in Careers Advice, Legal Profession, Training Contracts, Pupillage and Work Experience

What does a Sports Lawyer do?

I want to do Sports Law in a solicitors firm

We get a number of enquiries from students and graduates which go something like: “Hello, I want to be a sports lawyer, have you got anything?” or “hi – I’ve done a bit of family law but find it boring. I want to be a sports lawyer – can you help me find a job?”

If you haven’t got time to read the whole article, here is my answer: “no – and do you even know what a sports lawyer does?”

What does a Sports Lawyer do?

Here is the stereotypical view of a sports lawyer. I seem to recall Tom Cruise played one many years ago in an American Football movie. A sports lawyer spends their time travelling around sporting venues watching high profile sports, meeting celebrities, negotiating contracts, advising sporting celebrities and generally being around sport. A lot of people immediately think of footballers and slaver over the idea of hanging around Old Trafford or the Emirates speaking to Wayne Rooney or Arsene Wenger.

This is all complete rubbish, although I would love it if a solicitor who practises sports law contacts me after reading this article to tell me he or she does all of the above.

What is particularly relevant about people wanting to be sports lawyers is that they view the work as exciting and not boring. That is because it includes the word “sports”. However you can virtually swap the word “sports” for “commercial contracts” when you talk about sports lawyers.

Commercial Contracts Lawyers

Sports lawyers are in actual fact commercial contracts lawyers. Commercial contracts lawyers do what they say on the tin – they review and draft commercial contracts. Commercial contracts are not very interesting. They are long, monotonous and rather tedious documents full of long words, paragraphs that never end and unintended consequences.

If you want to be a solicitor dealing with sports law, this is what you are going to be spending your time dealing with.

Commercial contracts. Not sports law.

In fact, apart from the occasional complimentary ticket you may pick up from a client, you are not likely to see or be part of any sporting action.

Another fact is quite clear as well – you don’t actually know what it is a solicitor does. All you know is that “sports law” sounds exciting, and “commercial law” sounds very droll.

Commercial law is where its at.

The more boring the job title sounds, the better paid the job

Don’t believe me? Speak to a tax or pensions solicitor.

If you want to be a sports lawyer and have your mind set on it, you need to be aiming to work at a solicitors firm where they do a good amount of work on behalf of blue chip company clients. This means the likes of Eversheds or Allen & Overy. This means you need the following:

  1. A very good law degree from a respected university.
  2. Good A Levels.
  3. Something else – usually a broad mix of extra curricular activities.

Sports Law? Me? Oh no – I would much prefer to do Commercial Law

Do not mention Sports Law at any time during the recruitment process or whilst you work there. Bide your time, qualify as a solicitor and then angle your career in that direction. Most solicitors firms seem to only have a couple of fee earners (a fee earner is defined as someone who generates fee income on behalf of a law firm – usually a solicitor, legal executive or paralegal) in their sports law departments. This means that you narrow your career options down considerably if you angle yourself in that direction at an early stage. Employers do not like this. I made the mistake many years ago during an interview at a general practice firm of talking about criminal law too much when the firm were actually looking for a trainee solicitor interested primarily in commercial law. I fitted the bill perfectly but thought criminal law sounded more exciting and a better career path. How wrong I was..

Jonathan Fagan is Managing Director of TP Legal Recruitment. You can contact Jonathan by email at cv@ten-percent.co.uk

Jonathan Fagan

Jonathan Fagan LLM FIRP is Managing Director of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment. He has been recruiting solicitors and legal support staff for law firms and in house legal departments for over 17 years and handles roles from junior fee earners through to partners and law firm sales/purchases. A non-practising solicitor on the Roll since 2000, he is also the author of a number of legal career books, which are available at www.legalcareercoaching.co.uk. You can contact Jonathan at cv@ten-percent.co.uk