Legal Technology

Virtual World Here to Stay, Lawyers Must Adjust

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Among those who inhabit Second Life—a virtual world on the Internet where individuals interact through electronic alter egos known as avatars, is the SL Bar Association, where lawyers actually hold meetings and conferences.

Perhaps Sunday afternoon’s ABA Annual Meeting program on how such virtual organizations are changing the legal profession should have been held at the SL Bar—it might have kept the din of New York’s Dominican Day Parade on Sixth Avenue from threatening to drown out the panelists speaking at the Hilton New York Hotel.

Speakers and an audience of some 75 people kept their humor, however, over the incessant drumbeats of the parade. “If anybody wants to dance, feel free,” said speaker Nick Abrahams as he began his presentation.

But perhaps the backdrop of the parade was appropriate for this program sponsored by the Section of Science and Technology Law because its underlying theme is that the way lawyers communicate with each other, their clients and the public is changing dramatically as more lawyers become involved in social networks, blogs and Second Life. And like the parade, that new virtual world is just not going away.

Abrahams used the results of a survey conducted by his firm—Deacons in Sydney, Australia—to illustrate how there is no turning back from these new forms of electronic interaction. Abrahams chairs the Sydney office of the firm, which has branches throughout Asia.

What the survey indicated, Abrahams said, is that “If you’re over 35, you’re the loneliest person on Facebook because only 1 percent of workers in that age group are using it.”

But a quarter of the survey respondents between 25 and 34 are on Facebook, he said, and for workers under 25, the rate of Facebook users increases to a third of those surveyed.

The message, said Abrahams, is that “Organizations need to think carefully about blocking because it runs the risk of disenfranchising younger employees.”

Abrahams said it’s impossible to make assumptions about what the results of a similar survey would be if taken in the United States, but he noted that the two countries are similar in their patterns of Internet use. The survey results can be accessed through the Deacons website.

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Earlier: “Looking For Employee Perks to Offer? Facebook Access May be Enough”

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