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How Exactly Does One Become A Successful Sports Agent?

How much is a degree worth in the business of sports?  How about for a sports agent?  And does an undergraduate Major selection even matter at all?

There is no denying that the number of posts per week has been down at as of late.  There are a variety of factors leading to the decline in posts, including the fact that it is Summer, and traditionally sports news tends to slow down during these hot months, my contributors seem to be quite busy, and I am a little preoccupied with studying for the Florida Bar Exam.  Don’t worry Scott Deady, I am not jumping off any bridges, and I’m actually not freaking out about the test – I would just like it to be over already.

On the topic of Bar Exams, though, why would an agent need to take his state’s Bar Exam?  Why should he go to law school at all?  Shouldn’t he just get some undergraduate Marketing degree and hang out with the school’s athletes at their dorms?  It is definitely one way of going about making a name for yourself in the sports agency world, and it is not necessarily the “wrong” path to take.  The point is that a Marketing degree is not going to separate yourself from anyone else trying to make it in this profession…based on the degree.  Quite likely, the law degree won’t separate yourself either, as many of the big name agents at the major agencies have the same law degree, and it might even be from a better law school.  Take the Bar Exam because you want to be an attorney, or may want to be an attorney (it never hurts to keep the door open), but realize that now you don’t just have to answer to the government, you are also bound by your state’s Bar Association and all of its rules of professional conduct.  Get a Marketing undergraduate degree because you are passionate about Marketing principles and want to learn and discover new effective practices in that discipline.  Don’t get the degree because you think it will aid you to become a sports agent.

I continue to read about large agencies absorbing smaller, boutique agencies, which is nice to read about, considering that I think this profession should be contracting instead of growing.  That said, if the big boys can’t pry the best players away from the boutiques, the only other option is to buy out the small companies.  And there are also some very bright, young minds out there who deserve to be given a chance to thrive with a strong, legitimate company, instead of spending countless hours every day just trying to maintain their small client bases and grow any [legally and ethically] way possible.

I have recently told a couple of my most trusted colleagues that we need to begin looking for new revenue models.  I am thankful that I have surrounded myself with some amazingly intelligent individuals who feel the same way.  The old agency model is out-of-date.  I recently read that CAA will be lucky if they take $100,000 on LeBron James’ next contract.  Do they deserve more?  No, LeBron will get a max contract no matter what.  LeBron James is in a class of his own; I still see the money available for agents only shrinking over time.  Salaries may continue to increase, but let’s say the MLB institutes a type of slotting system.  Players don’t want to pay their advisors now.  Imagine what will happen if a slotting system is in place.

I’m rambling a bit at this point, but that is what happens when you have been studying for five hours straight.  I somewhat like this style; however, since it feels more “blog-ish”.

So what about me?  I sound like I’m pretty upset about something and quite bitter about the business.  I cannot say that is not at least partially true.  In the past month, I have tried my best at times to look at this profession as an outsider.  Is it any different from when I first interned with a company five years ago?  What about when I started my own company three years ago?  Where will it be in three years?  In five years?  And what about me…do I want to stay strictly as an “athlete advocate”, or do I want to test working at a law firm?  Maybe become a professor – although three more years in school to obtain a PhD is not high on my list.  What about doing something dramatic like working on the team side?  One thing I can promise is that my current clients will always be taken care of.

One thing I can be thankful for is that I never limited myself.  And that point gets me back to something I spoke about at the beginning of this post.  Don’t choose a major or go to a particular school because you want to be a sports agent.  Don’t focus all of your time on trying to accomplish that goal and sacrifice making connections in other fields.  I have a Political Science Bachelors of Arts (with Minors in Mass Communication and Geography), I did not go to a law school with any type of Sports Law concentration, but I have made amazing friends, learned a crazy amount of practical and useful information, and started a business in a field that I love, while maintaining professional options outside of the sports agent niche.  I encourage all of you to do the same thing.  Don’t settle on anything, but don’t limit yourself either.  I find the stock market to be an awesome analogy in many examples.  In this case, treat your professional path as you would your stock portfolio.  Don’t put all of your effort only into being a sports agent.  You [hopefully] would not put all of your money into a stock.  Unless, of course, you had some sort of inside information.  But if you went to law school, you would know that it is illegal to trade on that type of information. 🙂

I was going to end the post right there, but then one of those “amazingly intelligent individuals” I referred to earlier in this write-up, mentioned a few things that I thought we worth sharing.  He stated that the reason that so many sports agents happen to also be lawyers is not because those agents needed a law degree to become sports agents, but that they needed a law degree to make a living coming out of school.  Hedging bets is essential.  The reason that so many people who go head first into this business and fail is because of misinformation (which I hope this blog does a decent job of correcting).  Look at the really successful agents.  How many of them had a job (often a law firm job) before or while they ventured into the sports agency world?  Most agents never had to depend on this profession to provide food for their families.  My suggestion is that neither should you.

By Darren Heitner

Darren Heitner created Sports Agent Blog as a New Year's Resolution on December 31, 2005. Originally titled, "I Want To Be A Sports Agent," the website was founded with the intention of causing Heitner to learn more about the profession that he wanted to join, meet reputable individuals in the space and force himself to stay on top of the latest news and trends.

Heitner now runs Heitner Legal, P.L.L.C., which is a law firm with many practice areas, including sports law and contract law. Heitner has represented numerous athletes and sports agents as legal counsel. He has also served as an Adjunct Professor at Indiana University Bloomington from 2011-2014, where he created and taught a course titled, Sport Agency Management, which included subjects ranging from NCAA regulations to athlete agent certification and the rules governing the profession. Heitner serves as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, where he teaches a Sports Law class that includes case law surrounding athlete agents and the NCAA rules.

9 replies on “How Exactly Does One Become A Successful Sports Agent?”

That was extremely insightful, especially for an aspiring sports agent like myself. I am about to finish my undergrad and have been debating whether to jump into law school or work for a few years (sales for a media company) and then assess my career a couple years down the road. You definitely have me inclined to choose the latter, this article was pretty helpful especially the line “the reason that so many sports agents happen to also be lawyers is not because those agents needed a law degree to become sports agents, but that they needed a law degree to make a living coming out of school.”

And I am sure that I also persuaded someone to go to law school. The point is that there is no catch-all answer. Everyone has their own interests and should choose their own path.

Darren, I really like what you are doing with your company and your site. Great article also! I’m in a situation where I am working for a firm doing civil and criminal stuff, but want to start a sports agency business on the side. I wonder if there is enough time in the day as I’m a new lawyer and I’m still learning the ropes of this profession?! But seeing you doing what you are doing gives me hope. Well, there’s no question in here for you to answer – just encouraging you to keep doing your thing and wishing you good luck on the bar. Take it easy bro, Mo.


This really is a phenomenal post. But I really need to read up on wills and trusts. Good luck. Almost there.


Haha. I feel you partner. Although my confidence is starting to go up with my practice scores starting to rise. I’m sure you will be ready to dominate the exam. Hopefully a new class of bright, young lawyers will be admitted to the various state Bars.

great post bro, i appreciate the honesty and that advice is universal, keep rolling, be blessed

Darren I really appreciate this post. I also graduated college with a political science degree, and I thought that this would limit my ability to excel in this profession. I want to become a sports agent, and I thought there was a magical formula. I am taking the lsats tomorrow and I plan on enrolling in law school next year. The fact that there are many different paths to becoming an agent is a breathe of fresh air. Thanks so much.

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