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Volume 23 No. 18
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Keys to sports law success: Hard work, relationships

As we look at the key issues in sports law, I asked various legal minds who work across the sports industry the simple question: Give skill sets, attributes or advice for anyone considering a career in sports law. Answers were edited for clarity and brevity:

 

Jeff Gewirtz, BSE Global

Brooklyn Law School, 1994

Become the very best legal practitioner you can be. The better your work product and work ethic, the more likely you will be brought into complex sports industry matters that overlap with your specialty.

 

Bob Foose, MLS Players Association

Georgetown University School of Law, 1994

A love of sports is not a reason to pursue a career in sports. You need to have a passion for the business of sports. Develop the broadest skill set possible to maximize your value/opportunities. Relationships are crucial. Take them seriously; work hard to develop and nurture them. Be loyal. Athletes are the core of sports. The better you understand them, the more successful you will be.

 

Nona Lee, Arizona Diamondbacks

Oklahoma City University School of Law, 1995

Become the best legal practitioner you can be; excellent legal skills translate to any industry. Think outside the box in terms of opportunities in sports; don’t focus so narrowly that you miss great opportunities that could lead you to your ultimate goal. Network, network, network — but do so thoughtfully, respectfully and authentically. Your reputation is everything.

 

Joe Pierce, Hornets Sports & Entertainment

University of Pennsylvania, 1998

Networking is valuable, but don’t forget the WORK part. Develop your communication, negotiating and critical reasoning skills. If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there. Identify a career plan, but make it flexible to adjust to future opportunities. Genuine relationships compound like interest.

 

Chuck Baker, O’Melveny & Myers

Cornell Law School, 1985

Be kind, courteous and compassionate to everyone you meet, as you’ll meet the same people on the way up as on the way back down. Also, work harder than everyone else, be curious and read everything you can as the learning curve in sports is a steep one. Warren Buffett said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” As vast as the sports industry is, we all know each other personally or by reputation.

 

Megha Parekh, Jacksonville Jaguars

Harvard Law School, 2009

Write about an aspect of sports law or current event. Publishing will showcase your skills before you get your first job in sports.

 

Peter White, DLA Piper

St. John’s University School of Law, 1984

Become highly skilled in your substantive area of the law. Show gratitude for the privilege of working in the sports industry. Be humble. The focus should be on the client; never about yourself. Remember that lawyers are reported on the expense side of the ledger. Make friends, not enemies. The sports business is small.

 

Doug Gibson, Covington & Burling

Harvard Law School, 1990

Build a strong résumé and network. Opportunities are limited and competition is fierce. Consider a few years of training at a firm with a strong sports practice. Sports law encompasses a wide range of practice areas. Determine the areas that interest you, and this will inform the opportunities you should pursue.

 

Irwin Kishner, Herrick, Feinstein

Boston University School of Law, 1987

Your work product is your calling card, and it must be superb. You must strive to be an exceptional and tenacious lawyer — the first to arrive and the last to leave every day. Approach your job the same way an athlete or general counsel does, by passionately pursuing excellence at every turn.

 

John Keenan, AEG

Georgetown University Law Center, 1995

Be an active, all-pro listener; exercise reasoned choices; communicate clearly and effectively (say something because it needs to be said, not to show how smart you are). Seek mentors constantly — preferably smart and forgiving ones. Clear the way for others. Thankless service is the job. Forget credit — it doesn’t serve the larger goal, only your ego.

Abraham Madkour can be reached at amadkour@sportsbusinessjournal.com.