By: Jay Stein, @JStein209
Front Office Sports is proud to have sat down with Scott Andresen, Owner and Attorney at Andresen & Associates. Mr. Andresen is a lifelong sports law professional, working with the NFL, Arena Football League and now running his own practice. His firm focuses its practice in the areas of sports law, entertainment and the arts, intellectual property, and other legal and non-legal areas. Mr. Andresen is also currently an instructor at Northwestern University’s Master of Arts in Sports Administration program. Mr. Andresen was more than happy to offer up his time and insights into his career working in sports law and the competitive sports law landscape and his suggestions to those beginning their journey to work in sports.
What was your journey like working in sports law and how you got to where you are today?
I went to law school with the intention of being an agent, but over the course of my One L year I realized it wasn’t how I wanted to make a living. I still wanted to be in the industry, so my focus went from representing players to representing the “business” side of sports (e.g., teams, leagues and conferences).
I sent a personalized cover letter and resume to every professional baseball, basketball, football, and hockey team in America. Sometimes it would take six or seven calls just to get a name to send my materials to since I was coming up in the Stone Age and the internet-based access to information simply wasn't what it is today.
Out of over 300 letters, I got a response from about half of the organizations that I contacted—most of them polite rejections. One MLB team actually sent me my cover letter and resume back to me saying they didn't ask for it and didn't want it. The ones that came back to me were a mixed response. The Minnesota Vikings needed help with their summer camp and offered me a job as a “gofer”, and the Dallas Cowboys and Oakland Raiders stated that they had summer internship programs that I could apply for.
That was then where the real work began. There was this whole cultivation period where I pursued the Raiders really, REALLY hard. I walked a razor’s edge between being persistent and being a pain where the organization sat. I eventually knew everybody in the legal department before it was over- from interns, to paralegals to the attorneys. General Counsel (retired) Jeff Birren jokingly said that he hired me just so I would stop bothering his staff. After an incredible experience working with a wonderful mentor (Birren), I knew this was what I wanted to do.
Trying to get a job after graduating from law school was a horrible ordeal. I had passed the bar and was a licensed attorney, but was still bartending and working construction because I couldn't find a job. After about 10 months of futility, I had made the decision to go into the JAG Corps. I sent a couple of last follow up emails to my list of contacts, including to the Arena Football League, and told them I was going military. The GC of the AFL emailed me within twenty minutes [and] told me “Here’s the deal: I have no money to hire you, I have no board approval, but I desperately need help” and he offered me a horribly underpaying job. Though I played “hard to get” for about an hour, I knew that the job was my entry into the profession and eagerly accepted the job with the league.
While I was extremely fortunate to work on a wide variety of matters while working for the “mom and pop” league, it was clear that my career was ready for its next phase after year five of doing much of the same things from year to year. So, in 2005 I straddled the line between “bravado” and “stupidity” and started my own practice.
How would you recommend others approach breaking into the sports business industry?
You have to follow your passion. Period. If sports itself is what your passion is, then follow it. A lot of people chase the money, but the fact of the matter is, money doesn't buy happiness or success. If you truly enjoy what you do, you're going to be better (and more successful) at it. If you go to a job that you love, you're going to put in that extra effort, that extra time [and] you're going to put your heart and soul into everything you do. I always tell people to follow happiness and money will often follow—but the converse is not usually true.
I understand you have to pay the bills and if you want that job in sports, sometimes you've got to take something close. I think the mistake people make is they think you just walk into the General Manager or General Counsel job, but it doesn't really happen that way. When I was with the Raiders, I would try to be the first one in the office and every single night, I would be the last one to leave, and I would never leave until after the general counsel was gone…Whether it was doing exciting legal work or making photocopies, every task I was given became the most important and exciting job in the world…and it didn't go unnoticed.
It's about honing your skills, building your craft and showing commitment and effort and passion. And it's easy to say it, but there's a difference between saying you're passionate and proving that you're passionate. If you're the person that really wants to be in sports and the only way you're going to get in is through the ticket sales office, then do it because it's still better than doing something in an industry you don't like. Put simply, you have to be willing to pay your dues. You have to work your way up in an uber-competitive industry like sports.
How important is it to build a strong personal reputation of ethics and integrity?
You better be very careful how you treat people. There is no reason to be a jerk. I always to be a good guy – though I admittedly fail sometimes despite my best efforts. And in this industry, resumes are nice, but it’s all about word of mouth – it’s all about that ‘six degrees of separation’, and it's even more prevalent in the sports industry. Anyone in this industry that matters probably isn’t more than a few “degrees” away from being able to talk to someone who knows you and how you conduct yourself.
If somebody likes you, they will tell people how that you’re a great guy/girl and that thirty-second conversation is so much more valuable to whatever you could put on a resume. Conversely, if you're a real jerk, unethical or just a bad guy, it's a dead issue. I won't look any further if somebody I trust doesn't like you, and that's all it takes.
Your reputation is worth more than any single client or any single paycheck because your reputation is the thing you take with you to your grave; it's who you are. You only have to look at one person in the mirror-You! I only semi-jokingly say that I try to never do anything that would disappoint or embarrass my mother.
How should people prepare for the inevitable challenges of working in sports business?
There are going to be good days and bad days no matter what you do, but you just don’t let the highs get you too high and you don’t let the lows get you too low. Its easier advice to give than take, but you have to do your best to stay on an even keel.
If you got a mountain to move, it goes a shovel at a time. Just try take big problems and divide them up into smaller tasks that are easier to successfully address. People sometimes take a step back and get overwhelmed, but its important to remember that there are few things that are truly insurmountable.
I don't care what it is you want to do, you can do just about anything you want to do if you believe you can and you put the effort in doing so. That being said, there is value to being proactive and just not putting yourself in bad positions.
Building your network, going to conferences, taking advanced educational courses, what do you feel helped you the most getting where you are today and what would you recommend to others?
Whoever you are, you’ve got to try and maximize the strong suits of your personality. When I talk to people before they go into interviews, I tell them not to go in trying to be the person you think the interviewer wants; be who you are. If you get a job using a fake persona, you've got some real headaches ahead of you. It's hard enough to succeed at a new job, now you have to create this whole new fake personality to go along with it? Good luck....
It’s also about the quality of your networks, not just knowing as many people as you can. Genuinely meet people because you want to meet people; meet them with no expectations and because you're truly interested in what they do and want to learn. Its better to have a genuine connection with 10 people than have a list of 50 people who don't really know what you are all about. It's about really knowing people, and learning from them and really taking a genuine interest in who they are, professionally and personally.
Always be learning. Even now, as a professional, I love to be the dumbest guy in a room because when you're the dumbest guy in the room, that means you're learning from everybody around you. I don’t care if you've been practicing law for five minutes or fifty years, you should always be learning.
It is also about doing the little things, the follow up, the extra effort. Its hard to put in the requisite effort when you are pursuing something you don't have a passion for, so find out what you really want to do and then go all in. There is never “enough” effort.
One word that you would use to define the sports business industry and why?
Passion – because if you don’t have it, you aren’t likely going to break in, and if you don't have it, you shouldn't even try to be here. You've got to be passionate about what you do…end of story.
It’s easy, work your ass off and don't be a jerk. Work hard and be a good person. It sounds ‘Boy Scout-ish’, but it's true. If you don't work hard, you’re not going to get into this industry anyway…and if you are a jerk, you aren’t going to stay very long.
I took an interesting path, but it only goes to show that if you really want to do something, you got to be committed, you’ve got to be all in, you can't half-ass anything, because you're going to get the results based on the effort you put in.
We would like to thank Scott for his time and insight and we wish him the best in all his future endeavors!