Interview with PopCap’s Legal Eagle, Meredith Dorrance


Not everyone who works at a video game company actually spends their day making video games. Like any company in any business, PopCap has a great many people on staff whose job is to provide structure and support, to keep things running smoothly.  They may not make the headlines or get “celebrity” status in the gaming community, but the game-making part nevertheless could never happen without them.  Accountants, lawyers, marketing folks, human resources people, customer service reps and more all contribute to making PopCap what it is.  And the cool thing for you to extrapolate, of course, is that even if you are not a game designer or programmer, if you love video games and want to work in the industry, there may be a place for you.

So, what’s it like to be an attorney in the gaming industry? How convenient of you to ask! Because I sat down with one of PopCap’s chief legal eagles, Meredith Dorrance, to find out this very thing!  See how things work out?

Enjoy, and remember, kids: Obey the law!

Not Meredith Dorrance, but a zombie eating some important legal documents. This is how we resolve most of our problems at PopCap.

Hi, Meredith. First, tell us what your exact title is, and what your basic role at PopCap is.

My title is Associate General Counsel. Basically, I negotiate deals with our distribution partners and vendors, meet with product development and management teams to review products and talk about new features and launches they’re planning, troubleshoot issues as they wash (or flood) over the transom, monitor legislation and newly filed lawsuits that affect our industry, and try to make smart decisions to manage real risks (instead of theoretical ones).

What is a typical day like for you at PopCap?

Typical?  There’s no such thing as a typical day at PopCap, but that’s a huge part of what makes it so much fun. But, if you really want to know, the average Tuesday might look like this: I sprint from the parking lot to attend a conference call with our Dublin office.   After the call, I read a few documents and review and reply to a ton of emails.  Then, I sprint to a meeting about a lawsuit in which we’re embroiled.   After that festival of fun, I return to my office and delete the emails telling me there are donuts in the second floor cafeteria, or that someone’s bubby baked chocolate chip cookies and left them on the 8th floor for us.  Then, I sprint to a product review meeting (and pick up one of bubby’s cookies on the way).  After that meeting, I review opposing counsel’s redline of a deal we’re negotiating and curse at him/her (quietly, in my head of course). I insert new redlines into the contract and get on the phone with our business development director to review the new draft and commiserate about how the deal resembles the original term sheet about as much as Snooki resembles Audrey Hepburn.

When you were in law school, or even just thinking about becoming an attorney, did you ever imagine that you’d be working at a video game company?

Not in a million years.  My parents wouldn’t even buy us an Atari when I was a kid. (Oops, I think I just gave away my approximate age or at least my vintage).  When I was in law school, if I had known that a part of my job someday would be playing games, I would have gone ahead and slept through my corporate tax class instead of inserting that IV line into my arm to keep the triple espressos flowing directly into my blood stream to try and stay awake. Actually, I was a bit technophobic until Al Gore invented the Internet.  I think I was the last person in my law school class to get an email account.  A friend of mine put together a class roster, and listed my email address as mdorrance@get.email.com.

How do your family and friends feel about you having this job — as opposed to something more “traditional”?  Do they ask you if you play games all day for a living?

My friends who are also lawyers think I have the best job in the world (for a lawyer). And they’re correct.  I don’t track my hours in .10 minute increments and “client development” usually involves hanging out at the Two Bells Tavern with my PopCap friends.  More importantly, I’m completely immersed in our business, which is hard for lawyers working in law firms to do because they aren’t on site or in a position to sit down with a product manager and walk through a game and its features step by step. My family thinks my job sounds great.  They love the swag. Although, my father, husband and brother-in-law all were perplexed that I gave them PvZ beer sleeves. Their drinks don’t actually stay in a glass long enough to warm up.

Do you actually play games?  If so, what are your faves? 

I’m addicted to Bejeweled Blitz. I might need to enter Bejeweled Blitz re-hab. My daughter loves PvZ.  Her favorite character is the Squash (a.k.a. “Squashie”), and she does a pretty good imitation of it.  My husband claims to be the master of PvZ. He sings “There’s a Zombie on Your Lawn,” a lot, which is an auditory tort because singing isn’t one of his strengths.  Our cat loves chuzzles. She likes to rip off their eyes. She’s a gentle and cuddly feline.

What’s your favorite part of your job?  Anything that makes you think “I can’t believe I do this for a living.

I really like supporting a team that’s launching a new game or launching one of our games on a new platform.  For example, when we launched on Google+, I had no choice but to check out the test site, create a profile, build up my Friend circles, start following various “new” Friends and start playing the games that would be available at launch, so that I could work through various deal terms with Google’s attorneys (great bunch of lawyers at Google, by the way) and advise the product team about complying with Google’s requirements.

Seriously, I have to play PopCap games so I understand the features, how the platforms work and what we’re doing to create a great user experience. That knowledge is invaluable. It’s my job to ensure we’re complying with applicable laws. It’s also my job to understand all aspects of our business so that I can document a strategic partnership in a plain English contract, evaluate which risks we can take and which don’t make sense for PopCap.

Who gives you more of a headache, as an attorney: people within PopCap, or without?

Actually, it isn’t a people, it’s a what. The candy bowl on the 5th floor of our office building taunts me.  Occasionally, I give in to the siren song of the Twix bars.  There’s nothing “fun” about those “fun size” candy bars when you substitute them for dinner.

What’s the one thing you’d like us to know about you that I haven’t asked.

If you could be any kind of animal, what would it be and why?  I’d be a chuzzle because maybe then our cat would like me.

Thank you for your time, Meredith, and thank you for keeping us out of trouble!

 


 


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