A Lawyer on the Court

Vol. 40 No. 1


Leslie A. Gordon is a secret lawyer who has been working as a freelance legal affairs journalist for more than 10 years.

Emulating the career path of his attorney father, Justin Lavner entered Villanova University School of Law in 205. "I thought I wanted to be a lawyer," Lavner recalls. "I knew I'd get a great education."

A former tennis star at the , ranking as high as number two singles, Lavner taught tennis to junior tournament players to make money while in law school.

“The kids rose in the rankings so fast that other parents started asking me to coach their kids. From there, it snowballed.” Within a few months, Lavner was working 100-hour weeks between attending law school classes and coaching as many as 50 hours a week, including organizing lessons and accompanying players to tournaments. “I knew something great was happening.”

After completing three semesters of law school, Lavner took a year off and established the in 2007, training elite athletes pursuing tournament wins and college scholarships, including five players with world rankings. Despite his success as a tennis coach, however, Lavner never doubted that he’d return to law school.

“I’d already completed a year and a half and I was getting a great education,” he says. “Plus, I wanted to take my business to the next level so I needed to learn more.”

After returning to Villanova, Lavner continued to grow his tennis academy, handling marketing, insurance, and hiring himself. “I learned on my feet,” he says. The summer of 2008, while still in law school, he launched his first summer camp on the Main Line of Philadelphia, what he calls “a natural progression of the business.” He graduated from Villanova in 2009.

In 2010, Lavner expanded his summer camp to include a culinary program, proving that his success with tennis could be replicated across other activities. This last summer, catering to 1,000 families, Lavner added robotics and a young entrepreneur camp, in which he taught teens about the operational, financial, and legal considerations in running a business. He plans to add new locations as well as programs for autistic children.

Lavner says his legal education has given him a significant advantage in his entrepreneurial efforts. For example, when setting up the academy and camp, he understood liability issues and knew which business structure to use. Working with kids, parents, and athletes, Lavner uses his legal training every day.

“When I’m coaching a player, there are many things to analyze. I have to identify issues. Are they athletic? Focused? Are the parents supportive? Overbearing? I also analyze technical aspects. Why isn’t the swing good? Because of the knee bend? It’s the same process as approaching a fact pattern in law school.”

Predictably, Lavner often fields questions like, “You did all that school and you’re not even using it.” But that’s a short-term view, he insists. “It cost me roughly $100,000 to go to law school and I may never make a dollar as a practicing attorney. But for my business now, I’ll see a huge return on investment.”



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