From Volunteer to the Front Office: Hard Work and Opportunity Determines Success

By: Jeremy M. Evans, Esq., @JeremyMEvansESQ

Managing Attorney at California Sports Lawyer

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Many times those trying to get into the sports and entertainment industry will ask professionals in the industry how the person got their job, their client(s), and how to become and to remain successful. These important questions must be asked. Sadly, sometimes even getting to a point to ask the question, receiving a response, and getting good advice is a difficult task.

This article will show what those who have come before us have done, the lessons learned from those lives, and what you can do to be successful in the sports and entertainment industry. 

How has it been done before?

First, it is important that we look to the past because as George Santayana once said, which was later paraphrased by Winston Churchill, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”     

“When Theo [Epstein] got the job [with the Boston Red Sox in 2002 as General Manager], his father gave him two words of advice: ‘Be bold,’ [President of the San Diego Padres Mike] Dee said.“ [Theo Epstein’s father] told him, don't look back in five years and say you should have been more aggressive.” Epstein commented later, “It was great advice.” (“Theo Epstein Erases Losing Traditions as Baseball's Miracle Worker,” Bleacher Report, Scott Miller, National MLB Columnist, http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2574851-theo-epstein-erases-losing-traditions-as-baseballs-miracle-worker.) 

Super-Agent Leigh Steinberg once told me a story about a young man that applied to his sports firm looking for work as an intern. Leigh was tops in the football sports agent business representing quarterbacks Steve Young, Warren Moon, Troy Aikman, and many more superstar athletes. Leigh said that the law student applied to his firm with a magazine. Only thing was, the magazine’s content was of the applicant. The applicant took the Sports Illustrated magazine for a base and added content of his accomplishments showing his worth to Leigh. Leigh hired him.   

Personally, my clients are my friends. My clients come from relationships. My clients, the opportunities, and successes I have had, have come from hard work, networking, in other words, and this may come as a surprise, but being genuine.  When people say “network,” what they really mean is: (1) go where the opportunities are; and (2) utilize, sincerely, the genuine friendships you have to grow your reputation and influence. 

This should come as no surprise. Leigh Steinberg’s first client was a college friend at Cal Berkeley. Baseball Super-Agent Scott Boras first represented players he met during his playing days and cut his teeth negotiating his own contracts as a minor leaguer. Football Agent Drew Rosenhaus represented many football players who attended the University of Miami, his undergraduate alma mater. The San Diego Padres Vice President and General Counsel Erik Greupner worked in finance on Wall Street before working for the law firm that helped secure the land deal for Petco Park. The Padres Ownership Group liked Erik so much that they hired him for their legal department. Baseball, football, and Olympic sports agent Barry Axelrod earned his bachelor’s and juris doctor degrees from the University of California, Los Angeles, where he spent more than five years working at a part-time job for the team physician, resulting in friendships with many athletes who moved on to pro careers. The rest is history.   

What are some lessons we can learn from those who have come before us?

1. Let us start with this gem: “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity,” Lucius Annaeus Seneca, aka, Seneca the Younger, or Seneca (4 BC – AD 65) Roman philosopher and statesman. 

Simplified, go to school and work where: (1) you want to live; (2) there are the most opportunities to work in sports; and (3) you have or would like to make genuine connections with those in the sports industry (note: your favorite place to live may not be the best place for sports, and vice-versa).  This plan of action applies to any industry, especially sports and entertainment, because athletes and entertainers keep tight circles for obvious reasons.  Remember that opportunity flows from genuine involvement and relationships. 

2. Get experience.  Figure out what you like and dislike before you decide what you like and dislike.  When I started law school, I wanted to be a district attorney. 

3. Do no recreate the wheel.  Go where the doors are opening and work hard.  Be bold and take risks.   

4. Think broadly.  Agents are the beginning, not the end.  Look at the sports industries that service athletes for opportunities: golf; helmet, surfing, and clothing companies; the NCAA; and legal work in contracts with law firms and as in-house counsel. 

What can you do now?

1. Get an education.  Better yet, attend an undergraduate institution and/or a law school where there is a major sports program with many talented athletes and national championships in the sports that you would like to represent those athletes.  Attend law school, but you do not necessarily need to become a bar-licensed attorney if you want to be an agent for reasons discussed in “Survival Guide for the High Profile Athlete” (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/survival-guide-high-profile-athlete-jeremy-m-evans?trk=mp-reader-card). Attend a law school with a sports program or Center.  Here is a list of some of those programs:

Center for Sports Law & Policy at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, Tulane University Law School, Fordham University School of Law, Villanova University School of Law, Marquette University Law School, University of New Hampshire Law School, University of Miami School of Law, and others. 

2. Serve in leadership roles with volunteer organizations and specifically sports organizations. Be service minded. 

3. Be genuine and network.

4. Work in internships. Get experience. 

Wishing you good luck and success!

About the author: Jeremy M. Evans is the Managing Attorney at California Sports Lawyer, representing sports and entertainment professionals in contract drafting, negotiations, licensing, and career growth. He provides legal advice and general counsel services for businesses, which includes development, contract drafting, review, negotiations, protection, and compliance. He is the Director of the Center for Sports Law & Policy at Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego, California, where he is also an Adjunct Professor of Sports Law. Evans is an award-winning attorney and community leader. He can be reached at Jeremy@CSLlegal.com or via his website: www.CSLlegal.com.

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