Two years ago, the world’s sports market was estimated at $488.5 billion. Forecasts anticipate that it will exceed $600 million by 2022. With that colossal amounts of cash, sports law jobs are necessary to regulate and inspect the sports industry and make sure that players, clubs, and fans aren’t taken advantage of.
About Sports Law Profession
Sports law includes a set of legal rules and regulations administered to the realm of professional sports. They include regulations related to franchising, sport-related crimes, drug tests, contracts, and similar. Therefore, legal professionals in the sports industry handle everything, from agreements and trademark regulations to tax issues.
Professionals who seek sports law careers may be involved in an array of different fields. They typically manage commercial and employment contracts, negotiations, regulatory and tax issues, and litigation. Sports legal professionals may choose to specialize in one of those disciplines. Thus, litigators are committed to disciplinary and regulatory cases, employment attorneys handle athletes’ contracts, while commercial contract attorneys deal with sponsorship agreements and media rights.
As jobs related to sports are rapidly growing, career opportunities for sports legal professionals are ever-increasing. College sports advancement leads to large-scale media agreements for high school teams. As American Bar Association reveals, the increasing number of sports law opportunities see lawyers hired by state agencies, high school sports departments, and professional teams.
Although sports attorneys aren’t as popular as the world famous sports stars, they have a vital role in ensuring that sporting events run smoothly.
What Do Sports Legal Professionals Do?
Sports law careers include representing clients’ interests. Those clients are typically found among individual players and athletes, whole teams, and coaching personnel. Sports legal professionals are responsible for monitoring everything that happens outside the sports terrain, making sure that their clients focus solely on their performance.
Sports legal professionals’ duties vary depending on the exact role.
Professional sport isn’t all fun and games. Professional athletes are under a lot of stress and pressure, so even a small distraction or issue might have serious consequences. Sports lawyers are here to negotiate and ensure valid contracts, alleviate sponsorship agreements, resolve disputes, and fight for their clients should any conflicts within the club arise.
Their responsibilities also include defending their clients against criminal charges in courts or lawsuits in case of breaching a contract, harassment charges, or any other issues. Sports attorneys frequently act as spokespersons, protecting their clients from merciless media.
Another essential duty of sports attorneys is organizing charities or business endeavors on behalf of their clients.
Duties and Responsibilities:
Securing and interpreting contracts
Negotiating payment, compensation, and bonuses
Negotiating sponsorship agreements
Resolving contract or labor disputes
Defending clients against criminal charges
Defending clients in lawsuits
Representing clients in the media
Helping with establishing entities such as foundations and charities
Skills and Qualifications of a sports law attorney:
A bachelor’s degree in law (at least)
The knowledge of the sports industry
Great attention to detail
Excellent analytical, diplomacy, and drafting skills
Capacity to mingle and attract new clients
Another sought-after occupation among sports attorney jobs is a sports agent. They are responsible for representing athletes’ interests, specifically in contract negotiations. Besides, they manage sponsorships, PR, and financial planning.
The primary duty of sports agents is to negotiate contracts for their clients. To excel in it, they must be well-acquainted with their client’s worth. It further implies that they must be familiar with the sports market and industry as much as managers or other sports officials.
Duties and Responsibilities:
Gathering data and analyzing statistics
Mingling and networking
Skills and Qualifications:
Love for and knowledge about the sport
Great people and communication skills
Great sales skills
Other Legal Jobs in Sports
Besides sports attorney and sports agent roles, sports law jobs offer other opportunities to those interested in this niche. The mandatory skills for working in this industry may be easily transferred to large companies, high schools and colleges, professional teams or athletes, even sports law firms. It can’t be denied that this field offers several alternatives.
Player Representative/Contract Administrator
Five major sports leagues in the US are welcoming a large number of professional athletes. Logically, all those players need top sports lawyers. Today, even non-professional and semi-professional sportspeople need an attorney to negotiate payment, employment, and deals. A player representative’s role includes acting in and promoting an athlete’s legal interests in their long-term sports career.
They are responsible for examining team contracts, agency deals, and payment agreements. In other words, they’re in charge of inspecting all legal and binding documents that can have extensive legal consequences.
Player representatives are professionals to whom athletes may turn to whenever they get into trouble or have any kind of legal problems. This is why candidates interested in legal jobs in sports and entertainment must be acquainted with criminal, contract, family law, and estate planning.
Team Lawyers/Legal Advisors
Players are not the only ones who need a representative. Sports teams today, both semi-professional and professional, need an advisor on legal matters and possible pitfalls. Team attorneys are accountable for drafting player and vendor contracts, along with any other employment contracts. In case a fan or a player files a lawsuit against a team, a team attorney (or an entire department) is responsible for its defense in court.
Team attorneys also oversee legal issues within the organization. This mainly refers to sports terrain safety and accessibility and the problems that may emerge from the players’ behavior on and off the field. Their capacity to peruse and perceive liability law and criteria will be of significant advantage.
Collaborating With Educational Institutions or State Agencies
While many lawyers work for state and local authorities, some professionals pursue sports law internships and jobs at educational institutions. There, sports attorneys advise on implementing or following laws, safety rules and regulations, training, and coaching requirements. They also cover all other concerns that have to be in line with laws and statutes.
Additionally, sports legal professionals are in charge of drafting laws related to sports safety at high schools and throughout a season. They outline laws concerning safety and scholarships, college sports funding, and all other factors that may impact sports in the academic realm.
A sports attorney’s working environment may vary depending on whether they work independently or for a prominent company. An agency may require someone new to sports lawyer jobs to perform research and support upcoming negotiations. More experienced colleagues typically supervise junior sports attorneys.
Sports legal professionals who work independently are in charge of everything — doing research, drafting contracts and deals, negotiating, and similar. They may have assistants, but the greatest deal of responsibilities falls on them.
Sports attorneys and agents typically work 40 hours a week. However, if there are new contracts or deals to make, they may work longer hours throughout the week or on weekends.
How to Become a Sports Legal Professional
Sports legal jobs blend business, legal, and sales skills with a zeal for sports. The business side of sports isn’t everyone’s preference; however, good sports attorneys must possess exquisite sales and marketing skills to ensure that their clients will get the best financial compensation for their athletic capacities.
Passion for sports. Sports lawyers and other legal professionals must love sports. They have to be well-acquainted with the sports their clients are into. To gain the necessary knowledge, they should analyze the sport, its teams, and individual players.
People skills. With the pressure they involve, professional sports aren’t meant for weak personalities. To thrive at their job, sports attorneys must have excellent people, communication, and negotiation skills. They must know how to negotiate professionally and effectively with both sportspeople and team executives.
Sales skills. Sports and entertainment law jobs require impeccable sales skills to ensure the clients’ best possible contracts and endorsement. To do so, sports and entertainment attorneys must know how to “sell” their clients. This further involves performing extensive research and proving why the deal is beneficial for both a client and the other party.
Persistence. Lucrative deals and clients won’t come overnight. Sometimes, it may even take a year before reaching a good deal. The attorneys who are just starting their sports legal careers need to invest a lot of effort, hard work, and persistence before obtaining their first clients.
Sports legal jobs require more or less the same education as their corporate law counterparts. Before entering sports law schools, students have to pass the Law School Admissions Test. It evaluates students’ eagerness for law schools and their reading comprehension, logical and analytical reasoning.
Eager sports attorneys must take additional courses regarding finance, marketing, legal procedures, and related ethical concerns. Additionally, courses in sports management, entertainment, contract, and copyright law are mandatory. Moreover, students should have excellent writing skills — an integral part of their vocation as sports lawyers.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
After finishing bachelor’s studies and obtaining a sports law degree, law students have to pass several tests, like a moral character and background check, a bar exam, MPRE (Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam), and earn MCLE (continuing legal education credits).
Different leagues and players’ associations demand certain certifications, which may vary according to the specific league requirements. Sports attorneys can also join the sports lawyers association. It is an international non-profit organization with the aim of understanding and improving sports legal practice.
Sports law jobs’ salary may vary depending on the exact positions. According to PayScale, sports agents earn $51,699 on average. Sports attorneys have significantly higher salaries, amounting to a whopping $95,000 per year. Other factors that may affect salaries are experience, location, and clients themselves.
In addition to the base salary, many sports legal professionals receive a range of bonuses and commissions.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that lawyers will see an 8% employment growth in the 2016–2026 period. But attorneys that specialize in specific areas, such as sports and entertainment, are bound to have better job opportunities. Professional athletes will always need their services to handle contracts and employment matters.
Other legal sports jobs have a similar outlook. Sports agents’ and representatives’ jobs are expected to encounter an increase of 3% until 2026, slightly less than 7% growth predicted for other jobs.
If you want to check how sought-after this position is in certain areas, for example, in Washington DC, type in “sports law jobs in DC,” and you will get the latest job prospects in this city.
The Bottom Line
The sports industry has never been more lucrative than in the past several years. Professional athletes have been earning colossal wages. However, with those massive amounts comes a range of additional legal catches, contracts, deals, and negotiations in which athletes aren’t quite experienced. Luckily, professionals excelling in sport law jobs are here to make their day.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is sports law, and why is it significant?
Sports law makes sure that all players have equal opportunities to participate in the specific sport they choose. It also makes sure that players face no discrimination because of their race, religion, or physical appearance. Additionally, sports law protects players’ employment, i.e., it forbids their dismissal without any significant reason. It provides them with the right to continue to play after an injury. In case they are unable to play any more due to an injury, they have the right to receive compensation.
What type of law pays the most?
Some of the highest-paying legal jobs include:
Intellectual property lawyers — $137,000 per year
Tax attorneys and trial lawyers — $99,000 per year
Employment and labor attorneys — $87,000 per year
Real estate attorneys — $74,000 annually
Litigation support directors — $80,000 annually
Judges — $66,000–$148,000 annually
Members of Congress — $174,000 per year
Law school professors — $105,000–$204,000 annually
Law firm administrators — $650,000–$750,000 annually
How to become a sports lawyer?
To become a sports lawyer, you must first complete bachelor’s studies in any subject. Afterward, you need to attend and complete a three-year law school. After graduation from a law school, you need to take a bar exam and obtain a mandatory license. The next step is passing the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE) and obtaining continuing legal education credits (MCLE). Sports attorneys may also undergo a moral character and background check.
What are the best jobs in sports?
Apart from sports legal jobs, some of the most rewarding sports careers include sports psychologists, sports physicians, coaches, personal trainers, physical therapists, general managers, umpires, sports marketers, athletic directors and scouts, sports marketers, statisticians, sports reporters, and sports editors. All these positions promise a dynamic work environment and a lucrative salary exceeding $30,000 a year.
What can you do with a sports law degree?
A sports law degree allows you to apply for positions directly related to sports law, such as a team or sports lawyer, sports agent, player representative, legal advisor, and contract administrator. Additionally, you may seek roles that don’t directly relate to sports and contracts, teams, or players. Thus, professionals with a sports legal degree may work in state agencies and educational institutions such as high schools and colleges.
Do you need to go to law school to be a sports agent?
Besides a four-year bachelor’s degree, sports attorneys need to finish a law school that lasts three years. Afterward, they have to pass a bar exam to get a mandatory license. As opposed to sports attorneys, sports agents don’t need a law degree. If you want to increase the prospects of becoming an agent, you should obtain a law diploma. Generally, a sports agent’s position doesn’t require higher education or a specialized degree, although some leagues may require a certification.
How much money does a sports lawyer make?
Sports legal positions may differ based on particular positions. According to PayScale, sports agents make an average of $51,699 every year. On the other hand, sports attorneys have considerably higher salaries, amounting to a colossal $95,000 per year.
Besides the base salary, many sports legal professionals get an array of bonuses and commissions. There is no doubt that sports law jobs are incredibly lucrative.
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