The Work of Play: law firms cater to the video game industry
A year ago, newly minted lawyer Shawn Foust approached a senior partner at his Century City firm with an idea: dedicate an entire practice to the video game industry.
Today, the 26-year-old coordinates a team of 20 lawyers at Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton that tackles mergers, licensing contracts and other deals that help make the burgeoning game business hum.
"I'm pursuing my lifelong dream of combining the two things I love -- games and law," Foust said.
Never a group to steer clear of the action, lawyers across California are retooling their entertainment practices to cater to the game industry. Video games are expected to generate nearly $50 billion in global revenue this year, despite a slowdown in consumer spending, and sales have already surpassed old-line businesses including music.
As the game industry grows, so do its legal needs. "There's tax work, litigation, risk management, immigration, labor -- the list goes on and on," said Seth Steinberg, who last year left his position as general counsel of George Lucas' video game publisher, LucasArts, to start a private practice in San Francisco specializing in the game industry.
Other firms have joined in. Greenberg Glusker Fields Claman & Machtinger, the law firm of record for the likes of Tom Cruise and Warren Beatty, has cultivated a game practice led by Stephen Smith and Suann MacIsaac. "We looked for areas where our core expertise in entertainment law could be applied," said Jonathan Fitzgarrald, a spokesman for the Century City firm. "And we found that video games in many ways represented the future of the entertainment industry."
-- Alex Pham
Photo: Stephen Smith and Suann MacIsaac, who practice video game law. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times