Interview with Sports & Entertainment Attorney Darren Heitner

Darren Heitner is the Founder of HEITNER LEGAL and Founder/Chief Editor of Sports Agent Blog, a leading niche industry publication. He focuses on sports, entertainment, and intellectual property litigation and transactional work, and is the author of two editions of How to Play the Game: What Every Sports Attorney Needs to Know, published by the American Bar Association. He has been a guest on Outside the Lineson ESPN and has been a regular contributor to ESPN, Forbes, and other publications where he is able to comment on sports-related issues. Darren is also a contributing writer of An Athlete’s Guide to Agents, 5th Edition, and has authored many sports, entertainment and intellectual property-related Law Journal articles. Darren earned his Bachelor of Arts and Juris Doctor degree from the University of Florida.

Over the years, I’ve read multiple posts and articles written by Heitner. He has without a doubt informed, taught, and inspired many of those who aspire to work in sports as an attorney. Darren Heitner is one of the most respected in the sports agent/sports law profession. After keeping up with all that he has done over the years, it is clear that he will provide great insight to all aspiring and current sports attorneys. 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?

Heitner:  I never thought I would practice law. In fact, I started law school in 2007 at the University of Florida Levin College of Law with the belief that I would benefit from my studies in the pursuit of my ultimate dream – to be a sports agent and run my own sports agency. I had formed an agency immediately prior to beginning my law school studies and intended to put all my energy into growing the agency’s brand as well as its list of clientele. I focused on that for four years, including all three years of law school, forfeiting excellent opportunities to clerk at major law firms during the summer in favor of staying true to my goal of putting all my effort into the agency. That goal started to change after I sat for the Florida Bar examination. I returned home to Broward County and was presented with a unique opportunity to work at a small law firm that desperately desired to build a Sports Law division. They provided me the liberty to continue to work on my own sports agency as long as it did not interfere with my billing. If I was able to capture the minimum billable hours required (which I did with ease), I was then permitted to work on my agency as well as building a book of clientele for the firm. Ultimately, I decided that I preferred practicing law over attempting to grow a sports agency from scratch. I turned many of my competitors into clients, with them having a real appreciation for my knowledge and drive, and ability to represent their best interests. In turn, many of them have put their faith in me to also serve as counsel to their athlete clients, with full knowledge that I have no interest to compete against them as an agent.

 

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?

Heitner: I engage in this type of conversation with law students all the time. If you are searching for a “Sports Law job,” then you are doing it wrong. There are very few law firms that have a legit Sports Law division. Instead, many law firms have their particular expertise (i.e. Family Law, Intellectual Property or Criminal Law) and then become a go-to referral whenever Sports Law matters arise. I suggest to law school students that they figure out what disciplines interest them, figure out whether location is important in a job search and make sure to research potential employers to see if personalities match or clash. Become an experienced practitioner, first and foremost. And always be building your brand. Do whatever you can to network with those in the sports industry while also showing off your expertise in a particular part of the small sports business world. Writing has benefitted me tremendously and it could serve as a Launchpad for others as well.

 

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.)?

Heitner: I focused on intellectual property when I was in law school and have seen a boom in the number of IP issues that athletes are focused on in my roughly ten years of practice. I do not see IP protection and enforcement being curbed anytime soon, and the space probably has a lot of growth left with regard to athletes and entertainers. As a whole, the Sports Law industry is pretty small. The team and league work is primarily relegated to big law firms like Proskauer. The player and agent work is spread across a handful of practitioners, outside of the agencies that have their own internal counsel that handle the bulk of the matters that confront the agents and their clients. I think there is always growth and potential for entry when there are people who provide something that is not currently being offered and are able to differentiate themselves from the competition.

 

TASL: The role of “Sports Agent” is one of the most sought-after positions in the sports business world—would you say that it is a profession worth pursuing given the saturated market of sports agents, regulations and hurdles required by the NFLPA, and the nature of the profession (i.e., financial demands of the job, stigma surrounding agents, competition)?

Heitner: The sports agent profession is worth it to pursue to the extent that those pursuing a position in the crowded space are aware of the high barriers of entry and costs, the small likelihood of success, the low margins, the sleepless nights, the client stealing and the non-stop travel. You must really be passionate about being a sports agent and be willing to sacrifice quite a lot in order to have success. I also believe that you must dedicate yourself to the profession and not split time between it and other practice areas if you truly wish to carve out a meaningful position for yourself in the industry. Sports agency is perceived to be a glamorous profession, but in reality it is far from the case. Truly study the profession, speak to people currently in the space (both at the top and those struggling to make it), soak up as much information about being a sports agent and try to get some practical experience before jumping head first into the deep end.

 

TASL: Last question, if you could give one piece of advice to those that aspire to find a career in sports law and have an impact in sports law like you have had, what would it be?

Heitner: You simply cannot fear rejection nor be dissuaded by others. Keep your head down, strive to be the absolute best and allow the job to consume you while also never forgetting to enjoy your life.

 

To read more about Darren Heitner and his takes on sports law, follow him on twitter @DarrenHeitner or check out his websites, Heitner Legal (http://heitnerlegal.com) and Sports Agent Blog (http://sportsagentblog.com).

Thank you for reading and God Bless!

– Interview and Information compiled by Dale Hutcherson; questions answered by Darren Heitner.

Interview with Family Man/Sports Executive/Keynote Speaker/Humanitarian David Meltzer

As I go further into my journey to find a place in the sports law world, I have had the opportunity to network and research many great sports law professionals. This has led to finding interesting and role model-type people to model my journey after. One of those people that is extremely influential on aspiring attorneys and business professionals is David Meltzer.

David Meltzer is as versatile a person as you will find in the sports industry. He is the CEO of Sports 1 Marketing, a Forbes “Top 10 Keynote Speaker,” a national best-selling author, humanitarian, life coach, and most importantly, a family man.

Meltzer, like several successful people in the sports law world, received his Juris Doctorate Degree from Tulane University Law School. He also has over 25 years of experience as an entrepreneur and executive in the legal, technology, sports, and entertainment fields.

As far as Sports 1 Marketing goes, he is the co-founder along with Hall of Fame Quarterback Warren Moon. With Sports 1 Marketing, Meltzer has grown his clients’ marketing and endorsement potential and represented clients in many different sports. Some of his projects with Sports 1 Marketing have included the NFL Player’s Association, Pro Football Hall of Fame, Super Bowl, and The Master’s, just to name a few.

David began his career in sports with Leigh Steinberg Sports & Entertainment (Jerry Maguire is based off of Steinberg) where he helped in negotiating over $2 billion in sports and entertainment contracts. Meltzer is also a media personality with many national publications including Forbes and ESPN. As far as his humanitarian work, David was recognized for his efforts and honored at Variety’s Unite4:Humanity event as the Sports Humanitarian of the year.

Outside of the sports industry, he is known as a successful entrepreneur, best-selling author (books include: Connected to Goodness, and Compassionate Capitalism: A Journey to the Soul of Business), and life coach. On top of all of that, David is a family man with his wife and four children.

A friend I met at Oregon’s Sports Law Institute told me all about David, and I knew I had to secure an interview with him for The Aspiring Sports Lawyer Blog. I hope you enjoy and can take away valuable, meaningful, and motivational advice from one of the leading executives in the industry:

 

TASL: Could you explain your journey as far as getting into the sports law world and how you went about working your way into your profession?

Meltzer: While I was in undergrad at Occidental College, I visited my brother in med-school at UCLA. I quickly realized I did not want to be a doctor so I went to Law School instead. I got my law degree from Tulane University and then got a job in the technology industry. Westlaw, the newest division (at the time) of West Publishing, the world’s largest legal publisher, had an opportunity for me to sell legal resources on the Internet. I was with Westlaw for seven years where I became the Sales Director before leaving for Everypath, eventually meeting the CEO of Samsung. I was hired as the CEO of Samsung’s PC-E Phone Cyberbank Division, which would eventually become the world’s first smartphone. I chose to semi-retire and leave the company to become an entrepreneur at only 35 years old. I was rich and became a venture capitalist, creating my own businesses, buying tons of real estate, and invested in new businesses. I eventually went bankrupt and was forced to start over. I was connected with Leigh Steinberg to complete a simple one-time contract but ended up getting hired as the COO of his famous sports agency. I had always secretly dreamed of being a sports agent so this was my chance to at least get close to living that dream. My first day, I stepped into my new office that was between Leigh and Hall of Fame Quarterback, Warren Moon. Warren and I ran Leigh’s business for him as he was in and out of rehab throughout my time there. I was eventually promoted to CEO and ran the whole operation. Warren and I knew we were enabling Leigh and needed to get out which is when we left and started Sports 1 Marketing in 2010. We were profitable within the first month of business and have only continued to grow until today.

TASL: You are clearly well-rounded in many different areas including the business, legal, marketing, and public speaking/writing realms. How has getting your J.D. helped you in accomplishing all that you have done?

Meltzer: Getting my J.D. forced me to hone my critical thinking skills, which are critical to success in any arena. Being able to understand and effectively communicate different frames or viewpoints can help you in any industry. I also think my understanding of contracts has been very beneficial to the businesses that I operate.

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?

Meltzer: I like to have people take a good look at their friends and associates, because your friends are your future. If you want to be a sports lawyer, start associating with individuals who are (or have been) sports lawyers. Find out where they hang out or what charities they work with, and then seek them out. Don’t be afraid to ask someone if they will mentor you and share the knowledge that they have gained throughout their careers. They have already paid a “dummy tax” and you can avoid it yourself by being more interested than interesting.

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 professional sports team or sports agency?

Meltzer: It is a pretty hackneyed piece of advice to tell people “make sure you stand out from the crowd”, but I think it is really applicable to the sports industry. Especially true in entry-level positions in sports organizations, you are going to need to be recognized as someone who brings unique assets to the team if you want to advance. At Sports 1 Marketing, we are looking for employees who stand out in four specific areas. Those are gratitude, empathy, accountability, and effective communication. If you can use the principles that set you apart to get your foot in the door and stay there, you are going to be ahead of the game.

TASL: It is clear that you are a professional that wears many hats—especially considering you are a keynote speaker, life coach, CEO, humanitarian—what is your favorite position that you hold and why?

Meltzer: I’m going to cheat and say two related positions: teacher and student. I really relish having a bunch of young people in the office with whom I can share the situational knowledge I’ve gained throughout my career. I say a prayer every day asking for ten people to be put in front of me to help and I think teaching is a big part of that. The flip side of the coin, of course, is being a student. I advise everyone to have at least three mentors to learn from and I’ve got some great ones, including Hall of Famers, best-selling authors, and business tycoons. I try as much as I possibly can from people, especially if they have some mastered some skill that I need help with.

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 make an impact in sports law like you have, what would it be?

Meltzer: Get inspired. If you really want to do something, being inspired to accomplish it and remaining connected to that inspiration can and will make a difference.

 

To read more about David Meltzer and his many positions and accomplishments, check out his bio here: http://www.meltzermission.com/david-meltzer-bio/. Also, give him a follow on twitter for motivation, advice, and his take on sports and the sports industry @davidmeltzer.

Sports 1 Marketing website: https://sports1marketing.com.

Also, here is a good video on YouTube with David Meltzer that will provide some motivation and insight into his perspective and philosophy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9YgyBfBfqHo.

Thank you for reading and God Bless!

“Get inspired. If you really want to do something, being inspired to accomplish it and remaining connected to that inspiration can and will make a difference.” – David Meltzer

– Interview and Information compiled by Dale Hutcherson; Interview coordinated by Bradley Hartman; Questions answered by David Meltzer.

Interview with ESPN Legal Analyst/Law Professor/Sports Attorney Andrew Brandt

During my time in Oregon at the Law School Summer Sports Institute, I had the opportunity to listen to a panel which included ESPN Business and Legal Analyst, Andrew Brandt. He told a little bit about his background and journey in sports law and provided commentary on sports law topics including gaming in sports (i.e. fantasy sports) and the relationship between teams and agents in the NFL.

Andrew Brandt is the legal and business analyst for ESPN and is a law professor at Villanova Law School where he is the director of the Jeffrey S. Moorad Center for the Study of Sports Law. With ESPN Brandt analyzes business, legal, and policy sports issues on popular shows such as “Sportscenter”, “NFL Live”, and “Outside the Lines”. He is also a featured columnist for The MMQB (Sports Illustrated), ESPN.com, Forbes, The Huffington Post, and more.

Before becoming a legal analyst for ESPN, Brandt spent nine years with the Green Bay Packers as their Vice President where he negotiated player contracts and managed the team’s salary cap. Early on, Brandt worked for ProServ, Inc. and Woolf Associates representing athletes such as Michael Jordan, Matt Hasselbeck, Adam Vinatieri, and Ricky Williams to name a few. He also served as the youngest general manager in sports at the time (1991) for the NFL World League’s Barcelona Dragons.

After hearing him speak on the panel, 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: Will you give a little background as to your path and the way in which you found a career in sports as an attorney and how you ended up becoming a legal/business analyst for ESPN?

Brandt: I went to Stanford and then back to Washington DC where I am from and Georgetown Law School.  While in law school I was able to intern for ProServ, a sports management firm.  I started there in tennis but soon moved to Team Sports representation, working with NBA superagent David Falk.  There I was able to develop a football practice, which led to me switching from the labor (players) side to the management (teams, owners) side twice: first to become the general manager of the Barcelona Dragons of the NFL’s World League, and later, after another time as an agent, to the GB Packers as vice president and general counsel.  Since leaving the Packers, I wanted to do something different with my career and have tried to fill a void as an experienced and informed media analyst on legal and business issues in sports, as well as bringing a practical model on sports study to academia.

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?

Brandt: Find a passion in the sports industry, something you would do with no regard for salary or time commitment.  Be able to communicate well and write something every day.  When talking to a future employer, make sure the passion comes out and always provide a writing sample of something you are proud of.

TASL: You have worked in the NFL on both sides of contract negotiations and bring a unique perspective to those that are wanting to get into sports law either on the agent side or the side of the team. What is the most significant difference between the two jobs? Also, how did you manage to balance the interests of the team and the player and come to an agreement that pleased both sides?

Brandt: An agent is like a fantasy football owner: rooting for certain players to do well, regardless of team affiliation.  A team executive has to worry about precedent with every deal, knowing all players (and agents) are watching.  Being a former agent was invaluable experience to working for a team, as I knew how the other side thought.  The key to negotiations is to put yourself in the other side’s shoes.

TASL: Now for some sports law questions—Could you comment on the relationship between players and the teams they play for and also the relationship between the NFLPA and the league office/commissioner?

Brandt: Obviously this relationship has been marked by a lack of trust, since the time even before the 2011 CBA.  Leadership does not appear to trust or even like each other, and NFLPA leadership was and is intent on not being “chummy” as was the previous leader with NFL Commissioner Tagliabue.  This instills some lack of trust between players and teams, although that is more of an individual thing, often influenced by that player’s contract negotiation and business dealings with the team.

TASL: Do you see the NFL moving away from or reforming their Collective Bargaining Agreement where the commissioner is the “judge, jury, and executioner” of all disciplinary functions?

Brandt: The NFL just won two Circuit Court decisions affirming that power (Brady, Peterson) so has the leverage in this area.  If the NFLPA chooses to make it an issue in the next round of bargaining, they will obviously have to give up something, and I am not sure what there is to give.  This area gets a lot of attention and a lot of legal resources but not really a high priority for either side.

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?

Brandt: Find a way to separate yourself from the pack, whether through developing a special skill, coming up with a new way of looking at things, being able to communicate or write better than others, or something else.  Realizing so many people want to get into sports, see if there is a path for you that is not the one everyone else is looking at.  Keep trying to meet people with invading their time.  And, of course, be yourself and let your light shine.

To read more about Andrew Brandt and his take on issues in the sports world and his legal analysis, follow him on twitter @AndrewBrandt.

Thank you for reading and God Bless!

“Realizing so many people want to get into sports, see if there is a path for you that is not the one everyone else is looking at.” – Andrew Brandt

– Interview and Information compiled by Dale Hutcherson; questions answered by Andrew Brandt.