The inspiration for this post is something that I had read a few years ago on www.lawinsport.com. The article by Sean Cottrell is a must-read by persons looking to breakthrough in the sports industry and particularly in sports law. This list is a summary of my own experiences and discusses the key lessons that I have learnt in the process of becoming a sports lawyer.
1. A Sports Lawyer Is A Lawyer Foremost
A sports sector client will come to you if you are equipped with advocacy skills and it does not matter to them if you are a huge sports fan or not. To succeed as a sports lawyer, a person must have the ability to apply legal knowledge to sports specific queries. Therefore if you wish to be a successful sports lawyer, it is critical to be a capable lawyer more than anything else.
2. Start Early
The sports law practice is often seen as a glamorous part of legal practice. Resultantly the competition in this space is extremely intense. To make a mark, it is crucial to reach out to other practitioners and to explore potential collaborations. Most sports lawyers recognise and value your effort when you reach out to them and if you start early then you give yourself that much more time to build a working relationship. I was able to focus deeply on the subject only during my LL.M program and realise how much more I could have gained had I started earlier than what I did. For those of you who are in undergraduate programs, do not underestimate the value of an early start.
3. Network Intelligently
It is far better to reach out to one person and to follow-up with them as opposed to sending texts to 10 persons and never following up. Most sports lawyers realise the value of networking and are very receptive to forging working relationships because that is a win-win situation. Like most other professionals, sports lawyers realise that there is limited scope for taking things forward if the other person is writing to them merely because they are sports fans and that they have nothing to offer beyond that.
4. Questions Create Opportunities
Several young practitioners do not ask questions because they anticipate a negative response. This is counter-productive and restricts their network. Feel confident about requesting for internships, seeking career advice and do not be disheartened by a negative response. Even if a person declines your request, she will perhaps acknowledge and appreciate your sincerity
5. Old School Habits Are Invaluable
Remember to be courteous while reaching out to someone. Unless absolutely urgent, do not email or contact them after business hours. Value their time, read up about the person before you contact them and avoid sending out generic emails. I remember offering a sports law internship to a student who had made an effort of researching about my practice area before she decided to apply for an internship. Similarly, I remember being extremely impressed with someone who wrote back even after they received a negative response about an internship application and I recommended the person for an internship at another place.
6. Social Media Is Your Friend
Social media is full of opportunities and is a great platform to connect with like-minded individuals. It is also a wonderful source to keep abreast with the latest developments across the world. The two top social media platforms on a professional plane are Linkedin and Twitter. Therefore consider being active on them
7. Write As Much As Possible And Research Thoroughly
Sport is a fast moving industry and given its seasonal nature, most sports issues remain topical for an extremely short period. It helps to write and given the quickly changing landscape of the sports sector, it is crucial to write regularly. To be able to write with regularity and offer meaningful insights, the quality of research must be extremely high. Even if the research does not translate into a published piece, you will be more confident and assured about the subject area once you have researched on it. Therefore to expand one’s outreach, consider writing often and even consider having your own blogging space as well as contributing to websites with significant outreach
8. No Experience Is Bad Experience
It is difficult to cover all branches of sports law and therefore no experience will hurt you. Without compromising on the quality, consider taking up small mandates in areas outside your comfort zone. As a sports dispute lawyer, it will help your practice if you also have an idea about sports transactions. These small experiences will help you think laterally and enhance your capacities. Having said that, do not accept a brief if it requires specialised expertise and you are not equipped to handle it.
9. Accept Pro Bono Work
Quite often your initial clients in the sports sector may not be persons with deep pockets. They might be a small business which has been sued by a big company for committing a trademark violation or a junior athlete who has failed a doping test. If you are extremely price conscious to begin with, then it will be tough to attract your first set of sports sector clients as they would often not be in a position to pay you as well as you may expect. Consider taking up pro-bono work assignments as it will have long-term practical benefits for your career.
10. Perseverance Pays-Off
Do not enter into the sports industry looking for short cuts or immediate pay-offs. It takes a fair bit of time for the stakeholders in the industry to notice and acknowledge you. As long as you are putting in the hard yards and by that I mean writing regularly, using social media smartly, reaching out to sports law practitioners as well as building your clientele one client at a time, be confident that the recognition will follow.