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Thursday, March 30, 2006
How Do I get a Job in Sports Law? (Continued)

Mike had a good post on this question here, but while I have (access to) the floor I might as well add my two cents. This is one of my topics the first day of sports law class, because I like to get it over with. I like to dispel the notion that taking sports law equals a job in sports law; and to let students know up front that Sports Law, as I teach it at least, is not a “show and tell” career development course, but a substantively challenging and thorough academic experience. The first thing I tell my students is that if I really had the answer to the question of how to get the coolest sports law job in the world (NFL commissioner, of course), I’d be off doing that job instead of teaching the class. That’s meant to be a little tongue in cheek. But my own insight is a bit limited, since I came to sports law in 2002 by way of teaching and academic (or academic-y) writing. But I do have some thoughts, formed after watching students try (and, in some cases, succeed) in getting wonderful sports industry jobs. My comments below also incorporate lessons offered from practitioners in the field. (I also have the good fortune of being on a faculty with a senior professor – and former dean – who was in a past life a certified NFL player agent, so I have the luxury of being able to point students towards his office if they aren’t satisfied with my advice).

(1) Think beyond Jerry Maguire: Most students think that sports law means serving as a lawyer-agent for a player. That is a tough, tough business; it’s ruthlessly competitive (the vast majority of “agents” don’t have clients!), dominated by a few big firms, corrupting of one’s ethical principles, and not all that easy a way of making a living. However, there are numerous other wonderful and interesting sports law jobs out there. Some that I think are most promising are NCAA compliance officers (increasingly holders of J.D.s) and public school district lawyers (I have an uncle who does this work and is probably involved in more sports law issues than any lawyer I know).

(2) Be flexible, opportunistic, and aggressive: Sports law jobs are highly sought after, and sometimes arise through luck, fortune and circumstance. You might have a next door neighbor with a kid who happens to be a 15-year-old left-handed power-hitting catcher. Be nice, because that kid might need an agent some day. You might be offered the chance to work for a team at a lot less money than you’d make as a lawyer at a big firm. You have to be able to quickly commit to such opportunities, should they arise. Persistence of course will pay, as it always does. Those who are committed to sports law can usually find a way; it’s folks with more casual commitments (rather than true passion) that usually end up doing something less interesting.

(3) Take these classes: In law school, if you have the chance, you should take Antitrust, Drafting (as many drafting classes as are offered), Negotiation, Arbitration, Labor Law, Intellectual Property (including trademark and copyright), Federal Income Tax, Estate Planning/Wills/Estate Tax, Immigration Law (especially for those interested in baseball and basketball work) and Sports Law. Some people might add other subjects to the list, but these are the ones I think tend to be most useful.

(4) Never eat lunch alone: This is generally a good strategy for getting a job. Networking matters, as painful as it sometimes is. I would add that it always pays to treat people in a kind and decent fashion, even if you don’t think they have something to offer you. You never know when the person sitting next to you on a plane is the GM of a team bumped from his first class seat; that person might be able to give you advice, or a job, but certainly won’t if you’re rude, condescending, or shy.


Outstanding and candid comments. A must read for law students and prospective law students interested in a sports law career. In addition to taking the classes that you mention, I recommend that students consider a substantive sports law writing project while in law school, and hopefully generate a publishable student note from that project. A publication can go a long way in distinguishing one sports law candidate from the hundreds or thousands of other candidates competing for a sports law position, because it shows that you have an expertise in a sports law topic and, just as importantly, that you obviously work really hard.

Blogger Michael McCann -- 3/30/2006 2:04 PM  

Thank you.

Anonymous Casey Johnson -- 3/30/2006 3:38 PM  

1 question.... it says CONTINUED.... what date was the first part? I'll start searching, but a approximate date would be great.


Anonymous Casey Johnson -- 3/30/2006 3:40 PM  

Sorry I see there is a July 19 post. New to the blog reading. Didn't realize it was linked

Anonymous Anonymous -- 3/30/2006 3:41 PM  

Very helpful for all of us sports law hopefuls

Anonymous Anonymous -- 3/30/2006 6:06 PM  

Hi Geoff and all. Let me add my two cents to the classes students should take if they are interested in Sports Law. I would add Higher Education and the Law (College and University law) to the list. Consisent with Geoff's point about NCAA compliance officer being a good job opportunity, we spend a good deal of time covering issues such as athletic eligibility, coaches' contracts, athlete drug testing, and Title IX gender equity issues in the Higher Ed class. I have one student who is writing his Higher Ed paper this semester on bringing the NFL's Rooney rule to the college level and another who is putting forth a new proposal to improve Title IX as it applies to non-revenue sports.
Best, Paul

Blogger Paul -- 3/30/2006 8:06 PM  

Thanks for this post. Is there any additional advice anyone has for someone who's already working, say, a junior litigation associate at a large firm (that unforunately does very little sports work)? Also, do franchises actively look to hire young attorneys, or do young attorneys more or less "create their own luck/opportunities" by networking, etc.?

Blogger ken -- 3/30/2006 11:47 PM  

Paul--could you explain what the "Rooney rule" is and how that could apply to college sports (per your post)? I'm not a lawyer and have never heard of this rule.

Melvin H.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 3/31/2006 1:11 AM  

The Rooney Rule is the rule that NFL teams must interview at least one minority candidate for head-coaching positions. No parralel exists on the college level, where racial imbalances (especially in football coaching ranks) are striking.

As for attorneys in firms seeking to jump to in-house positions with franchises, I would say that is a tough leap to make. I have heard of some people getting interviews or nibbles after sending a letter, but it's hard to get in the door without a connection of some sort. There are a lot of young lawyers working for franchises, but many of them are not in "counsel" roles (most franchises have, at most, one or two in-house lawyers). Intead, lawyers are often doing non-lawyering business type work (negotiating contracts, arranging visas for team trips to Canada, managing salary cap figures). Still neat jobs, but not typical legal work (and therefore not something that big firm experience translates all that well towards doing).

Blogger Geoffrey Rapp -- 3/31/2006 9:08 AM  

Internships work. Some of our previous interns (I work for a Union) have gone on to: become agents, GC for a large agency; work for teams; legal intern for the league. In any sport, the number of players (i.e. non-field) is relatively small, so chances are your prospective employer has heard of or knows the person with whom you interned.

A recommendation from someone known is often worth more than any resume item. In my book, “smart and works hard” from someone I know is usually more valuable than GPA, law review, or school.

Make sure your cover letter and resume are free of any errors. It’s not a blog post, so go over it and have others go over it. As an example, in one cover letter I received, the person used “peaked” instead of “piqued”. Spell check only returns incorrect spelling, not incorrect usage. Further, figure out the correct name of the organization and the correct name(s) and title(s) of the person you are contacting.

Don’t feel you have to start in the place you want to end up. Foot in the door and name recognition of your previous supervisor is what you should be aiming for. Ticket offices, training staff, PR, game-day, or community relations, can be good places to start – even if you want to end up as staff counsel or GM.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 3/31/2006 2:33 PM  

Thank you, your information was practical as well as encouraging. Although, one of my law profs mentioned the first day of class he thought it a good idea to get a well rounded curriculum including criminal law.

Anonymous cms (women can aspire to work in sports law too) -- 11/23/2007 9:05 PM  

Thanks for the post it was very helpful. Any advise strictly directed to the female aspiring sports lawyers?

Blogger Dewnya -- 11/10/2008 1:24 PM  

thank you

Anonymous kurtlar -- 2/11/2009 1:06 PM  


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