Pillsbury gets real on virtual world instructions

Pillsbury gets real on virtual world instructionsPillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman last week launched a multidisciplinary team ­representing clients involved in the virtual worlds and video games industry.

The new team, the sixth launched by Pillsbury in the past three years, follows launches aimed at servicing clients in the areas of climate change and sustainability, data privacy and protection, subprime and credit crisis, stem-cell research and stock options backdating.

With 3D virtual worlds such as Second Life growing in popularity (and even enticing law firms into their online pleasures, with Field Fisher Waterhouse becoming the first to open an office there last year), the launch of the new group has a ring of bandwagon-jumping about it.

But one of the co-heads of Pillsbury’s new group argues that this is more than just marketing spin.

“We’ve got a lot of multidisciplinary teams across the firm,” says Jim Gatto, the Northern Virginia-based head of Pillsbury’s IP practice, speaking down a real-world phone from a virtual world conference. “We believe that specific industries require not just good lawyers who understand the law, but also people who understand industry trends and the business. These teams work
in a very functional way, with monthly meetings and regular reporting. It’s not just lawyers showing up and saying, ‘Hi, I’m a tax lawyer’.”

Gatto is co-heading the group along with Los Angeles IP partner Even Finkel. The latest group’s advice and skill sets cover a range of areas, including IP, privacy, litigation, employment, entertainment, corporate, tax, finance and regulatory.

Its clients range from start-ups such as Areae, which offers the Metaplace virtual worlds platform, to some of the largest players in the industry, such as online and console games publisher Activision Blizzard.

Gatto said Pillsbury had no plans so far to open up its own office in Second Life. “It’s not clear whether there are ethical issues in doing that and I believe we’re waiting for guidance from the ABA [American Bar Association] on this,” he says. “But there is a bar association in Second Life and we do participate in that.”