Las Vegas will be the place to be if you’re interested in trying your hand at sports and entertainment law. That’s because the ABA Forum on Sports and Entertainment Law is heading to the desert from Oct. 6-8 for its annual meeting.
Law students can register for just $275. Admission includes the opportunity to network and attend professional sessions such as:
- Ethically Representing Athletes and Celebrities in Difficult Situations
- Sports Gambling
- Hot Legal Topics in College Sports
- Sports Team General Counsels
- Streaming, Virtual Reality, and the Role of Sports Content
- The Non-Profit General Counsel: The Next Frontier for Entertainment Lawyers
- Legal Issues in Live Entertainment
- The Digital Life of Songs and Recordings
- Blazing A New Trail: How Recording Artists Are Partnering with the Liquor, Wine, Beer and Marijuana Industries to Create Customized Artist-Branded Products
- Open Discussion: Death, Taxes, and Rock ‘n Roll: Post Mortem Legacy and IP Management
But the big one for law students is the last event on the schedule that doesn’t involve going out on the town or to the Grand Canyon. “Breaking Into the Industry” is a panel sponsored by the ABA Young Lawyers Division and the forum’s Young Lawyers Caucus. And the panel includes counsel for the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Arena Football League as well as the director of legal affairs from Pantelion Films/Lionsgate.
Breaking into sports and entertainment law was also featured recently in TYL, a publication of the Young Lawyers Division.
Covering the entertainment side was Jeff Cohen, a veteran of the entertainment industry whose name you may recognize as the actor who played Chunk in “The Goonies.” He’s a transactional attorney now and is a cofounder of Beverly Hills–based Cohen Gardner LLP. He also penned the ABA-published “The Dealmaker’s Ten Commandments: Ten Essential Tools for Business Forged in the Trenches of Hollywood.”
Cohen writes, “If you have interest in becoming an entertainment attorney, perhaps I can help answer the question: What the hell do entertainment lawyers actually do? For fourteen years I’ve been a partner at an entertainment law firm I cofounded in Beverly Hills, and I am still trying to figure that out.
“Like beetles and salamanders, there are many species of entertainment lawyers.”
He goes on to explain the differences in litigation and transactional attorneys and law firm vs. in-house counsel. Of his specialty, Cohen says, “Part of the fun of being a transactional entertainment attorney is that we serve a number of functions. We negotiate deals. Sometimes we represent David, sometimes we represent Goliath, but either way it’s often an interesting fight. We serve as consigliore, like Tom Hagen did to Michael Corleone in The Godfather.”
His tips for aspiring entertainment lawyers are:
- Know your stuff. Study contract law, intellectual property, tax, corporate, and any applicable entertainment guild law.
- Attorney before groupie. Appreciate your client’s talent but never be in awe of them. If you are a fan first, you will be unable to perform the cold calculations necessary to properly advise and help them.
- Location, location, location. Los Angeles, New York, and Nashville are key hubs where the deals get done.
- Study the culture. Read entertainment biographies and industry news periodicals (Variety,Billboard, etc.). Whatever others in your biz watch, read, or listen to, you must as well.
Stepping into the batter’s box for sports law is Roger I. Abrams, a Richardson Professor of Law at Northeastern University in Boston. “Becoming a sports agent is the dream of many young men and women, stoked by the legend of Jerry Maguire and stories of real-life super-agents like Scott Boras,” Abrams writes. “I have chatted with many aspiring sports lawyers about how to break into the field.”
He adds that sports law is a diverse industry. “Sports law can involve litigation, transactional, and regulatory work,” Abrams says. “Similarly, sports lawyers work in practice areas as diverse as antitrust law, contract law, employment and labor law, and intellectual property law. In that way, the work of a sports lawyer mirrors that of all other lawyers.”
He concludes his article with the words of a key figure in baseball history, Branch Rickey: “He knew the importance of being in the right place at the right time. Success, however, was not simply a matter of fortuity. He reminded us that ‘luck is the residue of design.’ Work hard at becoming a great lawyer and be persistent in achieving your aspirations without being too obsessive or obnoxious. See the ball, hit the ball, and run like lightning.”
The right place and time for aspiring sports and entertainment lawyers, in this case, will be Las Vegas in early October. Check out the schedule and register today.