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March 31, 2021 Feature

From IP Associate to Video Game Specialist

©2021. Published in Landslide, Vol. 13, No. 4, March/April 2021, by the American Bar Association. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association or the copyright holder.

Will Bucher is an associate at Fenwick & West LLP and a member of the firm’s games industry group. He represents clients in a range of litigation matters in the tech and interactive entertainment industries. Prior to joining Fenwick, Will was an associate in Debevoise & Plimpton LLP’s intellectual property group. Will is also a member of the Video Game Bar Association.

When did you decide you wanted to focus on video games? What piqued your interest?

Video games have long been part of my life. I was diagnosed with dyslexia at age five, and I struggled not only with reading but also with finding something that was worth the struggle. Books didn’t inspire me, but computer games did. From Oregon Trail to Baldur’s Gate, I spent thousands of hours navigating the text of computer games and, in the process, slowly worked my way up to reading at grade level and beyond. In time, my disability became more of a quirk than a roadblock, but I never lost my passion for games.

When I arrived at law school, I quickly found myself being asked what kind of law I wanted to practice. Figuring “anything that will allow me to pay off six-figures in loans” was probably too honest, I told people I was interested in doing something related to video games. When it came time for on-campus interviewing, I was worried law firms wouldn’t be receptive to my ambition. They weren’t all, but when I interviewed with Debevoise & Plimpton, where I started my legal career, they introduced me to a senior in-house lawyer at Take-Two Interactive. They encouraged me to apply for an internship with Take-Two and split my summer between the firm and the game publisher. I did, and it deepened my knowledge about the gaming industry and the legal considerations facing games companies.

As my career progressed, I continued to build my experience in games law, and my passion eventually led me to join Fenwick. Fenwick has one of the most active games practices of any law firm in the country. I get to work with some of the most cutting-edge companies in the industry, including publishers, developers, platform manufacturers, and content providers, and it is a joy to get to work with stellar colleagues who are as interested in games law as I am.

How did you use your experience to build your knowledge?

As a young lawyer at a big firm, I had a lot to learn from every new case or project I worked on, even if it was wildly outside the specialty I wanted to build. For example, I worked on cases related to social media influencer advertising regulation for beauty companies. I wasn’t developing a specialty in beauty products, but the knowledge I gained on those cases was helpful to my specialty in games, which are often promoted through livestreams and influencers.

I also found ways to develop my expertise outside of my job. I read the websites and journals that I knew those in the video game industry were reading. I went to, and spoke at, dozens of conferences focused on game development both in the U.S. and abroad. I set docket alerts so I could read about the latest lawsuits as soon as they happened. I wrote articles for legal and nonlegal publications. In addition to what I was learning at work, these practices built a foundation of knowledge about the relevant legal issues in the interactive entertainment industry.

What other steps did you take to reach this goal?

The first step to getting work in any specialty is making sure that both clients and colleagues know about your experience in the space and think of you when they need advice in that area. With that in mind, I made a point to clearly brand myself as a video game lawyer in every interaction. In group meetings, I introduced myself as the IP lawyer focusing on interactive entertainment. When asked about work, I would talk about the article I was writing or presentation I was preparing related to video games. When asked about my personal life, I’d discuss the most compelling game I’d played recently. None of this detracted from my actual interests; I remained passionate about a wide range of legal issues and recreational pursuits. But if people who met me were going to remember anything about me, I made sure it was my passion for, and specialty in, games. And now I even have an avatar on my business card, which is difficult to forget!

What advice do you have for other attorneys looking to chart their own course in a specialized area of IP?

When you’re charting a new course, you won’t—and can’t—know the decisions that will lead you to where you want to be. What you can know, if you spend some time thinking about it, is who you want to be when you get there. And you can start being that person right now. If you want to be a great boss, you can start being kind, considerate, and compassionate to everyone below you, whether that’s junior associates, your secretary, or the cook wrapping your burrito. If you want to be a strong orator delivering keynote addresses, you can start giving presentations related to your specialty at any venue—in person or digital—that’ll have you. If you want to have creative insights when meeting with clients, you can start sharing your ideas at every meeting you participate in, whether big or small. The habits you form while building your practice are the ones you will keep once it’s built, so make sure you’re growing both the practice and person you want to be.

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