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How I Landed My Dream Sports Internship

sports internshipA lot of materials, opinions, and publications exist regarding how to get a job in sports.  However, most of them are not geared towards law students or lawyers.  From my experience, law students are ambitious and often have a passion to work in sports. With legal positions in sports being so limited, it is extremely difficult to get a job or even an unpaid internship.

UFC Sports Internship – My Story

I am going to tell you how I landed my dream internship working in the legal department for the Ultimate Fighting Championship, websites I utilized, processes that worked, and advice I have for current and future law students with a desire to work in sports.

2009 was not the best year to graduate from college due to the tanking economy.  I graduated with honors from the University of Central Florida but my resume did not include much sports experience.  I had an event management internship with the Central Florida Sports Commission during my last semester of college but that was not enough to land me a job.  For someone who had always had control and a plan, the future was looking dim.

The summer between junior and senior year I had taken the LSAT only because I received a scholarship from my school to take a course for free.  I did not put much effort into it and as a result my score was not great.  However, I knew it was the only thing separating me from moving back home since the economy was tanking and the job market was falling apart.  Thus, I ended up going right from college to law school.

Deep down I always knew that I would never be satisfied in life if I did not give it my best shot to work in sports.  However, I knew that the odds were stacked against law students since so many want to work in sports and there are so few positions.  The first year of law school was brutal.  I thought about quitting and did not stop sending out applications to sports organizations in the hope of landing a non-legal position.  I continued to fail in my attempts.  I survived my first year and traveled abroad during the summer.  I regrouped and knew that I had two years left to get my foot in the door in the world of sports or I was going to be doomed to a career of being the average boring law firm paper pusher.  I needed more experience and I needed to figure out how to get an internship.

My First Sports Internship Experience

Sports InternshipSecond year of law school continued with a bunch of failed attempts.  I was ambitious, hard-working, and willing to do whatever it took.  I had no idea why no one would give me a chance.  Finally I stumbled upon a site called “Sports Agent Blog” which is written by Darren Heitner, an attorney based in South Florida.

I found a section of his website titled “Internship” and sent out a letter to everyone he had listed.  I received one positive response from Todd Crannell with Q2 Sports and Entertainment.  It was an out of office internship but I took it.  Someone was finally going to give me a shot.

My Second Sports Internship Experience

Right as I was starting with Q2 and things were going well, a friend of mine with the Florida Panthers told me about an opportunity he might have for me.  I once sat through a thirty minute presentation given by the President of a sports team in which he talked about how determination and diligence after law school got him to the position he was in.

I do not want to take anything away from this individual because I do not underestimate anyone and am sure he worked extremely hard to get where he is.  However, what he failed to mention was that his mother was married to the owner of the team.  The point is, I am not denying the fact that my friend helped me out.

There was an opening in the Marketing Department and I got an interview.  I am sure his recommendation helped and I got the position.  I did not know the first thing about Marketing when I started.  I knew however that getting my foot in the door of a NHL organization was an important step for me.  It was a tough semester.  Between both internships and school, I was drained.  It was worth it though.  It was what I had always wanted to do.

The Final Step To Landing My Dream Sports Internship

After the Panthers I was right back where I started.  I was continuing to work for Q2 but I wanted an internship for the summer and had to figure out a way to get it.  When I say I sent out a thousand e-mails, I am not exaggerating.  I would search for general counsel of sports teams, agencies, leagues, and anyone else sports related who had an e-mail I could get my hands on.

I was spending hours a day searching for e-mails of people I could contact.  It got to the point where I was at a networking event one day telling someone about myself when someone on the other side of the table stopped me and said they knew who I was because of my e-mails.  I received a few interviews.  I ended up doing an internship with a local college sports attorney.  I wanted to have the legal experience since both of my other positions were not legal.

During that time, I found out that during my last semester of law school I was going to be able to work an externship instead of taking classes, meaning I would receive a full semester worth of credits for working a job.  This was the jackpot for me.  I had the freedom to work an entire semester in the sports industry and not have to worry about school.

However, I knew I could not go through sending out another thousand e-mails.  It was too time consuming in addition to the fact that the results were not what I wanted.  Around this time I attended a webinar presented by Lewis Howes.  Before that I had not known much about LinkedIn.  I had an account but I only had a few connections and was not very active.  He opened me up to a whole new way of connecting with potential employers.

Between LinkedIn and a set of websites I had determined were my best options, I was making progress.  I was reaching out to key decision makers on LinkedIn.  I received interviews, phone calls, and meetings.  Even though I may not have necessarily received a position for my externship, I was making contact with important people throughout the sports law industry.

Resources To Help You Land A Sports Internship

Several websites exist on the internet that charge money in order to view job offerings.  I am not saying that these sites are not successful for people, but they are not the best route for law students to go.  The legal offerings are extremely limited and as students already incurring a ton of debt, it is hard to justify spending more money just to look for an internship.  I found several sites that I thought were useful in my search:

  • TeamWorkOnline – Site where I ultimately landed my job.  Easy way to search for legal positions and go to site for sports organizations and teams to post job openings.
  • LawStudentJobs.net – List of internships for law students.  Includes both sports related and non-sports related positions.
  • NCAA Job Market – More attorneys are working in compliance.  Athletic departments are becoming attractive destinations for attorneys looking to work in sports.
  • LinkedIn Jobs – Easy place to search for internships and positions by industry as well as experience level.
  • Sports Agent Blog – Offers contact information for agencies with internships.  Helped me get my first sports internship in law school.

The best part about all of the sites listed is that none of them cost any money.  After exploring a few opportunities, I decided to move to Vegas for my last semester of law school and work in the legal department at the Ultimate Fighting Championship where I could not be happier.

My Advice on How to Land a Sports Internship

If you are currently a law student or are considering going down that path, I strongly recommend looking into if the school offers a program similar to mine.  Being able to take a semester to pursue my passion and receive full-time credit for it has been the best part about law school for me.  I hope to come back in a year and write an article “How I Landed My Dream Job in Sports After Working Several Internships” but I have no idea what the future holds.

All I wanted was to be able to say I gave it my best shot, and if I fail and end up becoming a boring average law firm pencil pusher, I can live with that.  As the old saying goes, the rest comes down to luck and who you know.  I am proof though that you can enter law school with almost no sports experience and end up working one of the most sought after internships in the sports industry.

I did not make great grades, I am not the best speaker, I do not take over a room when I go to networking events, and this is about the closest I will get to being on any kind of law review.  What separated me was my passion and desire to work in sports, I took positions that may not have been the best but showed how far I was willing to go to stay in the sports industry, and most importantly, I was diligent in my search.

If you knock on enough doors for long enough, sooner or later one will open up.  I waited a long time for an opening and when I got it I was able to carry that momentum into several internships and hopefully a job.  Stay passionate, and if this is something you really want, don’t give up.

Does anyone else have any advice for law students looking to land an internship in the sports industry? Leave your comments below or tweet us @sportsnetworker!

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11 Responses to How I Landed My Dream Sports Internship

  1. Sports Networker March 20, 2012 at 6:00 pm #

    glad you guys enjoyed the article!

  2. sportsnetworker March 22, 2012 at 12:47 pm #

    @sportbizinside Merci pour le RT! Vous remercions de le transmettre

  3. SPORTBIZinside March 22, 2012 at 12:58 pm #

    you’re welcome! @sportsnetworker

  4. wreid11 September 26, 2012 at 12:47 pm #

    Thanks for this article it has kind of boosted my spirits I have been searching for a internship since I graduated in May. I now know that I just need to refocus where my contacts are going…

  5. M.M. February 6, 2013 at 10:35 pm #

    Thanks for this article. You definitely reached me.

  6. Diane November 13, 2013 at 10:53 pm #

    Hey Neil,

    Your article was inspiring and insightful.
    I think many of us can relate to “I did not make great grades, I am not the best speaker, I do not take over a room when I go to networking events, and this is about the closest I will get to being on any kind of law review.”

    But the fact that you continued arduously to pursue your dream is truly inspiring.
    I feel encouraged to go after mine despite the economy or low prospects of finding a job.

    Thanks!

  7. Gillian April 10, 2014 at 4:10 pm #

    Thank you for posting this! I just applied for my dream internship with the UFC legal department for the summer and this was inspiring. Fingers crossed.

  8. Joe May 13, 2014 at 4:54 am #

    Great article Neil! I have aspirations to work with the UFC. I’ve been searching for my “foot in the door” Do you know anyone I could contact for openings? I’m from Vegas.

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  10. Barrington July 22, 2014 at 10:41 am #

    This is the exact position i am in. I am a rising 2L and doing a summer internship with a regular paper pusher law firm. I am a former athlete and I will do whatever it takes to become successful in athlete representation. Thanks for your inspiration.

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