Sports Law Blog
All things legal relating
to the sports world...
Sunday, January 27, 2008
 
Tribute to Harvard Law School Professor Paul Weiler

I was recently asked by Harvard Law School to write a tribute for Professor Paul Weiler, my former sports law professor who is retiring from teaching this year. I was deeply honored by the request. My tribute appears in the most recent issue of the Harvard Law Bulletin and I have excerpted it below.

Passion in His Playbook

If there’s ever a Hall of Fame for sports law, Paul Weiler is a shoo-in

Photograph of Paul Weiler

The late Will McDonough, the Boston Globe columnist, once said: “When it comes to sports law, Paul Weiler knows the answer before you ask the question.”

In fact, for many law students, attorneys and professors, Paul Weiler is indisputably the founder of American sports law and the field’s most distinguished member, having virtually invented the specialty by merging his expertise in labor law with his love of sports. As one of his former students and now a colleague in legal academia, I appreciate him more and more every day.

Weiler’s passion for his subject—and for teaching it—has inspired countless HLS students to successfully pursue careers in sports law. Since he began teaching at Harvard Law School, an astonishing number of his students have become sports law scholars, agents, litigators, mediators and other professionals engaged in what is quite possibly the most competitive specialty within the law. Their success is a testament to the man who taught them things such as the powers of the commissioner, the legal ramifications of steroid use, the nuances of Title IX, the intersection of torts and sports, and myriad other topics that define the field that has so defined him.

Just consider, for a moment, the body of written work he has produced, and how his students can so readily draw on it. Most notably, he has co-written what is probably the leading casebook on the subject, “Sports and the Law,” as well as numerous law review articles and journal publications that have established and substantiated the growing canon of sports law scholarship.

And, aware that many people who aren’t lawyers will seek instruction in the topic, Weiler has also written more popularized sports law entries. The most significant among them is the transformative book “Leveling the Playing Field: How the Law Can Make Sports Better for Fans,” which, according to The New York Times Book Review, “combines the broad knowledge of an all-seasons sports fan with the clarity of an antitrust lawyer.” Reaching both an academic and a popular audience is never easy, and yet Weiler has done it with the adroitness and grace that have distinguished his career.

Weiler has also been the leading public advocate for sports law. He has testified before the U.S. Congress and met with politicians in Canada, his home country, on a seemingly boundless range of issues. Many leaders here and abroad consider him sports law’s leading guru.

The true essence of Paul Weiler, however, cannot be captured by the long list of his professional accomplishments, contacts and honors. Instead, it rests in his heart, in his soul and in his undying warmth. Like all of his former students, I can personally attest to his profoundly deep and unqualified compassion for everyone who seeks his guidance. I will never forget, nor fail to appreciate, the enormous amount of time, energy and emotion he spent with me on a paper that I would eventually publish in a law review. There were certainly many demands on his time—demands that seemed to me to be much more important. But never once did he put those demands ahead of me. Paul Weiler just doesn’t do that. His students always come first.

It may be just a coincidence that such a friendly professor held the prestigious Henry J. Friendly Professorship of Law, but it couldn’t be more fitting. As much as I hate to disagree with the late Will McDonough, when it comes to sports law, it’s not about the questions that Paul Weiler can answer. For me, as for so many others, Paul Weiler is the answer.