Sports lawyers represent the legal interests of their clients, which can include individual players, athletes, coaching staff, and even entire teams. It’s their job to take care of the stuff that happens off the pitch, ensuring their clients can remain 100% focused on their performances. After all, top-level sport is a high-pressure environment where the smallest margins can make a huge difference. Keeping your eyes on the prize is a crucial part of sporting success. That’s why sporting lawyers help secure and negotiate contracts, facilitate sponsorship deals, resolve labor disputes, and fight their client’s corners when it comes to any internal issues with their clubs. They will even defend their clients in court against criminal charges, as well as in lawsuits for breach of contract, harassment, or any other issues. Moreover, they often act as a spokesperson, shielding sports stars from the relentless gaze of the modern media machine. Sports lawyers are also instrumental in setting up any business ventures or charities in the client’s name. Just like any other type of lawyer, sports lawyers need an undergraduate degree followed by a few years at law school. (Sports agents work a little differently and don’t need any formal qualifications in law. However, this means they are not permitted to give any legal advice on contracts, sponsorship deals, or any other matters relating to jurisprudence. In other words, they can negotiate the best deals, but the ultimate responsibility remains with the client.)
Law school usually lasts around three years. And while online learning offers flexibility in some cases, the majority of courses need to be completed in the allotted timeframe. You don’t need any particular undergraduate degree to get into law school, although a law degree or a related program (such as political science, history, or philosophy) will definitely help you find your feet a bit quicker. Law school is taxing and competitive, especially if you’re talented enough to land a place at the top institutes. So get ready for lots of reading, some rigorous exams, and plenty of interesting debates with your fellow classmates and lecturers. So once you’ve got your law degree, how do you become a sports lawyer? The first thing you will need is some experience, and it doesn’t have to be in sports law. A short tenure working in litigation, employment law, or commercial law will look great on your CV, and you will start to learn how law functions. Moreover, you can start building up a reputation and a valuable network of contacts. You can then put out the word that you’re interested in sports law. Do it right, and it won’t be long before an opportunity presents itself. Alternatively, you can go right to the source by writing emails and letters to sport law firms, clubs, or agents. You will need to strike the right balance between enthusiasm and professionalism. For example, you want them to know you love sports, but not at the expense of illustrating your professional expertise. Internships, work experience placements, and secondments are also great ways to get a foot in the door.
Different Types Of Sports Law
Sports are a global industry worth billions of dollars. With that much money at stake, contract law is essential. Contracts ensure players are treated fairly, and that they understand their responsibilities to the sport, especially if they are a global superstar. For example, many clubs insert morality clauses into contacts, which give them the right to withhold wages or even terminate the deal if the player’s actions are seen to bring the organization into disrepute. But contracts also make sure big-name players are protected and rewarded. This could include extra financial incentives for points scored, assists created, or appearances made. Stars can make colossal money lending their names to products. Moreover, companies can boost sales or brand awareness through association with well-known clubs or athletes. Intellectual property rights are there to facilitate fair deals between players and sponsors, as well as litigating against anybody who uses a star’s name without permission or misrepresents them in a negative manner. An injury can sideline an athlete for weeks or maybe even months. A nasty injury can also end a professional’s sporting dreams forever. Sports lawyers can represent their client in compensation claims, helping players land a big settlement to bridge the gap between the end of one career and the start of another. Sports lawyers may file a suit against the player’s current employer or a third party responsible for a career-ending tackle. Sports lawyers help teams find new owners, source funds to prevent winding down orders, or assist in setting up new clubs or franchises. Three years at law school can be expensive. Thankfully, once you’ve qualified, it should not be too long before you start seeing a return on your investment. Sports Lawyers typically make around $65,084 a year, while top earners can take home as much as $147,000. Location, experience, and skillset are the major factors which push up one’s earnings in this field. Becoming a sports lawyer takes much hard work, dedication, and focus. But the rewards are well worth it! Not only will you earn a decent salary, but you will also be part of a global phenomenon that brings joy to billions around the world…
Things You Need to Know to Become a Sports Agent or Sports Attorney
Sports Agents vs. Sports Attorneys
Sports agents and sports attorneys do not typically follow the same career paths, and there is a marked difference in what they do. Sports attorneys practice sports law. Lawyers in the US must attend law school for three years, pass a bar exam, pass a moral character and background check, pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE), earn continuing legal education credits (MCLE), and possibly maintain malpractice insurance. A sports attorney is a licensed attorney who happens to practice in the areas of law that surround sports, specifically contracts, intellectual property, negotiations, litigation, and the like. Your clientele and the matters you work on for them determine whether you are a sports lawyer or an attorney specializing in other areas. Lawyers are bound by strict ethical and professional conduct, and risk disbarment or discipline for violating such rules and responsibilities.
Sports agents represent athletes’ careers
Sports agents, on the other hand, do not necessarily need a formal education. They must, however, be registered and post a bond with the state and/or college where they wish to recruit and represent professional athletes and be registered with the players association(s) in team sports (specifically the MLBPA, MLSPA, NBPA, NHLPA, and NFLPA). Each of these players associations has specific requirements for sports agents. Some groups, like the NFLPA, require agents to have earned a master’s degree, and others require agents to pass an exam about the collectively bargained agreement. As a rule, agents must pay a fee to apply for certification with an association and pay annual dues. There are other requirements, but checking the union website of the sport a prospective agent wants to focus on is the best first step. Regardless of whether someone is a lawyer, he or she must register and be a certified agent with the players association to negotiate contracts.
The Role of Relationships
Good relationships are critical to success in life, and the sports industry is no exception. Relationships personal friendships or referrals are likely to land you your first clients or your first job. Relationships will get you in the door and keep you connected with your clients. Genuine relationships will jump-start your career representing athletes. From there, consistency, ethical practices, and hard work will make you great at your job as a sports agent or sports attorney, whichever path you choose.
The Necessary Skills
Perhaps this should be the first point, but you need to know how to become a lawyer or sports agent before you can be one. What this means is that the skills you develop in law school and in the practice of law are those needed to best represent professional athletes. Negotiations, knowledge of the law, and an understanding of professional ethics all come from law school and experience practicing law. Street smarts and relationships are important and the best sports agents and lawyers use both, but you need to be a lawyer before you can specialize be considered an expert in a particular area. Remember, relationships may get you in the door and possibly help keep you there, but it is the knowledge you acquire that will secure your position among the greats.
Choose a Sport
Focus your practice. Pick one unionized team sport and stick with it. It is recommended that you know your sport and know your union before becoming a sports agent or sports attorney. Countless stories describe agents who got into trouble ethically and financially by picking too many sports and trying to become a jack-of-all-trades. Becoming a lawyer is hard enough, being an agent is hard enough, getting clients is hard enough, why make it harder on yourself by failing to focus your practice? The best career advice I ever received was to focus on one area and become an expert in that area. Your clientele will trust you more and you will receive more referrals from your colleagues by honing in on one sport. Moreover, you’re bound to succeed if you work in an area that you are passionate about (and happen to be an expert in). Simply put, you will care and you will know too much to fail at it.
Get to know your client through the interview process. Assuming you’ve completed all of the above steps, the most important part begins. Through the four “R’s” of recruiting, relationships, referrals, the fourth “R” is most important, retention. You as the lawyer or agent determine who you work with and why. Remember, your clientele reflects your personal ethics, as you serve as their spokesperson and their public representative. Therefore, interview your clients thoroughly, and get to know them personally and professionally before you agree to represent them. Your prospective clients should be doing the same with you before deciding to use you as their representative. In the end, relationships and referrals are so important in this business because it begins a foundation on which to work towards and maintain the retention of professional athletes as clients.
The career outlook for a sports lawyer today is very good. Sports are very big in the world today, whether it’s the MLB, NFL, NHL or college sports. The high wages received by many professional athletes demand the services of a qualified sports lawyer to represent them in salary negotiations, contracts and litigations. Becoming a sports attorney or lawyer can be the start of an exciting and fulfilling career. A sports attorney does many of the same things a regular lawyer does throughout his or her day. The difference is that the sports attorney is dealing with sports professionals or organizations. A sports attorney may represent an athlete, a coach, a team or an entire organization. This can also have an impact on the sports lawyer’s career outlook. Athletes spend their time participating in their chosen sports and rely on their sports lawyer to handle financial and legal transactions.
They help the athlete understand the terms of their contracts, endorsements, bonuses and basic legal terminology. With the exception of taking some slightly different college courses, sports attorneys have a lot of the same educational requirements as any other lawyer. They need to go to law school and they must have a four-year bachelor’s degree before they can attend law school. Prior to entering law school, the law student must pass the Law School Admissions Test. This test is to help the college determine the student’s readiness for law school and their skill at analytical reasoning, reading comprehension and logical reasoning. Aspiring sports lawyers take many legal courses but must also take business courses like finance, marketing, associated ethical concerns, legal procedures and sports law. Sports law students should possess good writing skills because this will be an important part of their job as a sports lawyer. They’ll also need to take courses in contract law, sports management, negotiations, entertainment law, copyright laws and infringement. Before the candidate can work as a lawyer, he or she must pass the state bar exam to be eligible for licensure. Gaining work as a sports lawyer is crucial for success in the sporting business. Sports lawyers often start off representing one or two athletes and obtain additional clientele through references or word of mouth.
Tips On How To Become A Sports Lawyer
1. Be A Good Lawyer: Your career will be dependent on your knowledge and application of the law. You do not necessarily need to be a specialist in sports law to become a sports lawyer. But you do need to be a good lawyer in whatever field you choose (i.e. commercial, litigation, regulation etc) to become sports lawyer.
2. Network: Network as much and as often as you can. Sports Law is a niche sector and it is important that sure you are known in the sector (for the right reasons!). The events run provide an invaluable opportunity to build relationships with some of the most influential people in the sector and meet other aspiring sports lawyers that you can share experiences. Sports law associations also provide discounts for student, and some for junior lawyers, and of course members. Academic institutions and law firms also hold seminars, breakfast talks and conferences throughout the year that are either free or low cost.
3. Build Relationships, Not Contacts: When you meet a new contact find out what they are interested in, what their opinions are on current sports law issues and their background. Don’t try to meet everyone at an event you attend, as you will end up having a lot of meaningless conversations and few, if any, lasting relationships. Also, make the effort to stay in contact with the people you meet.
4. Ask For Advice And Assistance: Some sports lawyers did something that some people can find very difficult, they asked for advice. It is beneficial to find out what others have done well at, and what they would change if they could do it all again. This background information will prove useful when you are looking for an internship, training contract or job opportunity. When you do ask for assistance, be mindful that the person you have approached probably receives a lot of these types of requests, so make sure your request is made at the right time and in the appropriate manner and is not generic.
5. Send Personalized Formal Emails/Letters: First impressions count and this applies equally to the first time you meet someone in person, on the phone or over email. Therefore, do not send generic emails or be informal in your first email to a new contact. Put simply it looks lazy. If you send a generic email you are at risk of losing the confidence and respect of the recipient. Worse still, you risk causing offense that can leave you with a lot of work to do to restore confidence and gain their respect.
6. Gain Experience: The most obvious way to gain experience is to secure an internship. However, there are alternatives such doing pro-bono work for athletes, clubs, governing bodies or representative associations. Volunteering with your local or regional sports law association to help them organize events, contributing to their publications, for example, can also provide great experience.
7. Share Your Views: This can bolster your creditability, however, you should be aware that it is not always possible to get your work published, as it may not be a suitable topic, of good enough quality or in the right form to be published. Writing is a great way to improve knowledge through research and analysis. Once you have started publishing your own work you can use this as a way to increase your network by asking experts for their opinion on your work. This will help develop relationships and refine your arguments and understanding before you submit your work to a high profile publisher with a large readership.
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It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. Legal problems come to everyone. Whether it’s your son who gets in a car wreck, your uncle who loses his job and needs to file for bankruptcy, your sister’s brother who’s getting divorced, or a grandparent that passes away without a will -all of us have legal issues and questions that arise. So when you have a law question, call Ascent Law for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you!
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