Getting a law degree was by no means the hardest part of Ryan Morrison’s career path. The attorney who stands at the forefront of esports law says standing out and building your career is the far tougher task. “There are thousands of other people like you who are working toward the very same goal,” Morrison reminds aspiring gaming industry professionals.
That’s where networking, creativity and genuine care for clients come in. Morrison’s firm, Morrison/Lee, represents more esports athletes than any other. Read on for how its co-founder carved out his place in esports.
Find Your Grind: Tell us a little bit about yourself and career journey, Ryan.
Ryan Morrison: I’ve been into sports and video games ever since I was a kid, so it seems natural that esports caught my interest. I got my bachelor’s degree in history at SUNY Albany in 2009 and shortly after that, I took the LSAT on a bet. I ended up passing and getting accepted to New York Law School, where I did a ton of research on the growing area of video game law and worked with the IGDA and for Large Animal Games.
After law school, I knew I wanted to keep working in the industry. That led to me giving a lot of free legal advice on Reddit. At that point in my career, I was doing weekly AMAs on Reddit for free. I realized how much help this community needed, which really drove me to start up my own firm.
Eventually I partnered with a great attorney, Michael Lee, and we formed Morrison & Lee. We also opened up Evolved Talent Agency, and we represent more players than anyone else on the planet.
FYG: How would you describe your job to someone who knows nothing about what you do?
RM: What the internet knows as “video game law” is, on a basic level, an amalgamation of a lot of different areas of law — intellectual property law, contract law, employment law, etc. If someone doesn’t know anything at all about what I do, it’s often best to start with that and work from there. Usually, I end up having to explain that I don’t just play video games all day (I promise).
FYG: What kind of experience or degree would someone need to get a job like yours? How did you obtain that experience/degree?
RM: Well, you need to go to law school, get a law degree, and pass the bar to be a lawyer. But in the scope of everything, that’s probably the easiest part.
Experience is just as (if not more) important than whatever degree you end up getting. If you’re truly passionate about the video game industry and you know that a career in this field is what you want, you should actively seek out opportunities to get that experience.
While it may require you to make some sacrifices, it’s the best way to learn about how this industry works and what it takes to be part of it. Whether it’s volunteering your time with a firm or an agent, starting up a legal analysis blog in your free time, or connecting with players to see what their needs are, being active in finding ways to educate yourself goes a long way.
FYG: What advice would you give to kids in high school, especially kids from rural areas, who want to get into esports?
RM: I’m sure anyone who wants to get into esports has heard this over and over again, but it’s really important to know going in that there are thousands of other people like you who are working toward the very same goal. This isn’t meant to discourage anyone who wants to get into the field, but it’s to encourage healthy expectations of what you’re getting into.
To make it in esports, you really have to stand out in the crowd. The best way to do that is to get to know people in the industry. Whether that means going to events, emailing someone to ask them for a few minutes of their time, or just being active on social media. Networking and making yourself known will definitely make a huge difference in your chances of breaking into esports. Knowledge of video games and the ongoing state of the industry helps, too.
FYG: What kind of lifestyle does your career allow you to live? What sort of salary and work environment can people typically expect from a position or field like yours?
RM: This career incredibly demanding, competitive, and challenging. This kind of work presents you with new problems every day, and you definitely have to learn how to be creative in figuring out how to solve them. I think an attorney who works in any area of law will tell you virtually the same thing, but it’s especially true in the video game industry because of the constant changes in technology and law. Salary-wise, let’s just say that you won’t see me driving a fancy sports car any time soon.
FYG: What strengths, skills, or character traits do you think are most important for your position?
RM: Determination is the first valuable character trait that comes to mind. That goes not only for people who want to be attorneys in this industry, but for anyone who wants to get involved in esports or game dev in any capacity. Whether you’re just finding your feet as a student or thinking about starting your own firm, you need to be ready to commit a lot of time and energy to your clients and to the industry as a whole. Passion is also another trait that comes to mind. Especially as an attorney, it’s really important to believe in the purpose and benefit of your role in the industry.
FYG: What does it mean to you to Find Your Grind? Why is it important?
RM: I think that Finding Your Grind is really about discovering a career path that fulfills both your professional and personal needs. We spend a lot of our lives working, so if you’re fortunate enough to find a career that leaves you satisfied at the end of each day, you’ll really be able to get the most out of life.