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Mailbag: How do I transition from attorney to sports?

gavelHere’s an example of an email I receive quite often from a professional who wants to break into sports. As I tell him in my response, if I had a dollar for every attorney, accountant or other professional who emailed me looking to break into sports, I could probably afford to retire.

Hello Kristi,

I’m an attorney practicing corporate tax law in [City}. Sounds fun, right? Well, I am hoping to change positions and break into the sports business. After following you on Twitter and reading up on your career, I’m confident your advice would be helpful.

I started off as a sports management major in college and then made the debatable plunge to attend law school. I took several corporate and tax law courses and now work for a major accounting firm. While the work is challenging, my true passion always has been sports. I’m a diehard [MLB team] fan and can remember when the bleacher seats were only $6. I’m also obsessive about [University of X] football and the [NHL Team].

I’m looking for a position with either a professional sports team or sports consulting. I know that my background would help teams with things such as contracts and business opportunities. I also know that my love for sports would make my end product high quality.

I am impressed by the career you’ve had. You’re also a lawyer, and I was hoping you could give me some tips on breaking into the sports industry. A quick email with advice would be great, but if you’re available for a call I’d like to chat. Please let me know if this works for you. Thanks!

– John Doe

And here’s my answer…

John,

Unfortunately, it’s incredibly rare for someone to break into sports anywhere other than in entry-level positions if they don’t have previous experience working in sports. If I had a dollar for every attorney, accountant or other professional who emailed me looking to break into sports, I could probably afford to retire. I know it seems like you’d have a unique skill set that maybe those working in sports from the bottom up don’t have… but it’s incredibly rare for sports teams/leagues/organizations to hire from the outside. The only exception is when they hire from firms they work with on a regular basis. It’s not as uncommon to see them hire an attorney or other professional from a firm or company they do business with, but I haven’t really met anyone who made it in at a high level any other way. Not to mention, these jobs generally pay less in sports than they pay in the rest of the professional world.

The best thing you can do is to get some experience with a team and make connections. I can try to give more advice if you tell me the position you’re targeting within a team.

I’m sorry I can’t give you a more optimistic outlook!

Thanks,
Kristi

After receiving this email, I asked on Twitter if anyone who followed me entered into a mid-level or executive position in sports from a career outside of sports. No one replied. That’s not to say there aren’t a few people out there who have managed to do it, but I believe it’s incredibly rare, with the exception of people who do work for the team through an outside firm or company and are then asked to come in-house. Even that doesn’t happen every day.

If you entered sports in a mid-level or executive position, I’d love to hear from you!

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