Bringing Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality to the Law (Perspective)

Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg

Editor’s Note: The author of this post works in-house for Microsoft and is based in Chicago. 

By Dennis Garcia, Assistant General Counsel, Microsoft Corporation

Since I’m not much of a gamer – unless you include my affinity for spending countless hours during my youth in the video game arcade of our local Nathan’s Famous in the New York City area – I had my first experience with the growing technology phenomenon of Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) at the fabulous International Legal Technology Association Conference (ILTACON) this past August in National Harbor, Maryland. During ILTACON I had the opportunity to wear and try out a headset and was immediately transported into a whole new world where I was viewing, digitally interacting and gesturing with holograms, 3D content and images superimposed on reality.

VR devices immerse users into a virtual world, AR devices project digital images over real-world objects and a concept called Mixed Reality (MR) combines features of VR and AR. As companies invest heavily in creating devices, headsets and goggles that incorporate this emerging technology, here are some possible use cases for VR/AR/MR in the legal industry:

Reimagining Law School

When I recently served as a guest lecturer in a law school class it seemed like little has changed since my law school days over twenty years ago.  Using VR/AR/MR in law school can help transform the delivery and quality of legal education. For instance, instead of reading legal cases in the traditional lengthy hard covered case books, imagine viewing and experiencing the facts of those cases in a richer and more meaningful VR/AR/MR format so that they can literally “pop” out at you. Viewing classic law school cases like Hadley v. Baxendale and Palsgraff v. Long Island Railroad Company come alive via VR/AR/MR would be more interesting than reading them.

Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg
Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

Lawyer Training & Development

VR/AR/MR could provide a learning and development function for lawyers akin to how a flight simulator trains airplane pilots.  As an example, if you are a litigator VR/AR/MR could provide you with a virtual courtroom-like experience (complete with a judge and jury) so you can practice your case presentation. If you are a deal lawyer, VR/AR/MR may be able to provide you with mock contract negotiation scenarios complete with lawyers negotiating hard against you – which would have been helpful to me a few years ago when I was up against a team of five lawyers representing a key customer during challenging in-person contract negotiation sessions.

Improved Evidence in Litigation

Imagine judges and juries wearing VR/AR/MR devices to immediately transport them to a crime scene so they can deeply view, inspect and review pieces of evidence during a trial. While key rules and laws pertaining to evidence may need to evolve to accommodate 21st century technology like VR/AR/MR in our courtrooms, our legal system would provide better justice and fairness for all by enabling judges and juries to have clearer and improved access to evidence via leading technology.   

Richer Collaboration

When teams use VR/AR/MR, they can interact with each other in virtual spaces or virtual “war-rooms” to collaborate with each other without having to be all together in one physical location. Such use scenarios can be very compelling when lawyers and business clients based in locations across the globe need to closely connect with each other on matters where time is of the essence like sensitive contract negotiations, litigation, mergers & acquisitions, crisis management, etc…

Legal Services Provider Marketing

Law firms and other legal services providers can use VR/AR/MR technology to better promote their services. They can provide potential clients with a virtual client experience regarding what it would be like to be a recipient of their services. Devices that enable VR/AR/MR may provide potential clients with virtual interactions with specific lawyers and other legal professionals so they can gain greater insight about them and their particular expertise.

Since VR/AR/MR is still in its infancy, its impact on the legal profession will probably not be immediate. However, this exciting technology has the potential to positively impact our profession.

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