In advance of our sponsorship of this year's Games Industry Law Summit, Event Director, Sergei Klimov, spoke to Ryan Black, Partner in DLA Piper’s Vancouver office, about how the firm approaches the video game sector, and what helps it grow its interactive entertainment practice:
🎙 Ryan, how big is DLA Piper? Are we talking about 500 people? One thousand?
– We’re massive, we have over 4,000 lawyers! The current structure of the firm is the result of a few mergers, and the oldest firm that we absorbed was founded in 1764 – so you could say that we go a long way back. Though the heart of the current practice dates to around 1850, which is a bit younger. Still, quite respectable!
🎙 And which offices would lead the games practice specifically?
– It’s funny, we don’t think of that very often. We’re fairly polycentric and have folks leading locally in the UK, Europe, US, throughout Latin America, in Asia, and throughout the Middle East - and with partnership firms, even throughout Africa.
🎙 How would you define your firm in one phrase?
– Ha! I’m no marketer, but my personal motto would be something like “We deliver global reach, available locally”. But if I was speaking to general counsel at a games company, I’d say “ONE conflict check for all your worldwide legal needs.”
🎙 Does this apply to your practice in Canada as well?
– Oh, yes! Games companies from Canada cannot really focus only on the Canadian market, their focus is always global – which is where we can really add value; by providing the reach, and the expertise everywhere they need it.
🎙 And how do you achieve that?
– The key is our ability to collaborate between the different offices. Cooperation is at the core of how we practice. For example, we have a global policy about conflict of interest – so that when we clear a client, we clear them globally. And this is a unique advantage, as this means that we can immediately add a colleague from another office to a conversation and get their advice in 30 minutes – rather than after an intake process that might take two or three days.
🎙 This sounds very relevant. Recently, a studio I know needed a law firm in 2 specific states in the US, so they first asked one firm, and got clearance after a couple of days – then the firm issued a recommendation for their colleagues in another state, and that firm cleared the client over the weekend. All in all, it took a week…
– Exactly. It may be Okay for a smaller studio, or for a matter that’s not urgent, but if you’re operating at scale and need immediate guidance, you may not have that week to spare.
🎙 What enables you to collaborate, besides the global clearance of conflicts?
– DLA Piper really lives by the “clients first” policy. Our lawyers are collaborative and helpful by nature, and our clients have access to the full spectrum of services and knowledge we have across the global firm.
🎙 Where do you think this is coming from?
– We started out smaller, and have grown into the global firm that we are today, and so we still retain the “small firm mentality”. We do not rest on our laurels. We don’t think about ourselves as “the stars”, we’re “the performers”. We feel that every day, we must earn our reputation with the quality of our work – we don’t take things for granted.
🎙 For a games industry client, what's your firm’s unique advantage?
– Our top expertise is in global integration. As an in-house counsel, you can offload to one DLA Piper lawyer all of your issues – litigation, consumer protection, transactions, whatever you need to run your studio. We will coordinate around our own offices to solve the issues that the client needs so that studios and their legal teams can focus on their own matters!
🎙 Within the firm, what place does the games practice occupy? And which offices do most of the games work?
– The games industry practice belongs to our Media, Sports and Entertainment group. Historically I’d say our most active locations for the games industry would be Canada, Italy, UK, US and France. But as time goes on, we're seeing more and more work spread out across our games group which is spread throughout our global network.
🎙 How do you guys recruit for your games team? Is this mostly people that join you from other departments, or is this mostly people who join the firm from the outside?
– We recruit for the games team both internally and externally. We have a lot of associates who love video games, and that passion leads to great work. Part of my job is to find those associates and say, “Hey, you love video games? This is great! Why not make it part of your work - come work with our team!”.
One of the crazy things about being in a large firm such as DLA Piper, is that we have so much talent in the company. So many extra capabilities. I am often on a call, and someone will say, “Look, what if we invite this person or that person, they may have insight into the issue?” you can just rely on this incredible wealth of experience available already internally, no matter what comes up.
🎙 Is the team turnover an issue for you, being a large firm and all that?
– Not really. DLA Piper is very stable, and partners typically stay for a long time. I’ll tell you a personal story: we recently pitched to one client, and as a part of the review process, they asked our associates how they handle it when associates leave the firm in the middle of a deal. Hopefully that client was assured by the blank looks: we just don’t have that issue because it doesn’t really happen at DLA!
🎙 Now, last question: what’s the current challenge for you guys, in the near-term future? Globally?
–It’s always challenging to keep one step ahead of the curve with emerging industries. For example, we recently hired a team of 12 data scientists to evolve our approach to AI – it’s not only about developing the in-house tools to use the AI in our day-to-day, but also about evaluating what our clients do with AI, and how compliant this is with the regulations and their own policies. It’s such an exciting area! It’s one of those sectors that change week by week, so it’s fun to be on the cutting edge.
🎙 Finally, where can we meet your team in real life in the coming months?
Meanwhile, Tyson Gratton, Tom Ara, Alexander (Sasha) Kolmakov and Giulio Coraggio will be at Games Industry Law Summit in Vilnius. We would love to say Hi to old industry friends, and also to make new friends!