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Sports Law

Presented by Bobbi-Sue Doyle-Hazard, Onye Ikwuakor, and Daniel Werly

Note: This is not for CLE.

The Career Choice Series is designed to help you choose your career path. Whether you’re a law student, young lawyer, or transitioning attorney, find out what it’s like to work in various practice areas and the best way to position yourself to get there.

Description

In this segment, our speakers, an assistant general counsel for a pro football team and legal affairs director for an anti-doping in sports agency, will discuss their practices and career paths into the sports industry. As experienced and well-respected experts in their respective fields, the panelists will provide invaluable insight into how they broke into the competitive field of sports law, the pros and cons of pursuing a similar career, what a typical day in their practice entails, and advice for practicing lawyers seeking to transition their career into sports law and law students looking to break into the field.

Speakers

Bobbi-Sue Doyle-Hazard, Assistant General Counsel, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Onye Ikwuakor, Legal Affairs Director, US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA)

Moderator:
Daniel Werly, Partner, Sievert Werly LLC

Sponsored by ABA Career CenterYoung Lawyers DivisionLaw Student Division, and Forum on the Entertainment & Sports Industries

Download the PowerPoint

Watch the Video and Read the Q&A

Q&A

Bobbi-Sue Doyle-Hazard answers audience questions offline that weren’t answered due to time constraints.

What can benefit you most, if anything, that is not directly legal/networking related?

Business experience generally. Understanding how a business works inside and out is extremely helpful for being able to provide proper guidance to your clients. There are many ways to gain this experience, MBAs are one way to go. Another would be to intern doing something other than law but in a sports-related position. The big thing you want to be able to do is to show a set of skills that is easily transferable to the job you want. If you don’t already, you should subscribe to Sports Business Journal. That provides the most up to date sports business info.

Do you feel that being more specialized or well-rounded in sports law is better for your success in the business?

I think we covered this in the webinar but I want to repeat it here. If you have the opportunity to go to one of the few law schools that has a robust sports law program, go there and do that. Use all of the resources there to help you network and gain the proper internships. Otherwise, you should go to a law school that has a great business law program. Try to take any practical course that gets your hands on contracts. At the end of the day, unless you are practicing some very niche part of sports law, your practice is going to be very generalized and business focused.

When going through the hiring process, what are some of the things you have seen that make resumes stand out to you? Similarly, are there some red flags that you have frequently seen?

The people who stand out tend to have varied experience and have a record of working or education in sports (i.e., undergrad degree in sports management or a thesis about something sports related). Volunteering for sports-related organizations is helpful as well.

Resumes that clearly show a link between the skills needed to do the job and the person’s experience stand out the most.

Red flags include the typical: Very general resume with no clear link between skills needed for the job and experience; no prior history of desire to work in sports; typos.

Other than focusing on a specific curriculum in school, what advice would you give a law student who wishes to enter the sports law field? Also, it’s no secret being counsel for a professional team is highly coveted. What are some things a student can do to best position themselves to get that job?

Again, I think we covered this but just in case: Network your butt off. Go to conferences, reach out to people in the industry near where you go to school/work, create those relationships and do so in an authentic way. Keep an eye on Teamworkonline.com and TheWhiteBronco.com for internships. Teams, leagues, associations start looking for fall interns in January/February – spring interns in August/September.  And remember to think of sports as broadly as possible and look at any business or organization that touches even a small slice of sports. For going in-house with a  team, as mentioned before get as much experience as you can with contract drafting/redlining/negotiating. Hell, be your own lawyer when looking over your own personal apartment rental agreement or any contract you sign.

Has the increase in non-traditional (“over the top”) media and advertising over the last 3-5 years resulted in an increased need for the review of licenses, agreements, etc.? If so, do you expend this trend to continue?  

Absolutely. For the most part, this is done at the league level. However, each league is set up differently. OTT isn’t the only thing to think about. Radio is changing as well. With podcasts, social media “stories”, etc., there are so many ways to incorporate advertising and also to tell the stories your organization wants to tell. I do not see license agreements going away and they are becoming far more technical. Having an understanding of the technology/platform is certainly helpful.

I am about to be a 2L this fall and need to start thinking about law review topics for the comment I will be writing this upcoming year. Are there any potential law review comment topics that are related to sports law that would be good to write about?

I would suggest that you think about what you want to do for your career. Is it working for a team or league? Is it as an advocate for athlete’s rights in college or in the pros? After you come up with an answer to that, think about what not to write about. You don’t want to write about something that may reflect poorly on the type of organization you want to work for. Stay away from the “hot topics” for those organizations.  Go with a topic that is new or not part of litigation. If you want to be an advocate for athletes, go right ahead and hit those hot topics. Just remember that it is likely that your potential future employers will be able to access your comment. Topics that will be interesting and aren’t as controversial include things like fantasy sports, esports, and the wearable technology licenses.

During your time working at your respective organizations, what is the one thing that you are most proud of having accomplished, and why?

I am always proud of the production we put on for our fans on game day and throughout the year. Everything I touch has that ultimate goal. The most memorable thing I have accomplished or helped work on are the coaches contracts for the coaches we currently have. It was truly surreal. Everything moved extremely quickly and I learned so much through that process. I was thrilled to be able to utilize my skills to work through those negotiations and play a part in putting together this team.

How did you keep your legal skills sharp during those two years of working as a server?  I’m in a similar situation where I may have to Uber/Lyft after the bar.

Honestly, I had very few actual legal skills from law school. I didn’t know how to be a lawyer, none of us did. I knew how to read, analyze, and write, but not how to handle clients, draft motions, probate an estate, etc.

What I did to gain those skills was go to practical CLEs and then just start doing whatever it was that the CLE was about. In Massachusetts, there’s MCLE, but I am sure in your state there are other similar organizations. It was a great way to learn practical tips and get good resources (binders full of checklists, sample documents, etc.) for future use. I then took on a few clients. Now, remember, I was licensed when I did this. If you are waiting for bar results, maybe you can work with a local organization as a temp or paralegal. If you don’t have a job lined up you can use the time to really work on your resume.

What is it like being a woman working in sports law? Are there special challenges you have to overcome in order to succeed?

I have dealt with sexual harassment, misogyny, and just a lot of bs in my career… none of that has occurred while I’ve been in sports law. I am fortunate to work for a great organization and my boss is amazing. My being female is of no consequence in this position. In our league, I would say we are close to parity with regards to the number of female to male attorneys. Everyone was extremely welcoming and it has been a pleasure to be in this industry. That being said, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done with regards to the number of women in sports overall. That was one of my reasons for starting the podcast. The biggest challenge that women face is having the internal confidence to go for the positions they want. Unfortunately, there is still very little female representation at the highest levels in the industry. That leads to women not believing that they can have those positions. It’s a subconscious thing. Have the confidence to know that you are good at what you do, can hold your own against any person, and are valuable enough to take up space in the old boys’ club.

What do you think is the best way to obtain a summer internship in the sports law field?

Keep an eye on Teamworkonline.com and the TheWhiteBronco.com for listings. Most teams use Teamwork but some leagues use other boards and Dan Werly does a great job of capturing those on TheWhiteBronco. Typically the internships will be listed towards the end of the fall season for the following summer. Think of volunteering for smaller organizations that may not be able to pay you.

Should I make my job search focused more on business/transactional firms as opposed to more general practice/criminal law firms? * To clarify my question…for working in sports law/sports industry, should I make my job search focused more on business/transactional firms as opposed to more general practice/criminal law firms?

General practice firms that work with small businesses would be great exposure. Criminal defense firms, not so much. Try to focus on firms that work with businesses in all manner of activities, not just big M&A.

What are some non-sports industry jobs that provide the most transferable skills?

As mentioned before, anything related to business.

When talking about sports law, what exactly are lawyers referring to? Publicity rights of famous athletes? Intellectual property rights held by organizations such as NCAA, NFL, MLB, etc.?

The short answer is “Yes.” Sports law is really anything that touches sports in the legal world. There are very few things about sports law that is different from general business law. Of course, we have the coolest products!  A sports law practice can focus on things such as advocating for athlete’s rights in college or professional sports, negotiating collective bargaining agreements, marketing/publicity rights of athletes, IP work (enforcement, portfolio management, licensing, etc.), cap specialization and player contracts, litigation work on pre-emption of CBA issues, general business contract work, media rights, etc. Any niche area of law you can think of, there is a sports practice related to it. This is mostly because aside from the uniqueness of our product and our employees, at the end of the day it’s a business.

Do you feel as if sports law has become more inclusive?  I grew up a big sports fan in the 90’s but was very closeted about it because it was such a corporate, bro-y thing.  I see a lot of positive change where LGBTQIA folks are being accepted for who they are.  I am now open to Sports Law, but want to know how it is, especially for lawyers who aren’t white cisgender men.

I think a lot of times when thinking of sports law, people think of certain agents who are bombastic and old school. As with our general society, acceptance is ever evolving. In my experience, people in sports law have been very accepting of all types of differences. There is always room for growth. I think some people are still very conservative with what they share and certain things like mental health are still a bit stigmatized. However, I know people who are making the way to change that. The same is true for LGBTQIA issues. There need to be trailblazers for there to be change whenever you talk about acceptance. Don’t be afraid to be that trailblazer.

Bobbi-Sue Doyle-Hazard Bio

Bobbi-Sue Doyle-Hazard is Assistant General Counsel for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Bucs) where her practice area is quite generalized. Bobbi-Sue started her career as General Counsel and Director of Human Resources for the family of life sciences companies under the New England Cryogenic Center (NECC) umbrella. In between NECC and the Bucs, she was associate corporate counsel for Granite Telecommunications, a billion-dollar telecom company just outside Boston.

A graduate of the UMass Sport Management undergraduate program, and Penn State’s Dickinson School of Law, Bobbi-Sue’s career path was anything but a straight line. After law school, she waitressed and took on small matters while licensed as an attorney due to the economic crash. As an early adopter of Twitter (@bobbisue), she credits her usage of the platform for opening the doors that lead to not just one of her positions but two (NECC and Bucs).

Bobbi-Sue is a member of the Sports Lawyers Association (SLA), the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC), Women in Sports and Events (WISE), and Women in Sports Law (WiSL). She is a strong advocate for mental health wellness and breaking the stigma surrounding mental illness, having personally lived with diagnosed depression and anxiety since she was a child. In addition, Bobbi-Sue just launched a podcast called Leveling the Playing Field, where she conducts casual, conversational interviews with women working in sports. You can access the podcast on iTunes and follow it on FacebookInstagram, or Twitter at @LTPFPod.