Interview with Sports Illustrated Writer/Law Professor/Sports Attorney Michael McCann

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.

Oregon Law Summer Sports Institute

In order to make dreams happen and come to fruition, steps have to be taken to gain knowledge, insight, and experience in the career or education field that is so desired. For me and my interest in sports law, one of the first major steps I have taken is attending the University of Oregon School of Law’s Sports Institute. It is a great program designed to teach many different aspects of the wide world of sports law including issues in scholastic, intercollegiate, and professional sports.

Oregon Law Summer Sports Institute

“The Oregon Law Summer Sports Institute’s comprehensive curriculum introduces aspiring sports lawyers to a broad range of legal topics relevant to the practice of sports law. The Institute features a unique mix of classes, lectures and career panels, each led by experts in their respective fields. During the rigorous five-week program, students immerse themselves in the wide world of sports law.” – Oregon Law Summer Sports Institute website (https://law.uoregon.edu/explore/OLSSI).

The Sports Institute is a strenuous five-week program that covers areas of law within sports including: interscholastic sports law, economics of sports, NCAA regulation, discrimination in sports (race issues, Title IX, etc.), NCAA realignment & reform, sports scandals, sports & labor law, sports & torts, sports & intellectual property, international sports law, sports & negotiation, gambling in sports, sports & antitrust law, and legal issues facing sports agents.

The program also brings in experts in each area of sports law covered to teach the classes. Professors include general counsel for teams, individual attorneys that have worked on landmark cases, sports economists that have served as expert witnesses during major trials, expert professors of sports law from across the country, attorneys/counsel for the NCAA and other governing bodies in sports, and attorneys from agencies in sports such as the Anti-Doping Agency.

The curriculum consists of reading case law and academic articles from each area of sports law covered, attending classes six days a week, attending discussions with panels of experts on each subject area, Title IX and NCAA realignment simulations & role playing situations, and mock contract negotiations. It is intense, but interesting and it greatly increases knowledge on critical issues facing sports and all the actors in sports today. To top it off, there is a cumulative exam at the end of the program and it provides 6 ABA approved credits that go towards your Juris Doctorate Degree.

In the midst of all the work, there is also time for fun. Eugene, Oregon is a unique place with many activities available to all who are there. The Sports Law program allows for its students to integrate with the Eugene community by providing opportunities to go to events such as the Olympic Trials for track & field, rafting on the McKenzie River, and friendly competitive sports between the students of the program. Eugene also has many hiking trails, great restaurants, and wine vineyards. On top of that, as part of the experience, all of the students enrolled in the program have the opportunity to go to the NIKE and Adidas headquarters in Portland.

Throughout the program, the most valuable aspect truly lies in its networking opportunities. There are opportunities to meet with those that have already made sports law their profession and they give great advice on career and legal topics. They also instill in the students the knowledge needed to gain an edge in pursuing a career in sports law. With that said, the other great networking opportunity lies in socializing and spending time with the other students in the program. All of the students are like-minded individuals that have many of the same goals, and through meeting them there are great discussions about relevant topics and friendships that are made. In making these friendships with my classmates, I know I will have great connections through them as we all advance in our careers.

All that said, the University of Oregon School of Law Sports Institute is a great experience for those interested in a career in sports law. It provides a great educational opportunity, beneficial discussions about important topics, networking opportunities, and fun. I would highly recommend a program like this to any aspiring sports attorneys.

My next articles will be about relevant topics in the sports world that many people have strong feelings about. I hope they will promote discussion and I look forward to seeing your thoughts.

Thank you for reading and God Bless!

“You take on the responsibility for making your dream a reality.” – Les Brown

– Dale Hutcherson

Pursuing a Dream…

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it takes to pursue a goal or dream and how to best set myself up for success. Passion, vision, commitment, having an open mind, serendipity, and allowing for God’s plan to play out are the things that come to mind when I think of how I want to pursue my dream.

Passion and Commitment

What is passion? Many people answer this question by saying that it is loving something deeply or that it is when they care about something more than anything else. While those interpretations are kind of right, I interpret “passion” a little differently.

Passion is actually a word derived from the Latin term, passio, which means “willingness to suffer” (i.e. Passion of Christ quite literally means the suffering of Christ or Christ’s willingness to suffer). So when you think of something you want or really care about, think about whether you are willing to suffer to some extent to achieve or pursue whatever it is you claim to be passionate about. In this case, my goal is a career in sports law (not an easy career to get into at all). However, after extensive thought, I have determined that this is a career that I truly want to pursue—and if that means putting in actual work, figuratively or literally getting my hands a little dirty, or suffering through hours of painstaking academic work or other types of work, I am more than willing to do it. Much like in any profession or sport, you cannot be good at something without paying some sort of price to truly achieve—typically, that price includes suffering to some extent. Without passion, there is no real willingness to suffer. Without willingness to suffer, one does not really have a true passion for something.

“Without passion, there is no real willingness to suffer. Without willingness to suffer, one does not really have a true passion for something.”

Throughout my life—due to the way I was raised—I have allowed myself to be motivated by all types of things from different sources. Of course, it’s easy to be motivated by the doubt of others or by your own desires, but I have also been motivated by little things—songs, movie quotes, movies, etc.

One movie quote in particular comes to mind when I think about passion. In the 2001 movie, Serendipity, Dean Kansky (played by Jeremy Piven), an obituary writer for the New York Times, was speaking with Jonathan Trager (played by John Cusack) in an effort to tell him he did the right thing after Trager cancelled his wedding in hopes of finding his true soul mate. What he said to him will forever be a quote I hear in my head in anything I ever decide to pursue throughout my life. He said, “You know the Greeks didn’t write obituaries. They only asked one question after a man died: ‘Did he have passion?’”

I can only hope that I pursue all of my goals—from my faith to my family to my career—with passion. Only then will I be able to say that I gave everything in order to achieve. If you live with passion, there’s usually nothing more that could have been done to achieve dreams, goals, and aspirations. One thing is for sure, if I do not pursue this dream career of working as a sports lawyer (agent, in-house counsel, or otherwise) with passion, then I simply don’t want it bad enough.

I recently had an opportunity to speak with an agent/attorney at CAA (Creative Artists Agency) in my efforts to gain some knowledge about the sports law career and what I needed to do in order to get closer to achieving my dream. He told me several useful and helpful things, but one that stuck out to me was that you cannot just “love” sports and have knowledge about athletes, statistics, and scores. Rather, he said that if I really wanted a shot in this industry, I need to be fully committed to the project—110% all in. This should come as no surprise; however, many people who believe that they want to get into this career tend to do it for the wrong reasons. They either believe that because they played sports growing up or because they are a super fan and know all types of statistics that they want to pursue a career in this field. Many also want to pursue it simply because they want a huge paycheck. However, there is so much more to it than that.

The fact of the matter is that, in many sports, there are more agents than players. It is a struggle and a grind to maintain business and reputation within the sports law world. It is also a very competitive area of work where many do not succeed. Therefore, if you decide to pursue a career in this field, much like what I am trying to do, you have to be ready for set-backs, grinding, and, of course, suffering.

Without real passion (and commitment), there is no way to achieve the goal of working in the sports world as an attorney.

However, that does not mean there is no hope. Fortunately, we all have the ability to do certain things like committing to the pursuit of something greater than ourselves or working hard to the point of suffering to achieve what we want.

As with most things in this life, there are no real shortcuts to achieve anything worthwhile, including careers. Poet Rudyard Kipling said it best when he wrote, “If you don’t get what you want, it is a sign either that you did not seriously want it, or that you tried to bargain over the price.” Here, there is no bargaining. Hard work, commitment, and passion must be present in order to achieve this goal.

To end this post, I want to share what my Torts professor told the 1L class at the end of my first year of law school. He gave us advice that should be obvious to so many, but that really never plays out in reality. Basically, he told us to not just pursue a law degree for the sake of getting a law degree. He advised that we should go for what we really want and what we are truly passionate about or else we will be miserable. As for me, whether this dream works out or not, I am choosing to take his advice and pursue this dream to the best of my ability with real passion and commitment.

So, ask yourself: “Do I have passion?” or “Am I living with passion?”

 

I hope this post provides some sort of motivation or sparks some sort of conversation among the readers. I also hope it is helpful for those, not only in sports law, pursuing a career or any other dream. Let me know what you think. All feedback is appreciated!

My next posts will be about vision, having an open mind in pursuing a career in sports law, and allowing for serendipity and God to work in your life. Please give those a read once I post them later. Also, I will be traveling to the University of Oregon by way of car in a week for their Sports Law Institute, where I hope to gain a greater understanding of sports law and hope to meet many other great people interested in the same career I am. Posts are sure to follow after that experience and I hope you will give them a read.

Thank you and God Bless.

“If you don’t get what you want, it is a sign either that you did not seriously want it, or that you tried to bargain over the price.” – Rudyard Kipling

– Dale Hutcherson