What It Takes to Be a Sports Agent: A Profile of Doug Lilly
By Russell A. Green
Do you ever daydream at your job about being a sports agent? Do you believe you have the negotiating skills to get Derek Jeter a few more dollars from the Boss? Think you can be Jerry McGuire even though you don’t have the looks of Tom Cruise or the inspiration of Renée Zellweger? Well, like many jobs, it’s not as easy as it looks. Just ask Doug Lilly .
Doug is an associate with Wallace & O’Neill, LLC, in New Haven, Connecticut, and has been serving as an advisor to professional athletes since 1996. Lilly’s advice to those who think they want be agents is not that different from the path to success in other legal fields—hard work and understanding your clients are a must.
Doug Lilly is a 1991 graduate the College of the Holy Cross with an A.B. in history. He went on to attend Benjamin N. Cardozo Law School, from which he received a degree in 1995. In 1996, Doug joined Wallace & O’Neill, where his practice focuses on personal injury, sports and entertainment law, and general litigation. Also since 1999, Doug has served as an adjunct professor of sports law at Sacred Heart University. He is currently co-chair of the ABA Young Lawyers Division General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Committee. Recently he wrote “Tips on Choosing Legal Malpractice Insurance” in the March 2003 issue of The Young Lawyer, an ABA YLD publication.
Doug first entered the field of sports law in 1996 when he was a contract advisor in the Continental Basketball Association. “I became a CBA contract advisor because some family members were close to a player who graduated from UConn, and he needed some advice,” says Lilly. “It did not work out for him, but this got me interested in being an agent.”
In 1999, Lilly became an NFL contract advisor. To do so, he had to pay a fee, fill out an application, and take a test. The test consisted of lectures on the collective bargaining agreement and contract negotiation scenarios.
“The first couple of years, as an agent, I was just trying to learn the business. I then met another agent in my town, and he has been very helpful.” Doug has represented various types of players in the past. “Most of them were players who were overlooked by the NFL because they were from a small school or did not fit in the physical mold for players at their respective position. Representing these types of players is the hardest because they do not have the media attention of players who will be drafted to the pros.” Doug currently represents several players in the Arena League.
Doug advises those who want to build a sports agency that one needs to be persistent. Lilly also recommends researching in depth the needs of the teams as well as knowing the capabilities of the players you represent. “An agent who has an insight of his players’ abilities will be able to assess the best possible fit for the client.” Good advice for all lawyers.
Russ Green is an associate with Carmody & Torrance LLP in Waterbury, Connecticut. He concentrates his litigation practice on labor and employment, land use, and municipal law. Russ may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.