Like you, I get many solicitations to join bar associations and sections and attend CLE seminars. County bar, state bar, ABA – one could easily make a full-time job out of bar activities. Now I’ve learned that there is a bar association that exists almost entirely in cyberspace: the Second Life Bar Association.
Second Life, as more thoroughly described in a California Lawyer article, is a virtual world (some would call it a game) in which you create an “avatar” for yourself with a unique name and looks you design and venture forth to chat with others, play games, create and sell virtual products, and heavens knows what else. Members are under no obligation to look or act like their real life selves; escapism and role playing seem to be a big draw for Second Life. Some people, on the other hand, just want to be themselves.
Which brings us to the lawyers, a handful of whom have decided it would be cool to form a bar association in the virtual world.Although it sounds like the lead-in to a lawyer joke, like any bar association the SLBA gives lawyers (and law students and maybe lawyer wannabes) with similar interests the opportunity to connect with each other. In the case of SLBA, the lawyers may reside anywhere in the world (I would admire the dedication of an Asian lawyer willing to get up in the middle of the night to go to a bar meeting).
There is a certain thrill that comes from creating an organization from scratch, without having to pay allegiance to the pillars of the real world bar. The SLBA is trying to figure out how to provide credentials to its members (who might otherwise remain anonymous), what roles lawyers might play in a virtual world without a court system, and of course get some CLE credit, which California has granted (last weekend’s seminar: Legal Research on the Internet). The SLBA posts transcripts of its meetings on-line, which gives a better idea of what is going on and when they are having additional CLEs.
Be warned, Second Life is not for the faint of heart. If you have difficulty figuring out how to add a website to your browser favorites, best to let it alone. There’s a learning curve and it helps to have a mentor (fortunately, Second Lifers are a friendly sort, once you get past their avatars’ –ahem– unique appearances). The interface reminds me of those 3D home design programs you buy before you hire an architect. And although a basic membership is free, there’s a monthly cost if you want to buy land, get new clothing, etc.
As a networking tool, Second Life has limited appeal to me personally. It’s very time consuming to figure out and if you don’t get some new virtual clothing, you look like a dork (albeit a young, thin, muscular dork with a full head of hair). I missed the virtual CLE last weekend because the demands of First Life cannot be placed on pause. I also think there’s plenty of important work to be done locally in the real world, both for local bar associations and other organizations, and probably a bigger return for your networking investment.
But for others, I can see where the Second Life Bar Association would meet many of my informal rules of good networking: sign up for activities that you enjoy for their own sake, find ways to demonstrate your skills and good sense to others, and expand your contacts beyond the narrow world of your current group of friends and associates. If you’re heavily into the internet or technology or IP, or you’re just looking for a new set of friends, the SLBA may be for you.