Ian Gunn is a 2L in the sports law certificate program at Tulane University Law School, the incoming Editor in Chief of The Sports Lawyers Journal, and the current Social Media Coordinator for the Tulane Sports Law Society. So, basically… he’s an over-achiever. Somehow he even found time in his busy schedule to write a post with his thoughts on being in the sports law certificate program at Tulane in response to my post from Tuesday about whether you should choose a law school based on it having a sports law certificate program.
I give the floor to Ian…
Guest author: Ian Gunn
While a law school having a sports law certificate for specialization might be a nice thing to hang your hat on, it may not be the best reason to choose to attend a law school. However, when a law school has an overarching sports law program, it should pique your interest more. Sports law certificates are great, and Tulane is proud to note that it is the first law school in the country to offer a sports law certificate. But the certificate is only a small part of the program.
As many individuals working in sports will testify, academic qualifications are not typically a primary hiring concern. People in sports frequently want to see how hard you work and how dedicated you are to learning and getting better, and often they prefer to know those things first hand, not just read about them in a cover letter or resume.
Understanding this, the benefits of a full-fledged sports law program like Tulane’s are several:
1. Networking, networking, networking: I really can’t stress this enough. Many people get jobs in the sports industry because someone they know trusts their abilities and either hires them personally or recommends them to a colleague in the sports industry. You can certainly network on your own, and you should. However, attending a law school with a sports law program makes it a lot easier to network by providing great networking opportunities.
For example at Tulane, we co-sponsor the Sports Lawyers Association Conference, the oldest and largest conference for sports lawyers in the country. Each year we send the most law students of any law school in the country to the conference, subsidized in part (and sometimes completely) by our law school. The SLAC is an excellent opportunity not just to learn, but also to connect with hundreds of sports lawyers from around the country. Tulane students can attend the conference at a highly discounted rate which makes attending a lot easier. Another networking opportunity is our speaker series, which brings professionals from a variety of sports jobs to speak to and connect with our students in a much more personal setting. Some of our speakers this year included NFL Network’s Rich Eisen, Los Angeles Kings’ GM Dean Lombardi, NFL Labor Counsel David Gardi, and SmithAmundsen sports law partner Tim Epstein.
Another great networking opportunity sports law programs have is hosting a sports law competition. At Tulane, we host the National Baseball Arbitration Competition, that provides Tulane students with the opportunity to bailiff for and connect on a one-to-one basis with professionals in the sports industry such as Arizona Diamondbacks General Counsel Nona Lee, former MLBPA General Counsel Doyle Pryor, and ESPN writer Jerry Crasnick. Fordham and Thomas Jefferson law schools, among others, host sports law competitions as well.
2. Alumni connections: Sports law programs often have a broad base of successful alumni in the sports industry who are willing to help students, which is a great resource not only for networking but also for learning about the industry and how to succeed. We provide alumni profiles of some of our alumni on our website, host a Tulane alumni reception at the SLAC, and bring back alumni to speak and guest lecture in classes. In the past year many alumni have come back to speak or guest lecture at Tulane including Philadelphia Eagles General Counsel Aileen Daly, MLB agent Marc Kligman, NFL International Commercial Director Marc Reeves, and NCAA Associate Director of Enforcement Renee Gomila. From sports professionals who have been where we want to go, we learn valuable information about our future career path and continue to network with successful sports law professionals.
3. Resume builders: It’s not just about how many sports law courses you take, it’s also about what you can show potential employers in a cover letter (as Kristi covers every Wednesday!) or resume that you’ve actually done. A full-fledged sports law program offers opportunities for sports law writing and research that you can’t get elsewhere. At Tulane, students can write and edit for The Sports Lawyers Journal, the most widely published sports legal journal in the country. They can also write and edit for The Sports Law Weekly, The Sports Lawyer, and the Tulane Sports Law Blog. Additionally, students have the opportunity to do research for Professor Gabe Feldman, research for the National Basketball Retired Players Association (through Tulane’s partnership with the NBRPA), gain experience on the Sports Law Society board, and work on sports law projects like our NCAA Symposium, the National Baseball Arbitration Competition, and our Super Bowl Week we hosted when the Super Bowl was in New Orleans. In other words, a sports law program offers resume-building and learning experiences that may not be as easily available at other schools.
4. Real jobs and opportunities: this is typically rarer, but prestigious programs are sometimes able to reach informal agreements with teams, firms, or other organizations to place students or to have openings exclusively offered to a program’s sports law students, before an opening is publicized to the general public.
5. Academics: while it’s true that taking a “sports law” class itself may not be as useful as an intellectual property or labor law class for a sports lawyer’s career, the background knowledge of, for example, Title IX issues and NCAA compliance might give a leg up to a graduating student going to work for an athletic department or compliance office. For those eschewing firm work for more specialized career paths, having a basic knowledge in niche sports law areas may be beneficial for interview conversations or for just starting a job with a shorter learning curve.