21 Geo. J. Legal Ethics 753 (2008)
Living in a Virtual World: Ethical Considerations for Attorneys Recruiting New Clients in Online Virtual Communities

handle is hein.journals/geojlege21 and id is 761 raw text is: 






Living in a Virtual World: Ethical Considerations
for Attorneys Recruiting New Clients in Online
Virtual Communities

SUSAN CORTS HILL*

                                 INTRODUCTION

   Justin Davis needed a lawyer to help him trademark the name of his jewelry
store so he contacted Stevan Lieberman, an intellectual property lawyer with
Greenberg & Lieberman, a boutique law firm in Washington, DC, at Lieberman's
office.' The name Davis picked for his store was taken, so Lieberman helped him
choose a new name and trademark it.2 The catch? Neither the jewelry store nor
the jewelry were real.3 And although Lieberman is a real intellectual property
lawyer with a real office, Davis didn't find him there.4 He found him in Second
Life, an online virtual world.
   Second Life is one of the largest and most publicized virtual online
communities, in which residents are represented by avatars, a graphical
representation of their choosing, that can interact, socialize, trade and purchase
objects, and provide services.5 In Second Life, residents and vehicles can fly, a
house can float, and an avatar can look like a fox, a robot, or a cartoon character
as readily as it can look like a digital version of the resident's real self. Even so,
life in the virtual community largely reflects real life with many residents
participating in real-world activities like shopping, working at virtual jobs, and
building and decorating homes.6 Participants can also design and create objects
that are traded or sold for virtual currency, which can translate into real-world
dollars.7


  * J.D., Georgetown University Law Center (expected May 2009).
  1. Attila Berry, Lawyers Find Real Revenue in Virtual World, LEGAL TIMES, July 31, 2007.
  2. Id.
  3. Id.
  4. Id.
  5. The actual size of the Second Life community is widely disputed. Daniel Terdiman, Counting the Real
Second Life Population, CNET NEws.coM, Jan. 3, 2007, http://www.news.comCounting-the-real-Second-Life-
population/2100-1043_3-6146943.html. While Second Life's parent company touts over 2 million registered
users, about 20,000 participants are online at any given time. Id.
  6. Stephanie Francis Ward, Fantasy Life, Real Law, A.B.A. J., Mar. 2007.
  7. According to media reports, transactions worth approximately $250,000 take place every day on Second
Life. Id. Participants in Second Life can buy virtual currency, known as Linden dollars, and use it to buy and sell
goods. Id. Many members make enough money through online transactions to cover the monthly costs of
participation in the virtual community as well as their virtual purchases and a few residents sustain themselves
on the monthly wages they earn from their Second Life jobs. Id. Real world companies are also getting into the
game, although the effectiveness of real world business in the virtual world is still undetermined. Caroline

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