This past weekend, I was given the opportunity to attend the 45th ABA Sports and Entertainment
Annual Conference in Las Vegas. It was an excellent conference and I felt as though I should share my
experience with other law students who are interested in the sports law industry and why such law
students should attend next year's conference and any others that become available to them.
During three days, I met and spoke with over 50 practicing attorneys in the sports and entertainment industry. That would have taken me at least a month to do via social media (i.e., LinkedIn). Not only did I make a substantial amount of connections, but each connection started with a handshake, which placed a face to my name and my story. Suppose we all put ourselves in the shoes of a professional in this industry, or any industry, it is clear that an email from a random student might be intriguing the first time, but by the 30th student, you are attempting to create an automated template to respond to the students reaching out to you (or just ignoring them). However, when that introduction is an in-person handshake from a 6'1 goofy-looking redhead, not only do I get a personalized response, but the professional is much more likely to remember me.
The professionals you meet give you their real-life story, which contains much more detail than
their bio on LinkedIn or their firm’s/organization's website. This gives you the opportunity to imagine
yourself in their shoes. If you think someone has your dream job, you get the chance to hear their story
from exactly where you are at in life. Giving you an automatic road map to help shape how you can
achieve your dream. Sure, you will deviate from their path because no two people are the same, but it
places you in a much better position than you were in before you met them. The best part about hearing
their story in person is that at any point if you have a question or want a deeper understanding of a certain
matter, the professional will be happy to answer those questions, because what lawyer does not love
talking about themself.
During the conference, I was exposed to a wide variety of topics within the sports law industry. I
was able to expand my knowledge on subjects such as arbitration law within sports, and then 15 minutes later
was able to learn about regional sports networks ("RSNs") and how sports law experts are shaping how fans watch their favorite teams. I knew diddly squat about RSNs before this conference, and now I have a general
idea and I know exactly who to point to in order to learn more. By living through the experts for a few
days, it helps you narrow down the specific industry that you want to work in. I walked in thinking, “I
know I want to work in sports and I know I want to use my JD, but I am unsure of the ideal position for
me.” Leaving the conference and hearing numerous stories, backgrounds, and day-to-day roles, I now
know that I want to work in private practice upon graduation and focus on sports clients that have issues
regarding labor and employment, intellectual property, NIL, estate planning, business creation and
litigation, and higher education. I know that I am not restricted to this list of areas and if the NCAA
comes calling, asking me to create a structure on how to move forward in this new era, I will take on that role, but the idea is to utilize stories of these experts to give yourself a sense of direction.
The biggest takeaway from the conference that every law student and young professional wanting
to work in the sports and entertainment industry should know, is that every single story I heard started
with, “because I knew so and so.” To work in this industry, it is crucial that you get to know as many
people as you can who have prevailed in the industry because that is how you will land a job. Most
students have already heard this, but I want to make sure that not only are you aware of how to get a
job, but that you are aware you need to take action right now on this knowledge to obtain a job. Start
connecting now. Emails, phone calls, LinkedIn, webinars, and especially conferences. Start doing them all
as soon as you can.
Extra Tips I Learned From the Conference
1. Everyone is human and these experts were once in your shoes, so be prepared, but just have a
conversation with them, be sincere and honest.
2. Do not just talk sports law with them. Ask about their family, hobbies, and more. You want to
build a connection with them, not just ask them how to get a job.
3. Do not rush the conversation. These professionals are heavily liked, so they will get pulled away
from your conversation, realize that you will likely see them again, and can always shoot them an
email. Do not feel you have to get your entire life story out in two minutes.
4. Reflect and enjoy the fact that you will be in a room full of the leading experts in your dream
profession. You might even have the privilege of spending time with the general counsel of
your favorite sports team, or even your favorite league. Self-reflection is key to growing and
becoming a better student, employee, and person.
Logan Hughes is a third-year law student at Ohio Northern University Claude Pettit College of Law. You can follow him on Twitter @loganchughes23 and on LinkedIn (Logan Hughes).