SBJ/March 10-16, 2014/Forty Under 40

Forty Under 40: Jessica Berman


THOMAS NYCZ / NHLI

Jessica
Berman

League: NHL
Title: VP, deputy general counsel
Age: 36
Where born: Brooklyn, N.Y.
Education: University of Michigan (B.A.), Fordham University School of Law (J.D.)
Career background: Associate, Proskauer Rose LLP; director (legal recruiter), Smythe Masterson & Judd
Family: Husband, Brad; sons Noah (5) and Andrew (3)

Favorite app: NHL GameCenter.
Favorite way to unwind: Exercising and, in particular, running.
Guilty pleasure: Foot massages.
Worst habit: Expecting too much from people.
Causes supported: Traumatic brain injuries, strokes, AVMs.
Person in the industry I'd most like to meet: Kim Ng.
I have a fear of … : Being underwater — even while snorkeling.
Most adventurous thing I’ve ever done is … : Hard to pick: Skydiving, climbing Kilimanjaro, bungee jumping in Tanzania, running a marathon.
2014 will be a good year if … : My family is healthy and my husband continues to recover from his stroke.

Through smarts, work ethic and a desire to tackle new projects, Jessica Berman has been credited with helping establish long-term labor peace between the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association. The two sides finalized a 10-year collective-bargaining agreement in January 2013 after a year of planning and negotiations.

“I went into the process telling myself, ‘This is a year where I’m going to work very hard, give it my all, and make the most of it,’” said Berman, who started with the NHL as senior counsel in 2006 after 3 1/2 years at Proskauer Rose. “For a labor lawyer, it was a dream situation.”

Berman now handles the implementation of many of the new aspects of the CBA, including player pension plans and drug-testing provisions. She also represents the league in contract negotiations, grievance arbitrations and player disciplinary hearings.

“Jessica has an unbelievable work ethic,” said NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly. “She is constantly in search of taking on more, expanding her knowledge base. She views each day as an opportunity to be better than she was the day before.”

For example, during the CBA talks, Berman immersed herself in all of the information available on the issue of defined benefits in pension plans. “I took that as my own so I could be a trusted source for the league and for the NHLPA,” Berman said.

SBJ Podcast:
Executive Editor Abraham Madkour and project editor Mark Mensheha talk about the Forty Under 40 selection process and the class of 2014.

She credits the work environment created by Daly and by David Zimmerman (NHL executive vice president and general counsel) for her ability to flourish at the NHL. “We are truly a collaborative group,” Berman said. “Bill and David embolden us to take responsibility and to take on challenges. The lawyers here are not in silos, not divided by specialties. It’s an ideal atmosphere for professional development.”

In addition to her work with the NHL, Berman in 2012 was elected to the board of directors of the Sports Lawyers Association.

Said Daly, “Jessica has a tremendous opportunity to achieve long-term excellence in the sports industry, particularly in our organization.”

— Christopher Botta

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