Gaming the Competition

AmLaw Daily reports on new bar association on the block: the Video Game Bar Association (VGBA), a worldwide organization for lawyers who specialize in video game law. Launched last week, the group already has a board in place, comprised of two biglaw attorneys, two in-house counsel and a solo who practice in the video game field. According to Patrick Sweeney of Reed Smith, a VGBA founder and board member, at least 60 lawyers who have attended past industry events expressed interest in a bar association for video game law.

If you’re interested in video game law but haven’t broken into the field, the VGBA won’t be much help. As described here, VGBA membership is limited to attorneys who have practiced for two or more years predominantly in the games industry and are recommended by two existing members from different firms. Membership is expected to cost around $100 per year or less.

On one level, starting an association with your competitors seems counter-intuitive, particularly in a specialized field with a finite number of clients (in other words, it’s different from the trial lawyers’ association or NACBA, where millions of consumer clients have a need for services). Still, overall, there are numerous benefits to teaming up with competitors. First, by pooling resources, VGBA lawyers can stay abreast of new industry developments at a lower cost. Second, because many video companies have in-house counsel, an organization that brings together in-house counsel and lawyers in private practice can lead to more work. Likewise, the mixture of small and large firms in the same organization can result in referrals, with large firms referring small matters to the solos, and solos teaming up with big firms or direct referring bet-the-company types of cases.

Moreover, by teaming up and creating a quasi-elite group with membership requirements, the VGBA lawyers may wind up competing for work with each other, but they’ll lock out competition from Johnny-come-lately’s who want to dabble in a sexy area. I can easily see VGBA gaining industry cache, with video companies seeking lawyers going directly to the VGBA roster.

Have you ever thought of joining up with competitors this way – or do you belong to a similar group? What’s your view of this marketing approach? Post your comments below.