A question I get fairly frequently is from prospective law students wondering if they should go to a law school with a sports law program. So, I thought I’d dedicate a post to answering that question. I’ll also do another post on Thursday addressing some of the more general questions I get about choosing a law school.
For those who don’t know, I graduated from University of Florida Law. However, I did my first year of law school at Whittier Law School before transferring to UF. A little more on that in Thursday’s post, but the first thing I want to point out is that I did not go to a law school with a sports law program. In fact, I can’t say that I’ve used anything I learned in my Sports Law class in my profession. I took a Sports Law seminar, which mainly consisted of listening to other students present their papers. Also, I had a heart procedure (don’t worry, I’m all fixed up now) the semester I took Sports Law, so I missed quite a few classes. The bottom line is that I didn’t get where I am today because I focused on sports law in the classroom while in law school.
Despite not being part of a formal sports law program, I was involved in the sports and entertainment society we had at both schools, and I was part of a group that founded a sports law journal at UF (which, sadly, I think is now gone). I split my summer between 2L and 3L between a law firm in Atlanta and the WTA Tour, so I got some internship experience in sports.
My gut feeling is that you shouldn’t choose a law school solely based on it having a sports law program. First, not that many schools have certificates. Tulane and Marquette have long had certificate programs, and I believe Syracuse and Florida Coastal have newer programs.
Second, if you take a look at the curriculum for these certificates you’ll see that they’re largely made up of classes you could take at any law school, like Antitrust, Income Tax and Intellectual Property. Virtually every law school has a Sports Law course. The only thing you’ll find different in the certificate programs is a few additional sports law courses on more specific topics. Do those courses sound interesting? Absolutely. Does it mean you’ll get a job over someone at another law school who didn’t take them? No.
As an aside, someone asked me last week on Twitter what classes in law school have helped me the most when it comes to my work in sports now. I’d have to say Contracts and Antitrust Law, and sometimes Intellectual Property, Civ Pro and Con Law. I kept both my own outline and my commercial outline from Contracts, and I can tell you I still reference them several times a year. I’ve also turned to my Antitrust and Intellectual Property outlines a few times.
If I were looking at law schools and considering those with sports law certificates, the questions I would ask would be about the type of events they have that would offer me networking opportunities and the relationships they have with sports organizations that might help me find an internship. To me, those things would make up the true value of a sports law program. I’d also talk to current 3Ls who are getting the certificate. I’d ask them what sort of opportunities they’ve had to network, where they’ve interned and where they’re going to work after graduation.
I know wonderful professors at 3 of the 4 schools I mentioned with certificate programs. I’m not saying don’t go to those schools. I’m telling you to ask the right questions. I don’t think the course work alone is worth basing your decision on – but, if you can get answers from faculty and current students about networking and internships opportunities that sound like more than other law schools can offer, then I’d say to consider it.
I know you probably wanted me to give you a yes or no on whether you should go to a school with a sports law certificate, but I think the right thing for me to do is to simply advise you on how to ask the right questions to analyze the situation for yourself.
If you’re someone who is currently in a sports law certificate program, or has completed a sports law certificate, please leave a comment and let us know why you chose the program and how you feel about it now.
Check back Thursday for my more general advice on choosing a law school.
If you want to read my story of how I went from being a finance attorney to a sports business reporter at ESPN, check it out here.