By: Jeremy M. Evans, Managing Attorney at California Sports Lawyer
In previous articles with Front Office Sports, we discussed “The Top Five Ways to Connect with People without Expectations,” then, the ways to build your brand and career in “Finding Your Way,” and finally the importance of learning from those who have come before us in “From Volunteer to the Front Office: Hard Work and Opportunity Determines Success.” In this article, we will discuss the top three things you must know to be an excellent sports and/or entertainment attorney.
1. RELATIONSHIPS, RELATIONSHIPS, RELATIONSHIPS, WHILE KNOWING YOUR CLIENT VERY WELL, WHICH GOES BACK TO RELATIONSHIPS
Everything in business starts with people. People and relationships matter because they can open and/or close a door or at least make things easier or difficult for you to accomplish. Think about a time you landed a job, a client, or were accepted into some organization or club. Almost certainly, a person or persons led you to that opportunity, guided you through the “application” process, and maybe even blessed that opportunity by vouching for you. Along the way in life and business, we have all had such experiences and would be wise to cherish relationships as a blessing. Be honorable, trustworthy, and consistent in all your relationships and business dealings. Your reputation will be either the beginning or the end of a relationship.
In good relationships, you know the person and/or organization you are serving. When providing a service, specifically legal services, you know the client and the area of law in which the client needs assistance. Knowing your client is about listening, following-up, and communicating. Communicating well means listening with your two ears and talking less with your one mouth. Knowing and communicating well with your client, colleagues, and friends means you understand their needs, the situation, the matter, the industry, the business players involved, where are able to navigate clearly, concisely, quickly, and with grace. If you can do the above, you will build excellent relationships that lead to more relationships. People will cherish their relationship with you. In other words, as a pastor once said, paraphrasing, be the person you would like be in a relationship with. It starts with you.
2. BE EXCELLENT AT WHAT YOU DO AND DO IT CONSISTENTLY
You may have the greatest ability to connect with others, but without the knowledge and dedication to finish the task your relationships with others will end very quickly. More specifically, you must perform, walk the walk, and deliver when called upon by your client or other peer, mentor, boss, etc. When you act, you must perform consistently and deliver consistent results. There are no guarantees in any business and claiming as much in the legal business is unethical and unreasonable. However, non-guarantees are never an excuse for subpar work, which is also unethical and a malpractice suit waiting to happen.
Being excellent requires that you love your work and want to achieve great results for your clients and yourself. Even if you do not love your work, having some personal pride in your work will go a long way. In the end, being consistently excellent is about knowing your client, the situation or matter, the industry, the business players involved, AND the law and/or applicable rules of engagement.
3. MASTER CONTRACTS, INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY, AND YOUR NEGOTIATION SKILLS
The sports and entertainment industry, from the legal viewpoint, is about drafting and negotiating contracts for clients, for individuals and companies alike, where there is always some aspect of intellectual property protection or licensing of some image or client image involved. Everyone may have his or her own nitch and/or interests, but the sports and entertainment industry is an artistic and athletic business that centers on contracts knowledge, familiarity, contract law, intellectual property (copyrights, trademarks, image valuation, patents, and licensing), which needs to be negotiated for the benefit for your client in the hope of a fair deal.
There are certainly other areas of law involved, specifically employment and labor law, constitutional (anti-trust), and some alternative dispute resolution skills, criminal and family law, and litigation, but again it depends on your specific interest, expertise, and client needs.
However, knowledge and experience is not something that is acted upon alone. You must be able to back-up your mastering of the law and legal skills with great relationships (knowing your client and the situation/matter/industry and the business players involved), while being consistently excellent at what you do. The sports and entertainment industry/industries are also about business development and meaningful-reciprocal-ethical referrals and introductions. People want to know you can be trusted. Building trust in your relationships are as much about maintaining them with care and listening as they are about growing them.
Be a giver of genuine opportunity and value. Be genuine. Be willing to accept success, learn from defeat, and have some faith.
About the author: Jeremy M. Evans is the Managing Attorney at California Sports Lawyer, representing sports and entertainment professionals in contract drafting, negotiations, licensing, and career growth. He provides legal advice and general counsel services for businesses, which includes development, contract drafting, review, negotiations, protection, and compliance. He is the Director of the Center for Sports Law & Policy at Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego, California, where he is an Adjunct Professor of Sports Law. Evans is an award-winning attorney and community leader. He can be reached at Jeremy@CSLlegal.com or via his website:www.CSLlegal.com.
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