Going for gold…

Sports and media law covers a broad range of practice areas. In this area of law you may be dealing with contracts, intellectual property, torts or privacy. You might find yourself protecting your client’s intellectual property issues, such as copyright violations and trademark infringements, or handle libel, slander issues and data privacy matters.

This area of law is often considered to be glamorous and high-profile. However, the reality is that, more often than not, a sports or media lawyer will be concerned with the legal nitty-gritty, rather than attending highly publicised events and rubbing shoulders with celebrities. Nevertheless, it is still a very attractive area of law.

What does sports & media law involve?

As a sports and media lawyer, you will be providing advice on business agreements, contracts of performance, financial transactions, litigation and employee management and benefits. Lawyers will handle cases on defamation, libel, slander, encroachment on privacy, unsubstantiated allegations or declarations against individuals.

Entertainment law covers radio, music, television, films, art, theatre, books, websites and magazines. Your work will usually consist of providing advice on commercial contracts, intellectual property matters, content standards and employee management.

Sports lawyers can represent players, clubs, sports agents, regulatory associations or sponsorship companies. Sport is seriously big business and, as a legal professional in this industry, you will need to be on the ball. You will often have to work on several areas of law; from telecommunications, finance and intellectual property, to negligence and privacy.

The working atmosphere in most places where media and sport law is practised is very informal, modern and friendly. This does not mean that work is not to be taken seriously though, as cases and deals will usually involve huge sums of money. Despite this, sports and media lawyers tend to receive smaller salaries than those who work in large firms where corporate, banking and finance rule the roost.

What makes a good sports & media lawyer?

You will need to be commercially savvy, outgoing, enthusiastic, and have your finger on the pulse. As a trainee and NQ, there will be a lot of grunt work like drafting agreements and contracts. It is vital that you enjoy interacting with people and that your networking skills are sharp. Much of your work may involve hand-holding celebrities and other high-profile individuals, so it’s important to be empathetic and patient. You will also need up-to-date knowledge on commercial matters, reputation management, intellectual property laws and precedents, criminal negligence and personal injury. Having a talent for advocacy will also be a great bonus.

You should be able to provide quick, creative and simple solutions to clients’ problems and thoroughly know the ins and outs of the media or sporting area you are involved in. It’s also vital that you are discreet, conscientious, and flexible. 

Luca Ferrari, Global Head of Sports, Withers LLP.

What’s the first thing you do when you get into the office?

I catch up with any emails that I haven't managed to respond to overnight. I would normally have sent a number of emails the night before, following which all of the responses tend to come through the morning after.  Every morning I read the international, Italian and UK sports news feed, which is where I get many of my business development leads. When in Milan, I go to a café and read "La Gazzetta dello Sport" over an espresso.

How do you handle and organise / prioritise your workload?

I don't have a daily routine as I often travel and have to adapt my priorities accordingly. Generally, I try to avoid having too many emails in my inbox. When the matter is business-related, I like to act quickly and ensure I respond swiftly to my partners’ or clients' requirements.

What sort of daily responsibilities does a partner have in sports and media law? How does it differ from an associate role?

Firstly, I have to make sure that everyone in the team is efficiently ‘utilised’ and in control of their workload.  This allows us to respond to client requirements quickly. When formulating business development ideas, I reach out to a variety of associates to help me devise a plan of action. I ensure they are up-to-date with industry developments and have a firm grasp of the major dynamics that shape the market.

Can you give us an idea of the sort of projects you manage from day to day?

By way of example, should a football club need to organise a friendly in the US during preseason, I would select the team. Typically, the main resource would be in our NY office dealing directly with the club Chief Operating Officer regarding the venue hosting contract and insurance. Other examples of my day to day activities include negotiating the terms of a management agreement between a sports agent and an athlete, or perhaps advising a sports governing body on a sponsorship agreement.

What sort of clients do you generally deal with on a day-to-day basis?

I deal with all stakeholders in the sports sector. We work with athletes, managers, clubs, agents, governing bodies, sponsors, rights owners, media partners and event organisers.

Ben Simon is one of DLA Piper’s Trainee Solicitors.

What’s the first thing you do when you get into the office?

The first thing I do is start my computer up and then head to the kitchen for a coffee. I'll have a brief catch-up with some of my colleagues who are in there. Back at my desk, I record my daily voicemail message so that my clients and peers are aware of my availability for the day. I also check my emails/voicemails so that I can prioritise and respond to anything urgent. Junior lawyers and trainees often have training first thing in the morning so I'll then head over to this.

 How do you handle and organise / prioritise your workload?

It all depends on how busy I am. Sometimes I flag emails to remind me what needs dealing with or  write a simple to-do-list. When it gets a bit more hectic, I use an excel spread sheet where I assign tasks a priority rating  or use a traffic light system. In terms of prioritisation, it's important to know the deadlines for individual tasks.

 What sort of daily responsibilities does a partner have in sports and media law? How does it differ from an associate role?

I'm not a partner so I can't really answer this in too much detail! However, in my experience partners tend to spend more time developing client relationships and dealing with the strategic direction of matters, whilst associates deal with the day to day workload.

Can you give us an idea of the sort of projects you manage from day to day?

This varied a lot depending on which sub-group I worked for. An example from a sports/advertising perspective would be managing responses from DLA Piper's offices/ relationship firms in relation to specific questions posed by a sports broadcasting client. The client  was looking into the potential use of a beer brand as a global sponsor and wanted to know the legal  and regulatory position in various jurisdictions.

What sort of clients do you generally deal with on a day-to-day basis?

Gambling providers (i.e. bookies, gambling websites), media channels (production studios, sports channels), sports clubs / leagues  and publishing houses.

 In just a few words, could you explain the sort of work you do in sports and media law?

It's extremely varied because the department breaks down into Film Finance, Gambling, Publishing and Sports. The work can range from drafting broadcasting agreements, arranging security for finance, to preparing multi-jurisdictional reports on gambling regulation. You also get a chance to assist the Intellectual Property team, particularly with advertising regulatory work and contentious work, such as IP infringement cases.

Why did you choose to take this elective?

It's an attractive seat with interesting clients and a great range of work to be involved with. There are also great secondment opportunities available.

How do other areas of law come into this elective?

You use a variety of skills in this seat. Drafting plays a key role, as does finance within Film Finance work.

What kind of projects have you been working on so far? Do you tend to take on short-term tasks or work on longer-term projects?

I enjoyed getting involved in all areas of Media and Sport. During my time in the seat, I predominantly worked on a number of short-term tasks at any one time.

Does your training put you in direct contact with clients?

There is a good level of client contact in this seat. For example, I attended several meetings where security documents were signed by production company clients.

How does this seat compare with others you have completed?

The only other seat I have completed so far during my Training Contract has been Corporate. Media and Sport is less transactional in nature and the fact you work for many different partners means the variety of work is far greater.

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