Lawless Second Life

by danhon

I had lunch recently with a friend from my past life, and the conversation (as is seemingly inevitable nowadays) veered rather haltingly into discussing Second Life, and, specifically, one law firm’s tentative ventures into the ubiquitous “Can’t believe it’s in The Sunday Times||The Face||Rolling Stone||Some Inflight Magazine” virtual world.

I gave my opinion about terms of service, about land grabs, about how the whole thing feels like the interweb in the early 90s, and especially about how opening up the server and client side of Second Life is possibly the smartest thing Linden Labs will ever do (possibly they’ll turn into some sort of Association for Computing Machinery’s Global Multimedia Protocol Group – you can tell what book I’ve been re-reading lately). But what we talked about, and gossiped about a little, was what, exactly, said law firm was doing opening an office in Second Life for.

You can guess where I’m going with this bit, and if you want, we can skip to the punchline which is: “for rapidly diminishing PR returns”.

If you’re not so interested in skipping to the end, then here’s a quick list of what a law firm opening an office in Second Life isn’t for:

  • deal rooms/data rooms: deal rooms are perfectly fine on extranets or whatever, there’s not much that can be said for having a deal room in a virtual space. I mean, why would you want to recreate the feeling of despair that a deal room can evoke? Why would you want to remodel boxes and boxes of documents in Second Life?
  • client meetings: you must be joking. It’s hard enough to get some lawyers to use conference call facilities properly, never mind some clients. And you want to get them to install the Second Life client, and visit you there? Not right now, thank you very much. Besides, in an industry where you get partners who have PAs who print out email for them. Oooh. PA-controlled Second Life avatars.
  • Flying penises. Oh, wait. It probably is for flying penises. It’s very hard to get flying penises into a real law firm’s office, so maybe that’s what the one in Second Life is for…