Second Life isn’t quite a video game, and it’s more than a chatroom. You can hang out in virtual nightclubs, buy nonexistent real estate on which to build architecturally unsound houses, and now, you can get CLE credit.
Scene from the SLBA seminar.
The virtual world has its own bar group — the Second Life Bar Association — that brings together lawyers, legal professionals and others loosely interested in the law. So the digital universe permits your fire-haired avatar to discuss the rule against perpetuities while you sit at home in your socks and fluffy bathrobe. But today the bar group launched something genuinely substantial — a four-part speaker series on the application of law in virtual worlds that counts as continuing legal education.
About 25 avatars gathered in the online room, some decked out in professional suits, and one in a Victorian-era dress and hat, said San Francisco immigration lawyer Geri Kahn. “I think there was at least one animal in there,” said Kahn, one of the series’ organizers.
Though there were apparently no fantastic half-man half-dragon avatars hovering in the simulated conference room and breathing smoke, the event was exciting for other reasons. One: As far as Kahn can tell, SL Bar Association’s seminar was the first professionally accredited legal seminar in Second Life. SL Bar Association’s program was recently approved for continuing legal education credit by the State Bar of California and for CPD in the United Kingdom, Kahn said.
Two: People actually attended. “We’re all volunteers, a lot of time has gone into it,” Kahn said. “It’s exciting that a lot of people showed up.”
Seminar shots courtesy of Kate Fitz.
And in a world where one can smoke a digital hookah in a red light district of bars and bordellos, it says something that the event held the audience, stretching from one hour to two.
The topic was legal issues in the virtual world. One topic introduced by association president David Naylor (known in SL as Solomon Cortes) was trademark infringement and copyright. Naylor (or Cortes) showed screen shots of cinemas in Second Life that show actual movies, pointing out that it wasn’t clear whether the people got licensing rights from the studios to show their movies.
Naylor is a partner with the European law firm Field Fisher Waterhouse, the first large firm to open an office in Second Life, according to an SLBA press release.
That’s not to say there weren’t a couple of technical snafus: Some couldn’t log on, some couldn’t hear, and then there was the fashion crisis. Kate Fitz, the Sacramento County law librarian who was instrumental in getting accreditation for the program, said a glitch caused her “nice suit skirt” to look like bike shorts.
Yes, but were they flaming bike shorts?
— Petra Pasternak