Paper #3 Draft
Sports Attorneys Career Path
"With the ever-evolving nature of the law and the increasingly complex issues that are becoming more visible in athletics, the number of legal challenges in the area of sport is certain to continue to increase" (Osborne, 312). Sports attorneys are the ones that deals with these issues. Sports attorneys are often employed by athletic departments, professional sports organizations, and individual teams. Many of these organizations hire in-house counsel in order to make decisions quickly, communicate effectively, and provide legal advice to the rest of the organization. Michael R. Lufrano, Chicago Cubs senior vice president for community affairs and general counsel, says that his major duties involve licensing, sponsorships, interpreting league rules, drafting contracts, in-stadium supplier contracts, and dealing with city officials. He also sees his "department of one" as a resource for players so they can "better focus on the game." Sports attorneys are also crucial in large sports organizations, such as the NFL, MLB, NCAA, US Olympic Committee, and Ultimate Fighting Championship. These sports attorneys must have the proper education, legal background, and experience in order to work for these teams and organizations. I will discuss some of the necessary and crucial steps that must be taken in order to obtain one of these positions.
First of all, having an undergraduate degree as well as a law degree are required in order to become a sports attorney. Other graduate degrees, such as an MBA or Master's in Sports Management, would also be relevant and helpful. A legal education is mandatory in becoming a sports attorney and the proper steps must be taken during an undergraduate education to ensure that admittance in to law school is attainable. Relevant undergraduate degrees include Business, Journalism, Sports Management, Health and Exercise Science, and Political Science although other degree can also be beneficial in this career. In order to practice sports law, and law in general, a Juris Doctorate degree from an accredited law school is required. Being involved in relevant on-campus organizations and being involved in community service is also important when applying to law school. Law schools allow students to concentrate in certain areas of law during their legal education. Business, contract, and intellectual property law would all be beneficial areas of emphasis. It is important to take specific classes relevant to sports law so that you have to proper skills and experience in order to excel in this field. According to an article in the Akron Law Review, "The fields of sports and entertainment law are now well-established in the curriculum at most law schools, and some law schools offer specialized programs in the fields. Sports law courses, societies, and specialized student-edited journals reflect high law student interest." Law schools that offer specific Entertainment and Sports Law programs include UCLA, USC, Stanford, Pepperdine, Tulane, and Vanderbilt ("Top Law Schools"). It is no surprise that most of these schools are located in big cities where entertainment and professional sports team are abundant.
Besides a proper legal education, internships and other relevant legal jobs are crucial when becoming a Sports Attorney. While getting an undergraduate degree, any internship with an athletic department or sports team is invaluable. This is a great step in getting your foot in the door within the athletics world. These internships can offer experience and networking connections that can be very beneficial in the future. Internships for athletics departments are often posted on their athletics website; similarly, sports team internship posting can usually be found on their respective websites. During law school, it is important to be involved in organizations and activities on campus. For example, Rana Dershowitz, General Counsel, and Chief of Legal and Government Affairs for the USOC, was executive editor of the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review and a staff member of the Harvard Journal on Legislation while attending law school at Harvard (USOC). There are also numerous internships that law students can obtain within athletic departments and sports organizations such as the UFC. A legal intern for the UFC should expect to deal with venue agreements, sponsorship contracts, merchandise agreements, fighter contracts, various other entertainment related issues, and general corporate governance issues. Most athletic departments offer graduate assistant positions to law students to help in offices such as Compliance and Student- Athlete Development. Being involved in activities and having hands-on internship experiences, will help set applicants apart when applying for a sports attorney position.
After graduating law school, it is common for someone interested in becoming a sports attorney to start working with a private practice that handles various athletics, contract, or intellectual property issues. Some sports attorneys, such as general counsel for the Chicago Cubs, even work for government offices before turning to athletics. Eve Wright, legal counsel for the Miami Heat said that the biggest learning curve from private practice to in-house counsel is:
"Getting to understand the business. When you're in a law firm, it's all theoretical and you're giving the best legal advice possible, but it's really in a vacuum. In business it's like, 'OK, there's risk inherent in everything; what can I do to minimize our risk but still get our deal done and be an effective business partner?" (Alleyne).
Any position where negotiations, communication, and contracts are important would be beneficial to a future sports attorney. Sports attorney, Jay Reisinger, owns his own firms that deals mostly with sports law. He said, "The most important advice that I can give to those interested in Sports Law is to get practical legal experience in areas outside of Sports Law. Prior to focusing on Sports Law, I practiced primarily white-collar criminal defense and complex civil litigation. The experience that I gained in these areas, including litigation skills, has served me, and more importantly, my clients, well." Having outside experience will equip you with extra analytical skills and different perspectives that will add to your legal repertoire. Landing that dream sports attorney job can be difficult, however, and that is why networking and eventually becoming part of the sports world is so crucial.
Rana Dershowitz - General Counsel, and Chief of Legal and Government Affairs for USOC, http://www.teamusa.org/about-usoc/usoc-general-information/leadership/key-executives/rana-dershowitz
Ricky Lefft, Sports Attorney, Principal Lefft Law Group, Lecturer at University of South Carolina
Michael R. Lufrano, Chicago Cubs senior vice president for community affairs and general counsel, http://www.law.northwestern.edu/career/markettrends/2008/y8adoazluswi.pdf
Jay Reisinger, Sports Attorney, Partner at Farrell and Reisinger, LLC, http://www.sportsagentblog.com/2010/09/13/qa-with-sports-attorney-jay-reisinger/
Michael Winger, Assistant General Manager/ Legal and Administration, http://www.nba.com/thunder/team/basketballops1.html
Sport Agent Career Sketch on Blackboard
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