and you can pay for upgrades. Our building is a two-storey square divided into four rooms, and the front of the building is transparent so you can see inside. We have a fountain out front with benches and trees where we hold meetings with clients.
With virtually meeting being another option to collaborate and it’s always sunny in the metaverse – it contributes to improving relationships and the Client experience in addressing legal matters.
April 18, 2023 by Courtney Shea / CAIL CAIL Innovation commentary
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