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Sports Lawyer: Who Are They? What Do They Do?

Updated: August 11, 2023
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What Is A Sports Lawyer?

A sports lawyer, also known as sports law attorneys, is a licensed legal professionals representing athletes, industry boards, teams, leagues, and other sports organizations. They handle numerous issues that may cover a wide range of practice areas.

You can find sports lawyers working at:

  • Universities and schools
  • Amateur athletic associations
  • Professional athletic associations
  • Solo practice law firms
  • Big Law or entertainment law firms
  • Virtual and shared office spaces
  • Other locations

As you can see, sports lawyers hold diverse positions across a broad scope in the field of sports law. They work to protect people’s legal rights and interests.

Here is an article containing fun facts about sports lawyers, famous sports lawyers, and how to become one.

What Does A Sports Lawyer Do?

Sports lawyers must meet specific formal and ongoing education requirements. Staying current on federal and state laws is necessary for competent client representation. They must also possess a strong command of contracts, IP, and civil procedure.

In addition to training, sports lawyers typically spend their careers performing the following tasks:

  • Provide legal advice and guidance to clients
  • Offer dual representation as an agent
  • Execute and negotiate player and team contracts
  • Help clients understand broadcast rights, trademarks, and endorsements
  • Represent clients in civil or criminal court matters
  • Resolve labor and contract disputes
  • Negotiate sponsorship deals
  • Establish business entities, like charitable organizations
  • Handle false accusations
  • Speak with media on behalf of clients
  • Other legal matters as needed and agreed to

Rather than leaving your next deal to “best guesses,” sports lawyers ensure that you do not make any legal mistakes. This approach is the most practical when managing your career, team, or organization.

For more information about sports law, check out this article .

Sports Agent vs. Sports Lawyer

Sports lawyers and sports agents follow two separate career paths and assist clients in very different ways. Sports lawyers oversee their client’s legal protection while a sports agent is assigned to take care of clients’ needs, such as marketing, travel booking, and more.

The differences between sports agent vs. sports lawyer include:

  • Difference #1 : Relationship Role – Sports lawyers are licensed to practice law, which means they can interpret and apply them to the situation at hand on behalf of clients. Sports agents cannot provide legal advice (unless they are also a lawyer) but act on assisting players and teams while handling some negotiations.
  • Difference #2 : Skills and training – Sports lawyers must attend three years of law school, obtain a Juris Doctor (JD), and pass a bar exam, whereas sports agents do not need a formal education. However, they must pass licensure requirements.
  • Difference #3 : Function – Sports lawyers practice sports law professionally while sports agents represent a player’s career. Their duties may include contract negotiations and personal assistance.

Simply put, if you need legal help and advice, you should always speak with a sports lawyer vs. sports agent. Attorneys are the only professionals who can guide you through legal challenges. Plus, some attorneys work as sports agents, which means that they can serve clients in both capacities.

Here is another article on what the differences are between a sports agent vs. sports lawyer .

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Understanding Sports Law

Sports law is an umbrella term that refers to athletes, athletics, and sports organizations’ legal issues. While there are not necessarily legal sections that address sports specifically, sports laws draw upon several other bodies. It is a complicated body of law that requires extensive training and experience to understand.

Types of Sports Law Practice Areas

Types of sports law include:

  • Intellectual property (IP)
  • Contract law
  • Personal injury
  • Criminal defense
  • Torts
  • Business law
  • Insurance law
  • Labor law
  • Antitrust law
  • Real estate law
  • Other areas of law

Examples of Sports Law Matters

Examples of sports law include:

  • Signing a lease on a new building
  • Suing someone for a breach of contract
  • Disputing terms of employment or violations
  • Filing insurance claims after an injury
  • Prosecuting criminal actions within an organization
  • Other legal issues as they arise

In general, sports law does not have a separate body of identifiable laws at the federal level. Instead, sports lawyers must interpret sports laws through existing precedent and statutes at the state level to provide advice. It is imperative to hire a sports lawyer with vast experience in this area when making impactful legal decisions.

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Who Needs A Sports Lawyer?

It is critical to hire a sports lawyer when you need legal advice. While general practice lawyers are adept at providing legal advice, sports lawyers know the industry’s ins and outs. Their insight and guidance are tremendously helpful and time-efficient.

You need a sports lawyer if you are handling the following legal issues:

  • Advise and negotiate players and teams on finalizing a contract deal
  • Draft legal documents related to athletes and sports organizations
  • Negotiating naming rights and percentage distributions
  • Establishing business entities, such as LLCs or non-profits
  • Removing shareholders
  • Someone is suing you or your team in civil court
  • You are facing criminal charges as a player, coach, or executive
  • Drafting league bylaws
  • Dividing financial interests lawfully and fairly
  • Handle creditor and debtor legal issues
  • Additional legal matters as needed

The legal practice of sports law is different than other practice areas. It takes a specific level of knowledge and experience to avoid making common legal mistakes. Hire sports attorneys with years of experience to bolster your legal efforts and understanding your rights.

You can find out more about when you could need a sports lawyer by reviewing the American Bar Association’s website.


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Hiring A Sports Lawyer

If you are hiring a sports lawyer, take the following steps for a more successful outcome:

  • Step 1: Narrow down your search by asking for referrals, browsing online directories, or through search engine results.
  • Step 2: After narrowing down your initial list, review law firm websites, especially the content contained within.
  • Step 3: Determine if the lawyer has relevant training and experience in sports law. You want an expert in your corner.
  • Step 4: Select from at least three sports attorneys to interview during your search. You can choose more if you need to cast a wider net.
  • Step 5: Contact the law firm candidates for an initial consultation. Some offer free meetings while others charge for them.
  • Step 6: Attend your initial consultation but do not commit until after interviewing each candidate. Take your time.
  • Step 7: Do not be afraid to ask attorneys legal questions. Pushback may indicate that they are not a good fit for your service needs.
  • Step 8: Ask about pricing and fee structures. Get the proposed terms in writing before agreeing to them.
  • Step 9: Find out about the attorneys’ local and professional relationships by reviewing client testimonials, news articles, and reviews.
  • Step 10: Determine if he or she can give you the personalized attention you deserve by asking about their caseloads.
  • Step 11: After interviewing candidates, ask yourself which sports law attorney made you feel the most comfortable and confident.
  • Step 12: Make a selection after weighing out all considerations. Go with your gut instincts when hiring a sports lawyer.

It is helpful to contact the attorneys that you did not choose to let them know you went with another candidate as a matter of courtesy. Now, you can finally get to work with your attorney.

Learn more about sports law and tips by checking out this website .

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