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The Work of Play: law firms cater to the video game industry

December 3, 2008 |  6:00 am

Video game lawyers 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."

Read the rest of this article here. And read more stories in the Work of Play series, which focuses on interesting jobs created by the video game industry's boom.

-- Alex Pham

Photo: Stephen Smith and Suann MacIsaac, who practice video game law. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times