Headline Sports Agents Sports Law

Sports Agent Vs. Sports Lawyer

The following guest contribution was written by Jonathan Gordon, a junior at the University of Notre Dame with plans of attending law school. The founder of Sports Analytics Blog, Jonathan invites you to connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

“If I want to be a lawyer and work in sports, then I should be an agent.”

Being a sports lawyer and a sports agent is not one in the same.
Being a sports lawyer and a sports agent is not one in the same.

Blame it on youthful ignorance, perhaps, but this is a common misconception held by many students and young professionals.

Sports agency and sports law are two very different industries with very different careers.

As a sports agent, your primary responsibility is to take care of your clients. In general, this can be anything from booking hotels to finding marketing opportunities to managing public relations to booking radio appearances to negotiating contracts. You are on call 24/7 for your clients.

While many agents are indeed lawyers, being a lawyer is not required.

Most of your responsibilities as a sports agent will be recruiting new clients and managing the lives of your current clients. Contract negotiations only occur once every several years per client. For clients with long-term contracts, agents can go years without negotiating a contract.

What, then, does a sports lawyer do?

Responsibilities vary depending on the company you work for and the clients you have. Sports lawyers can work for law firms, teams, leagues, governing federations, player unions, and more. Getting known as a lawyer going at it solo or as part of a firm will require some specialized marketing from the likes of Freelance lawyers are quickly becoming as popular as traditional law firms and heavily rely on marketing services to help them grow. If you are a freelance lawyer you might want to look into legal marketing services designed to help you grow predictably and expand your client base.

As a sports lawyer, your responsibilities would likely include some combination of the following:

-Representing professional leagues and/or player unions in collective bargaining agreements;
-Representing leagues/teams in media deals;
-Advising in the purchasing or selling of a team;
-Representing teams in stadium construction and financing;
-Representing leagues in data commercialization;
-Protecting intellectual property related to sports leagues, teams, companies, and/or sponsors;
-Defending teams/leagues in any lawsuits against them;
-Negotiating player contracts with agents;
-Ensuring your team stays within the salary cap;
-Negotiating licensing deals;
-Drafting and negotiating any relevant contracts; and
-other related matters.

Though many lawyers are sports agents, “sports lawyer” and “sports agent” are two very different careers with very different responsibilities. Understanding what exactly each does, and what exactly you want to do, is an important first step for those who wish to work in one of the industries.

“If I want to be a lawyer, and I want to work in sports, then I should be a sports lawyer.”

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.