Sports law is a concept of law that is extremely broad. Sports law is the understanding and advancement of various legal practices including contract law, labor law, tort law, and antitrust law.
Just like the professional sports, the sports law industry is difficult to break into, and even more difficult to become successful at. There are many different factors that go into it, but landing a job as a sports lawyer can be rewarding.
Although I am working on getting into the sports law industry as a law school student, I want to share some advice given to me from attorneys connected to the sports industry.
What are some ways to get into the sports law industry?
Networking, Networking, and More Networking.
Throughout college and even now in law school, I thought the concept of networking was overstated and thus not as valuable as its supporters say it is. However, many of my mentors and lawyers that I have connected within the last few years always utter this statement.
The power of networking should never be underestimated. I was able to obtain a summer externship with a Judge networking. I have also been able to meet many attorneys by showing up at networking events, sending out emails to attorneys in my interest area, attending sports law symposiums, and through social media (i.e., Twitter and LinkedIn).
No matter how you go about networking, it is an important factor to your success in the sports industry. After all, employers are more likely to hire you based off a reference from someone they know, rather than a blind resume entry.
Applying for a job is difficult enough. There are numerous applicants looking to enter into the same field as you. These applicants may be more qualified than you, which makes your job search even more of a challenge. Since the sports industry is an overly competitive industry, rejection can be prevalent as you search for jobs.
However, as one sports lawyer has told me, you have two options after getting rejected from a job in the sports industry: enter into a different industry, or use it as motivation on your journey. Being relentless is tough, especially when you have faced so much adversity. However, relentlessness will make all the difference once you are finally through that door.
Much like being relentless, volunteering is a trait that has many benefits:
- The ability to meet people within the sports industry. Yes, another way to network and meet future co-workers bosses, and business partners.
- The ability to learn more about the sports industry. Volunteering allows you the opportunity to be more hands on and gain more experience in the particular area that you are intending to enter.
- Its a resume builder. Volunteering allows you to add more experience onto your resume, as well as have that experience to talk about when you are networking or during a job interview.
What Skills Do You Need In Sports Law?
Whether it is dealing with professional athletes, NCAA teams, or sports sponsors, advocating is an essential part of sports law.
Sports lawyers have to be able to fully understand what their clients are looking for and how to accomplish the goals of their clients. Proper advocating for the client starts at the education that you receive; whether it is undergraduate, graduate or law school. Proper knowledge of your clients’ needs, the issues that are bothersome to them and the process to get your clients past those issues and meet all of their needs.
There is no replacement for knowledge in the sports law industry. The more you know, the more successful your advocating skills will be for your clients.
Communication skills may be the most important skill that one can have, especially in the sports industry.
The sports industry is a growing and busy industry, so clear and concise communication is essential to survive and become successful. Clear and concise communication means not only oral communication, but also written communication. The sports industry is a global industry and much of the communication now is done online versus in-person. With this change, it is important to know how communicate with people on different scales – whether it be on a global or regional level.
Law school is a great opportunity to build communication skills because it forces students to engage in-class through oral communication, and it also enhances a person’s legal writing skills throughout their entire three years.
Infatuation With The Law More Than Sports
A misconception that many sports lawyers share with me is that sports law is less about being passionate about sports as it is being passion the law.
Being passionate about sports is important because it will allow you to get through the tough days that you go through within the sports industry. On the other hand, being passionate about the law will help you stay in the sports industry longer. Passion for the law allows you to enhance your legal skills to best perform quality services for your clients.
Sport law is much more than Jerry Maguire. The faster you realize that, the faster you will be able to become successful in the sports law industry.
What Law School Courses Should You Take?
Contracts are an essential part of sports law. Whether it has to deal with professional athletes, sponsorships, facilities or employees; contracts are important to learn.
The contract is what sets the limitations for the clients that you will be advocating for on a daily basis. Understanding how to draft contracts is equally as important as learning to understand contracts. Contract drafting allows you to learn how manipulate a contract in favor of your client, or it allows you to better understand when others are trying to manipulate contracts in their favor.
Negotiation is important for many reasons. Negotiating allows for you to learn and develop your bargaining style, which is essential for advocating for your client.
Whether it is a collaborative negotiation style or more of an aggressive style, determining your own style is an important trait to develop early. Negotiating also allows you to build on relationship skills, which helps you not only develop relationships with clients, but also against the person you are in negotiations with. That may prove to be valuable if you negotiate with that person often.
An attorney from New York once told me that after the first-year of law school, I should take as many skills courses as possible throughout the next two years.
His analysis was the more skills and practical courses that you take during law school, the easier it will be once you are practicing law. He advised me that I invest time in seminars, clinics, and courses taught by the best professors in the law school. Theses classes would allow me to learn from the best legal minds, while at the same time applying the skills that I learn to real life scenarios with clients.
What Is Some Advice You Would Offer To Someone Trying To Get Into Sports Law?
As stated above, the sports law industry is a tough industry to get into, so along with being relentless, optimism is an important trait to have.
Getting into the sports industry is much about luck and circumstance than it is about how much you know about the sports industry (although knowledge is important). However, as long as you stay hopeful of the future, positive things are likely to happen.
Be The Best Lawyer You Can Be
As explained earlier, sports law is more about the law than Jerry Maguire leads on. There is no replacement for the knowledge that is needed to be successful in this industry.
Also, being the best lawyer possible will allow you to have more of an impact and represent more clients. This may all sound like common sense; and it is; but it does not mean that it shouldn’t be stated. Being the best at your craft is easier said than done, which is why hard work and practice is where being a successful lawyer starts.
Never Eat Lunch Alone
Yes, my last tip of advice is another networking tip.
You never know where your current or future classmates or peers will end up, so it is best to get to know as many of them as possible. These peers can lead to future business or future jobs. This does not just apply for your peers; this also applies to sports attorneys within your area. Most attorneys are always looking to give back and offer advice that has helped then get to where they are now. It pays to reach out to these attorneys, which can also lead to potential job opportunities and business.
I hope this article is able to help you have a better understanding of how to get into the sports law industry. Although I am not there yet, this advice not only comes from me, but also comes from attorneys whom have already had exposure to the sports industry.
Feel free to connect with me if you have any questions, comments, or just want to network.