According to Fortune, the global Esports market will reach $1 billion in proceeds in 2019.
That is a fact that Ian Roven ’16 is only too familiar with, as he has devoted a significant amount of time developing his law practice around the rapidly growing Esports industry including the resulting startups.
“What people need to understand is that the legal demands of the Esports industry are similar to any sport, except that it is an online medium, so there is a whole host of additional issues that need to be dealt with,” says Roven.
Explaining this, Roven states that gaming is a unique sport due to the ability to play multiple matches in a day. “For example, how many rounds of Madden can you play in a day as opposed to someone who actually plays a football game,” he says. “You find that you can play 20+ games in one day, but an athlete typically plays one game a week.”
Additionally, the cost of starting up and the initial level of commitment required in gaming is low as opposed to many other sports, and there is also no physical barrier to entry. “There are many handicap-accessible controllers that can be modified to suit anyone’s need,” Roven continues.
Roven himself used to be a professional Esports player. He started gaming while in Middle School, and this continued through his undergraduate years at UC Santa Barbara.
“I realized that video games were a way for me to be social with other people,” says Roven. “I also realized that one of the most important aspects of both gaming and life is collaboration. As professionals, we would work in teams with each player in a different role, and we had to leverage our strengths as a team and not just lead our teammates but teach others how to become leaders themselves.”
Disillusioned with the treatment and compensation Esports players were subjected to, Roven retired as an Esports athlete in late 2012, after returning from an international tournament in Moscow.
“Compensation in Esports wasn’t like it is now,” recalls Roven. “I saw the value that my teammates and I were providing to the gaming companies (i.e., filling seats, advertising, etc.) and knew there was a certain injustice happening.”
Roven had taken the LSAT while at UC Santa Barbara and serendipitously figured the stars had aligned, as he enrolled in California Western’s accelerated 2-year JD program.
Using the discipline and experience he gained from leading teams of gamers, Roven adapted to the rigors of law school with relative ease.
“As a professional gamer, I needed to train and put myself on a schedule,” says Roven. “I applied the same principles in law school and can now advise my video gaming clients from a place of raw experience and growth.”
Graduating in 2016, Roven passed the California Bar Exam that same year and subsequently opened his own law practice in Malibu, specializing in what he describes as “virtual” law.
“My fascination with the leading edge of technology and how video games are shaping how we interact with one another pushed me into virtual law,” explains Roven. “Virtual law in my practice encompasses blockchain tech, startups and Esports, including gaming consultation and talent representation.”
With Esports becoming such big business, the gaming industry has come a long way since the days Roven played professionally. With that growth and the sums of money involved, Roven recognizes that lawyers are clamoring for a piece of this billion-dollar industry.
“Think about how many lawyers are involved in the NFL,” says Roven. “You have agents, employment attorneys, the Players Association, contract lawyers, business and sponsorship lawyers. I realized then that we needed to change the way people look at Esports and that gamers had to leverage the value they provided.”
Today, Roven provides consulting services on a multitude of topics from blockchain and cryptocurrency to drones and Esports and devotes a significant amount of time understanding and anticipating the future of competitive gaming, placing him in a somewhat unique position to represent e-athletes.
He has become a go-to expert on Esports. He has appeared on Politics and Profits with Rick Amato, a local television show in San Diego, discussing the rise of Esports and competitive video gaming, as well as drone racing and regulation. This year he also moderated the first-of-its-kind Esports summit at Pepperdine University School of Law.
California Western provided Roven with the perfect starting point for his law journey and reaffirmed his ideas of where he wanted to go with his legal career.
“Cal Western didn’t force any preconceived notions on me of what it means to be a lawyer,” says Roven. “Instead, it helped me refine the idea of who I wanted to be as a lawyer and gave me the space to practice my style of advocacy.”
He cites his experience working with two alums, Robert Robinson, Esq. and Kyle Yaege, Esq. at their boutique firm in downtown San Diego that enabled him to explore his interests in cryptocurrency and Esports law as well as work with them on business and real estate matters.
Through his gaming, Ian Roven has developed an unshakable passion for connecting with other people. A passion that is now evident in every aspect of his legal firm from virtual law through to business and real estate law.
“I have dedicated my career to being the ultimate teammate.”