SBJ/February 6-12, 2017/Labor and Agents

Labor lawyer Quinn switches firms, opens one of his own

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Veteran sports labor lawyer James Quinn has left Weil, where he worked for more than 40 years, to join another law firm as well as open his own legal services practice.

Quinn has joined national trial law boutique Berg & Androphy as “of counsel.” He also has opened J.W. Quinn ADR, a mediation, arbitration and trial consulting practice.
“It was time,” Quinn said. “I wanted to try something different.”

Quinn has long served as outside counsel to several players associations, including the National Basketball Players Association, NFL Players Association and NHL Players’ Association, and expects to continue to work with those unions as well as the MMA Athletes Association, a fledgling group working to improve and protect the rights of mixed martial arts fighters.

Quinn, who started his career at Weil right out of Fordham School of Law, was assigned to work with antitrust attorney Ira Millstein on the case Oscar Robertson filed against the NBA in 1970. That case resulted in NBA players achieving free agency.

Later, Quinn hired a young lawyer, Jeffrey Kessler, and they brought a case, Freeman McNeil v. the NFL, which resulted in free agency for NFL players. Kessler became a major sports lawyer in his own right and is now a partner at Winston & Strawn.

The mandatory retirement age at Weil is 68, but Quinn, who is 71, said the firm waived it for him. He is leaving, he said, partly so he can focus on trial work with Berg & Androphy founder David Berg, a close friend for 25 years.
“He is a great trial lawyer,” Quinn said. “Some people say I am not so bad.”

With his new firm, Quinn expects to do mediations in complex business situations, as well as arbitrate matters for businesses as well as for unions and leagues, if they would hire him.

“The unions would most certainly love to have me,” Quinn said. “The leagues would not. But you never know.”

> REP 1 SIGNS NFL DRAFT CLASS: Rep 1 Sports, the agency that represented quarterbacks who were taken No. 1 and No. 2 overall in last year’s NFL draft, has signed a large draft class, headed up by North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky.

Many draft analysts see Trubisky as the top quarterback in this year’s draft. Rep 1’s Chase Callahan and Bruce Tollner are the lead agents representing Trubisky, who was No. 2 overall and the highest-slotted quarterback on the CBS Sports mock draft last week.

Last year Rep 1 represented No. 1 pick Jared Goff, who was taken by the Los Angeles Rams, and No. 2. pick Carson Wentz, taken by the Philadelphia Eagles.

The other two quarterbacks viewed by analysts as potential first-round picks this year are Clemson’s Deshaun Watson and Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer, both of whom are represented by Athletes First.

Rep 1 partner Ryan Tollner, who also co-reps Trubisky (at Rep 1, all three agents represent all the players), said he stands out because of his many skills and potential to be a franchise quarterback.

“He is a pocket passer, but he’s not limited to being an immobile pocket passer,” Tollner said. “He’s an athletic kind of passer who beats you in the pocket, out of the pocket. He can run the ball. He’s in the mold of an Aaron Rodgers or a Russell Wilson.”

Tollner represents several starting quarterbacks in the NFL, including Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Rep 1 also signed Utah offensive tackle Garett Bolles, Colorado cornerback Chidobe Awuzie, Cal wide receiver Chad Hansen, Eastern Washington wide receiver Cooper Kupp, Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard, North Carolina wide receiver Mack Hollins, Washington State wide receiver River Cracraft, USC running back Justin Davis, Michigan State linebacker Riley Bullough, and Pittsburgh running back James Conner.

“James is far and away the most inspirational story of the whole draft,” said Tollner, who is Conner’s lead agent. The running back was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in October 2015 but underwent chemotherapy and was found to be cancer-free in May 2016. He scored 20 touchdowns this past season.

Conner will undergo a scan in February, just before the NFL combine, to give to teams to lessen their worries about the cancer coming back.

“Teams will miss out on an exceptional talent and a really special person if they are scared of the chance it comes back,” Tollner said.

Liz Mullen can be reached at lmullen@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter @SBJLizMullen.

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