Eric R. Wiesel went to California State University, Sacramento and Lincoln Law School before joining the law firm of Matheny Sears Linkert & Jaime. He is a partner at the firm and heads its sports practice with an NBA, WNBA, and NFLPA license. Two of his more notable clients are Rebekkah Brunson (All-Star and US National Team) and Armintie Price (2007 WNBA Rookie of The Year).
Darren Heitner: How did you get started in this industry?
Eric Wiesel: After graduating from law school and starting to practice as a litigating attorney I was introduced by a business client to an NBA player being abused by his agent – no communication, accountability or respect. There were also financial irregularities. As an advocate and man I couldn’t believe the way the athlete/person was being treated – as an employee rather than an employer. At roughly the same time, I was introduced to a WNBA player who was having the same issues – except the lack of respect and honesty from her agent was even greater. I deeply wanted to make a difference in their careers and lives. I had found the career I feel completely passionate about.
Darren Heitner: You are a partner in the law firm, Matheny Sears Linkert & Jaime. What are some of the positives and negatives of being a part of a major law firm while representing professional athletes?
Eric Wiesel: Being a partner in a law firm is a tremendous advantage. I am a trained advocate who spent his entire career as a lawyer negotiating and advocating for local, national and international clients. I have tremendous resources and don’t need to work with unlimited clients to pay the power bill. I can carefully select and work to be excellent with a smaller group of clients. The firm provides my income and, as a result, I don’t need to rely on an assistant to manage my clients – it is all me. Any legal services my clients need and want I obviously provide and encourage – creating an LLC, foundation and/or preparing wills, etc. In addition, as one of the partners who run the law firm I have the experience and proven ability to help each of my clients run their own companies – I encourage each client to view their career as a business.
Darren Heitner: Why are there very few law firms with athlete representation practices?
Eric Wiesel: Lawyers have very busy and compacted schedules. Litigation requires the creation of a strategy for each case and the vision to make that strategy end in a favorable outcome for your client. It can and should be very involved. Time doesn’t usually allow a full-time litigator/firm to build a sports practice. It takes time, money and extra energy when at many times does not exist. I worked two full-time jobs when I first started – trial attorney and agent. Now I do nothing but work with athletes – I paid my dues and because of my unique skills and background my clients benefit. My partners are always supportive and I now work out of my own home office with the freedom to work and travel anywhere for my clients.
Darren Heitner: You have negotiated over 400 professional sports contracts in 30 countries during the last 11 years. What was your most interesting negotiation, and why?
Eric Wiesel: All negotiations are equally interesting because my goal is always the same - to secure the absolute best possible situation for my client…to ensure they are happy, safe and receive the maximum compensation for what they do.
Darren Heitner: Give us an idea of some of the things you do for your clients outside of negotiating their professional contracts.
Eric Wiesel: I look at each client as a whole person. Negotiating a contract is critical but, in reality, a very small part of what I do. Enforcing that contract and ensuring my clients are cared for is my first priority. I also look for any source of outside income and push my clients to always prepare for the time when playing will no longer be an option. A career can be over in an instant and I feel it’s tragic when agents don’t push their clients to prepare for the “rest” of their lives.
Darren Heitner: What did going to law school do for your advancement in this profession, and would you recommend that future agents obtain a JD?
Eric Wiesel: Going to law school and being an attorney is critical. All I do is advocate, negotiate and enforce. Why would you hire a non-lawyer to do lawyer work? Most non-attorney agents either hire
Lawyers or just wing it. Why would someone hire a person to secure and enforce a legal document that has no training in doing so? I want to be the one who does everything – the responsibility starts and stops with me and that’s how I like it.
Darren Heitner: Do you find yourself more restricted in what you are able to do than some of your competitors who are not attorneys (recruiting regulations, conflicts of interest, etc)?
Eric Wiesel: As an attorney I am bound by requirements that should be viewed as critical by an athlete. As a member of the bar and officer of the court I must abide by restrictive codes of conduct and ethics. For example, I must always avoid conflicts of interest and must never engage in conduct that is adverse to the best interests of a client. I could spend each day doing nothing but listening to complaints about unethical lawyers with constant conflicts engaging in tragic conduct – most of which is not known by their clients. The rules I must follow do prevent me from recruiting like other agents BUT, in reality, as a man I would never recruit that way anyway. Any potential client whose mentality is directed to unethical conduct is someone I don’t want to work for. Athletes don’t realize that in the end what they do and who works for them will reflect on who and what they are.
Darren Heitner: What made you first get into representing female basketball players? Do you see a lot of growth for the sport and the potential for future agents to profit off of its rise?
Eric Wiesel: I love working with any athletes who are people of character. I want someone who is as motivated as me to make an impact on sport and society. I look for exceptional people who also happen to be exceptional athletes. My singular goal is to maximize everything they do and experience. I have found this most often with female athletes over the years. I love working for my clients and each becomes a huge part of my world. I take what happens to them very personally. I am a huge fan of women’s sports – I experience and see increasing and important support for what female athletes do. They can be incredible role models and agents for change. I am dedicated to doing whatever I can to contribute positively to the growth of what they do. It is clearly one of my passions in life. I am only concerned that as the popularity of women’s sports grows so does the number of unqualified people trying to work for the athletes. Every year the stories get worse – the damage caused to female athletes by agents who have no business convincing athletes they are capable and care when money is really their only motive.
Darren Heitner: What would you lend as advice to college students looking to break into the industry? Anything special you would add to college female students?
Eric Wiesel: The advice I have for college students – don’t get into this profession unless you deeply care, take what happens personally and receive the correct education, skills and training. You can ruin a career and life if you are not completely serious and prepared.