Agent News at the SLA Conference
The Sports Law Professor was able to attend the 33rd annual Sports Lawyers Association (SLA) Conference in Cambridge, MA that occurred from May 17-19. I would have loved to have been able to attend, but as you are probably aware, I was falling in love with Israel at the time. Anyway, TSLP made some comments about the sports agents that he met/saw during his trip in Boston, which I will share with you below:
How do sports agents look? Picture driven, high-energy young people, well-dressed, with an ear that has re-formed itself into the shape of a cell phone. So I’m at the bar seated alone (TSLP refuses to socialize at the conference, in order to maintain my critical distance) and so are these other seven friendless people, but here’s the difference: they spent the entire lunch talking, rather loudly, on the phone. Picture seven people all sitting within a few yards of each other having involved conversations into cell phones, a couple of the phones of the “handless” type, where the user appears to be speaking into the air, like an idiot. These are sports agents.
Speaking of sports agents, if you thinking about being one, two words of advice: (1) buy a good cell phone, and (2) read Pete Williams’ The Draft: A Year Inside the NFL’s Search for Talent. I read it on the plane to Boston. The book needs better editing (several anecdotes and descriptions are needlessly repeated), and is only moderately insightful, but it does give a pretty closeup description of the life of the sports agent. Most agents are lawyers, but it looks like to me that the practice of law is only a very small part of the job. A lot of one’s time is spent snuggling up to college athletes, hoping to attract their signature on a representation agreement. It’s a very competitive business, to be sure, and not for the faint of heart. It’s also a business where the winners and losers are determined by the decisions of young, capricious students (much like being a professor, now that I think of it).
I have not read or heard of the book mentioned, but I will make sure to add it to my summer reading list.
Thank G-d that TSLP was in attendance, because he gave a great recap of some important issues as well. He mentions the ethics panel discussions, which should remind all of us lawyer-agents that we may be treading on thin ice:
Most sports agents are lawyers and (clearly) act as lawyers when they represent athletes; just as clearly, the ethics rules that govern attorneys prohibit, in no uncertain terms, exactly what sports agents do every day, such as soliciting clients, performing legal work in states where they’re not admitted (unauthorized practice), representing multiple clients with conflicting interests, etc. These are major ethics issues. So basically the first speaker on the panel, a law professor who teaches legal ethics, reads the rules verbatim and concludes that lawyers who are sports agents cannot solicit athletes for their business, cannot represent multiple athletes competing for the same job, etc. Uncomfortable silence ensues, a little polite applause at the end. Everyone here knows that solicitation is prohibited but everyone has to do it, because if they don’t, then the unconstrained non-lawyer agents will get all the representations while sports lawyer-agents sit behind their desks waiting for clients to find their names in the phone book. We sports law professors need to switch off the games and get these big ethical issues resolved, pronto.
It seems like that panel was the only insightful one of the entire conference. TSLP makes sure to point out that he is sad with the lack of new knowledge presented and that his colleagues in attendance felt the same way. I guess I should not be so mad that I was unable to attend.