Speaking with… Madaline Zannes, the first metaverse VR lawyer

By Raffaele Redi

The founder of Zannes Law talks about her firm’s latest opening in the Web 3.0 space

Digital representation of Madeline Zannes standing outside her Zannes Law firm’s offices in the metaverse                                 
Zannes launched a closed community for business professionals, lawyers and investors to help introduce them to the metaverse – Photo: Madeline Zannes/Twitter
                                

Madaline Zannes, principal lawyer and founder of the Toronto-based Zannes Law firm, announced the opening of her office on Decentraland in March 2022. She was already working in the Somnium Space and Nifty Island metaverses, and in October last year made the first acquisition of a commercial-use NFT as its company logo.

The first virtual reality (VR) law firm is not only a metaverse pioneer, but also women-led organisation. Its metaverse office is also being used as a non-fungible token (NFT) gallery to showcase artwork by women artists and has been rented out for corporate events.

However, the metaverse is not always easy for Web 2.0 users who are not tech savvy. Misinformation and lack of knowledge are still an obstacle for clients, limiting their access to the Web 3.0 metaverse space – which is a key reason why most law firms are reluctant to dive into the metaverse or only purchase metaverse land to flag up their presence.

To help combat this, Zannes started a closed community for business professionals, lawyers, and real estate investors to help introduce them to the Web 3.0 metaverse.

Currency.com spoke to Zannes about her new venture and if, in her experience, future clients are happy to meet their lawyers in the metaverse rather than real-world offices.

Congratulations on your new office. How has it changed your lifestyle?

“No need to commute or travel to meetings, no more boring Zoom calls or the Zoom fatigue that comes with it. A lot of time is saved for completing tasks instead of preparing for Zoom calls or driving around the city. Some days you just don’t feel like being on a webcam and that’s OK when it comes to meetings in the metaverse. You can use your webcam if you want to, but it is by no means a requirement.”

How many clients are coming to your metaverse office?

“I can tell you that the majority (47%) of my meetings and intake for new clients is through the metaverse. I’ve been doing a challenge for the past month to beat my last score of bringing as many meetings into our metaverse office as possible.”

How did the approach with your clients change?

“This part didn’t change too much. We’re doing everything the same – except now we can meet in a more immersive space, we can move and emote to express ourselves. We can use our webcam, as our avatar’s head, if we want to see one another on cam, and if not we can render a photo of ourselves as our avatar’s face using Ready Player Me.

“Clients seem much more excited, intrigued and engaged during our online meetings now. It’s a nice change in how we communicate, but the basis of providing legal services has not changed.”

Portrait of Madaline Zannes, founder of Zannes Law
The real Madaline Zannes, founder of Zannes Law – Photo: Madaline Zannes

What are the pros and cons of an office in the metaverse compared to a real one?

“The pros of an office in the metaverse are that when you have a functional space that you are using, your audience will take you more seriously for having ‘skin in the game’ and the experience that they would consider you more tech-savvy. Some businesses try to get any space in the metaverse, even if it’s not on a functional metaverse platform, to associate themselves with something modern and innovative.

“People need to understand that not all metaverse platforms are the same. And they should do their research on how different businesses are using their parcels to see if they actually have experience doing so.

“I would say the cons are that since we are so early in the space a lot of people do not know how it works and have likely been misinformed on what the metaverse is about before speaking with them. This usually leads to having to explain everything from the beginning. I don’t mind doing so but it is time-consuming, which is why my husband Reggie Tan and I have now created a community for business professionals, lawyers and real estate investors to provide information and help people learn about the metaverse collectively.”

Are you planning to work only in the metaverse in the future?

“I plan to use as many tools that are available to branch my practice out in the most innovative and creative ways. Part of that will be through the metaverse, and we will continue to look to the future to see what other capabilities arise to innovate our firm further.”

More and more women are joining the metaverse, which is still a male-dominated environment. How do you feel about that?

“The Web 3.0 community is diverse. A lot of people in Web 3.0 remain undoxxed [private] so sometimes we don’t know whom we’re dealing with. But the number of women in the space is growing at an exponential pace and I see that continuing to skyrocket. I will always lift women around me by providing opportunities and space to speak and share their thoughts. Our firm is all women. We are all Web 3.0 savvy in utilising our meta-office space.”

Is it possible for law firms moving to the metaverse to cut expenses, for example, rent or office maintenance?

“Based on capabilities of metaverse platforms at the moment, lawyers can’t make a complete move from real life – or what I like to call ‘realverse’ offices – into the metaverse. It would depend on their legal practice area of course, as some areas would allow for tasks to be completed via the metaverse more than others, such as the requirement of attending court or mediation.

“At the moment, I am currently using our Somnium Space and Decentraland parcels for meetings with clients, colleagues and team members. Our law clerk, Ierene, attends our Somnium Space office daily for intake as clients know we are there every morning for any questions. We hold presentations, guest lectures, and seminars, and even rent out our metaverse office space and women’s NFT artists gallery for corporate events.”

Finally, what would you suggest to a young woman who wants to open an office in the metaverse?

“Anyone can do it if they have the means to obtain a parcel on a metaverse platform. It doesn’t have to be a huge expenditure, as there are ways of utilising Web 3.0 metaverses while keeping costs low. I encourage everyone to consider making the business decision to take an innovative step forward into the Web 3.0 metaverse.”

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