I recently had the opportunity to sit in on Michael McCann’s sports law class concerning Sports Scandals at the University of Oregon School of Law Summer Sports Institute.
Michael McCann is a legal analyst and writer for Sports Illustrated and he is a law professor at the University of New Hampshire School of Law where he founded their Sports and Entertainment Law Institute. He received his JD from the University of Virginia School of Law and his LLM from Harvard Law School. As far as his work as a sports attorney, McCann served as counsel for Maurice Clarett in the 2004 case, Clarett v. National Football League, which dealt with the NFL’s age eligibility rule. With SI, he has analyzed and written about sports law topics concerning Peyton Manning’s HGH allegations, arbitration issues in the NFL, NHL, and other sports leagues, “Deflategate” in New England, and many other interesting/stimulating topics in sports. To see some of his work with Sports Illustrated, check out this link: http://www.si.com/author/michael-mccann
After sitting in his class, I knew I had to secure an interview with him for The Aspiring Sports Lawyer (“TASL”) blog and he graciously agreed. Below is the interview:
TASL: Could you explain your journey as far as getting into the sports law world and how you went about working your way into this type of legal profession?
McCann: When I was a 3L at UVA Law in 2002, I published a note in the Virginia Sports and Entertainment Law Journal on the legality of age restrictions and high school players entering the NBA. A couple of years after I graduated from law school, a college football player named Maurice Clarett sued the NFL over its age eligibility rule. I got in touch with Clarett’s attorney, Alan Milstein, and let him know what I wrote. I then joined Clarett’s legal team. It was a great experience, even though we did not win the case. I tell my students my entrance into sports law was through writing on a timely topic.
TASL: What advice would you give aspiring sports lawyers that are in law school now and looking to find a job in the sports law world? What should they be doing now and what steps would you recommend they take both immediately and in the future?
McCann: It depends on what area of sports law you want to go into, but if you want to pursue sports litigation, my advice is to become a great attorney first. Sports law is like any other area of law: the best attorneys in the field are really outstanding attorneys. They are highly skilled, knowledgeable and hard working.
TASL: Where do you see the sports law industry going in the future? Is it a growing field or do you think it has leveled out? Are athletes, teams, and other sports actors in need of one particular type of law expertise over another (i.e. antitrust law, labor law, intellectual property law, etc.)?
McCann: I think sports law will continue to grow. Sports is a growth industry and thus more and different types of legal disputes will arise. Intellectual property, antitrust and labor law are all key areas of sports law.
TASL: Could you comment on arbitration within sports leagues like the NHL and the issues that come along with third party arbitrators versus arbitrators chosen by the league administration?
McCann: I think we’ve seen in sports and in other industries that neutral arbitration is a better format for dispute resolution than the same person being the fact-finder, punisher and arbitrator. Neutral arbitration is more credible and thus less likely to lead to doubts about completeness, accuracy and objectivity.
TASL: Last question, if you could give one piece of advice to those of us that aspire to find a career in sports law and have an impact in sports law like you have had, what would it be?
McCann: Many law students hope they will be hired into a sports law job right out of law school. The reality is that legal jobs in pro sports almost always go to attorneys who have several years of experience and who have already developed reputations for excellence in the practice of law. If you want to become an attorney for a pro team or litigate on behalf of leagues or players’ associations, my advice is to gain skills while in law school related to the practice of law (especially in areas related to sports, including most obviously sports law but also IP, antitrust, labor and business transactions) and then hone those skills as a practicing attorney. They could be honed at a law firm, or as a prosecutor or a public defender, or at a company. But become a great lawyer and then breaking into sports becomes a much more accessible path.
To read more about Michael McCann and to read his take on sports scandals and the legal side of current issues in sports, follow him on twitter @McCannSportsLaw.
Thank you for reading and God Bless!
“Become a great lawyer and then breaking into sports becomes a much more accessible path.” – Michael McCann
– Interview and Information compiled by Dale Hutcherson; questions answered by Michael McCann.