Over the past year two of the four major sports leagues, the National Football League (NFL) and the National Basketball Association (NBA), experienced lockouts that threatened to cancel their respective seasons (which in retrospect, as a New York Giants fan, would have been absolutely devastating). While the leagues nearly sacrificed billions and fans looked on in dismay, at least one set of stakeholders must have been quite content with the tumult—the lawyers.
Sports law is an exciting practice area that garners much interest from students because the client and underlying industry hit close to home, since most people (including law students) tend to identify with some sports team(s) or athlete(s). Most practitioners in the space are quick to point out, however, that being a sports lawyer is not quite as glamorous as it sounds. At its root, sports law is simply a composite of different, less “sexy” practice areas, including, but not limited to, contracts, intellectual property, real estate, torts, and labor law.
Fortunately, NYU has been hip with the times and affords students many opportunities to learn more about the field. In my Labor and Employment in the Entertainment Industry class, I had the opportunity to listen to Bob Batterman, an attorney with intimate knowledge about the NFL labor dispute, pierce through the muddled media coverage of the NFL lockout and explain what really happened. We received unparalleled first-hand insights into the mentalities and bargaining positions of the two sides.
NYU Law, with an eye toward modernizing legal education, has also offered a much sought-after Sports Law class this spring. The class is taught by the estimable Professor Arthur Miller. One of the highlights of my spring semester was when New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon came into class to share his experiences in the sports business. Besides getting insight into the José Reyes free agency and the Mets’ financial woes, it was somewhat cathartic to hear the owner himself sigh in disappointment over the club’s dismal performance over the past few years.
Outside the classroom there are opportunities to get involved with the Intellectual Property and Entertainment Law Society (IPELS), which held a sports law panel last school year. Plus, when you’re living in New York, there is never a dearth of events catering to your interests, including sports law.
Even though the NFL and NBA labor disputes may be over, the world of sports will need lawyers into the foreseeable future with issues ranging from publicity rights of student-athletes to financing new stadiums. I can’t imagine a better launch pad for a career in the field than NYC and NYU.