Interview with Sports Law Pro/Writer/Professor Daniel Werly

There are many useful and interesting resources in the sports law world for keeping up with up-to-date news stories in sports law. One of the most valuable and versatile blogs I have come across is The White Bronco. It is useful and provides a wide range of information from articles concerning current sports law topics to legal documents from cases to a section that lists career opportunities in the sports law field. After reading through the blog regularly, I knew I had to find out more about the man behind the website—Daniel Werly—and I was not surprised to find out just how accomplished he is.

Werly, a Georgetown Law graduate, is a seasoned sports law pro who has significant experience in complex civil litigation with top rated sports practice groups. He also has experience working with professional teams, athletes, universities, and leagues. Outside of managing The White Bronco, Dan is now a partner at the Nashville based sports law firm Sievert Werly and contributes to several national media outlets. Dan has also been quoted as a sports law expert in media publications including USA Today, ESPN, Bleacher Report, Fox Business, among others. Additionally, he co-hosts his own sports law podcast, Conduct Detrimental, which can be found on The White Bronco and iTunes (Link: http://thewhitebronco.com/conduct-detrimental-podcast/).

On top of his work as a sports law professional and skilled writer, Werly also involves himself with the academic side of the law by teaching Arbitration at Charleston School of Law. The most recent of his accomplishments includes being named the Vice Chair of the American Bar Association’s Sports Division.

I knew Mr. Werly would be a great resource for advice for those of us looking to have a career in the sports industry. After visiting his website and reading much of his work, I had to ask him to do an interview for The Aspiring Sports Lawyer (“TASL”) 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?

Werly:  Like many, my journey into sports law – particularly my current position – is somewhat roundabout and unique.  I always knew that I wanted to work in sports but the law side did not come into the equation until I took a few business legal classes while in undergrad at Miami University, which put the idea of law school into my head for the first time.

Fast forward a couple years to my 2L year Georgetown for law school where I was fortunate to receive an offer to be a summer associate at the law firm Drinker Biddle & Reath in Chicago.  I ended up working at DBR that summer and post graduation.  I knew I wanted to work in sports, but the idea of locking up a large law firm position – even where there wasn’t much sports work available — was too hard to pass up at the time.  Even though I was not practicing sports at DBR, I was constantly writing and keeping up with the sports law community.  The desire to work in sports never subsided and I kept my eyes open for opportunities in the sports law world.

Fortunately, a couple of years later I received an opportunity to join the Chicago office of Foley & Lardner LLP, a law firm with an established and high profile sports practice.  While at Foley I practiced part time as a commercial litigator and part time in the sports law group.

When my wife was offered her dream job as a psychologist in the US Army, which caused us to move to Augusta, GA, I tried to do the most with the opportunity, and brief hiatus from practicing law, to launch a sports legal website and teach.  When we relocated to Nashville a few months ago, my friend and fellow sports lawyer Justin Sievert and I opened Sievert Werly LLC, a law firm dedicated to working with clients in the sports industry.

 

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?

Werly: Everyone has a different path into sports law.  I am sure everyone reading this is well aware, but it is an extremely competitive field and not easy to break into — especially right out of law school.  That said, I believe that those who are really passionate about practicing at the intersection of sports and law almost always end up there (be patient!!).

I think there are two big aspects of getting a sports law job that students and young lawyers should focus on.  First, master your craft and always do great work.  This might mean taking a job outside of sports to get the experience needed for the next step.  Make sure that you are doing nothing short of your best, even if is not your dream job.  Think of it as training for that sports job.  Also, you never know who is watching.

Second, network network network.  Get to know sports lawyers in your area and go to the big sports law conferences (I would recommend the Sports Lawyers Association annual conference in May and the ABA Entertainment and Sports Annual meeting in October).  Also, research how to network well: have a plan at events/conferences, keep in touch with people who you have reached out to, and see if there are ways for you to add value – and demonstrate your proficiencies – for those in the industry that you connect with.

 

TASL: Given your extensive knowledge in the field, what do you think employers are looking for most in a candidate for an internship/externship/entry-level position with a sports group at a civil litigation firm, professional sports team, or sports agency?

Werly: I think the biggest things employers are looking for are a passion for the industry and a demonstrated competency for the work to be done.

Look at your resume and ask yourself: does this demonstrate that I am passionate about the legal issues impacting the organization I am applying to and am going to do everything in my power to master those issues?  If not, find ways to change that.

Regarding demonstrated competency, the bottom line is that organizations have a bottom line.  They want someone who can come in and make their jobs easier.  Make your boss’s job easier and he/she will love you for it.

 

TASL: You manage The White Bronco and follow virtually every case/story happening in sports law, write for numerous media publications, work at a law firm, and even teach a law class. Most recently you were named the Vice Chair of the ABA’s sports division. How do you manage to find time for all of this? And what is your favorite position you hold and why?

Werly: Honestly, I love what I do which makes it a lot easier.  When things pick up with one role, sometimes I have less time to dedicate to another so it is a balance.  I am not teaching right now which frees up a good chunk of time!

 

TASL: What motivated you to start The White Bronco? What do you see as the blog’s purpose within the sports law community?

Werly:  It is actually my second stab at a sports legal blog.  Sometime around 2012 I started a website called SportsLaw101, which was part of a larger sports network.  I had to eventually give that up after I did not have the necessary time to dedicate to it.

However, the idea for a sports legal website never really left my head and I found myself always brainstorming how I could make something better.  When I left Foley in late 2015 for my wife’s job, I had a lot more free time for web design and content for the site.

I would like to think that the White Bronco holds a unique place in the sports law world.  There are many other fantastic sports legal blogs, but we have a few features – such as PDFs of case documents/contracts and job boards – that are unique to the space.  I have always tried to have fun with it (hence the name) while still providing useful legal commentary.

 

TASL: What do you see as the most useful class or classes that aspiring sports attorneys can take while in law school to prepare for a career in the sports industry? Any other tips for preparing for that type of career?

Werly: I always recommend any practical classes such as contract drafting or trial advocacy.  Even if those classes are not dedicated to sports, the soft skills will help you more than another traditional case law based class.  I would also highly recommend trying to gain as many real world experiences via internships or clinics as possible.  I am less of a fan of spending your time working on a law journal but some employers do value that experience.

 

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?

Werly: I mentioned a few earlier.  Here is one more: Keep up with theaspiringsportslawyer.com!

 

To read more about Daniel Werly and his take on sports law issues, follow him on Twitter (@WerlySportsLaw) or follow The White Bronco (@TheWhiteBronc). Also, be sure to check out his sports law website/blog, The White Bronco à Link: http://thewhitebronco.com.

I hope this interview provides good advice and insight into the sports law industry. All feedback is appreciated and please give it a share!

Thank you for reading and God Bless!

– Interview and Information compiled by Dale Hutcherson; questions answered by Daniel Werly.

 

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