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How to Become a Sports Lawyer

August 25, 2023


Reviewed by:

Former Head of Pre-Law Office, Northeastern University, & Admissions Officer, Brown University

Reviewed: 04/14/23

If you have a love for sports and law, you can pursue a career that combines these passions! Read on to learn more about how to become a sports lawyer.

Sports are a vital part of American culture. On average, over 154 million Americans watch sports at least once a month, a statistic that is only expected to rise in the coming years.

But, what you might not know is that sports lawyers are necessary for us to be able to watch sports and for our favorite players to remain safe. If this career sounds like the perfect profession for you, this guide will go over the steps required to join it, what sports lawyers do, their salary, and more!

Steps to Becoming a Sports Lawyer

Sports lawyers are highly trained individuals that know the ins and outs of various laws to best advocate for their clients. For those interested in pursuing this career, you should know what you’re signing up for! The journey will be competitive and lengthy—seven to eight years to be exact.

Here’s what these years will entail:

Step One: Obtain an Undergraduate

The first step in becoming a sports lawyer is to complete an undergrad at an accredited university. While the vast majority of law schools leave your choice of major in your hands, they will have specific GPA requirements.

Top-ranking schools, like the T14 law schools, will have high GPA expectations. These schools typically expect students to have GPAs in the range of 3.8-4.0. To ensure you’re able to meet these expectations, it’s crucial you choose your major wisely!

Do not prioritize the esteem you believe a major will give you. Instead, prioritize your passions and interests to ensure you’re able to put in the effort to maintain high grades. 

Consider also taking courses outside your major to explore other disciplines and broaden your skill set. Admissions committees appreciate seeing diversity on candidate’s transcripts.

Step Two: Gain Useful Experience

During your undergrad, you’ll have to partake in various extracurriculars, work, and volunteer experiences to build a solid law school resume. This experience does not have to be law-related but should help you develop skills related to law, such as leadership, communication, problem-solving, research, and time management.

Your experience can help differentiate your application and prove you are ready for law school and a legal career.

Step Three: Write the LSAT or GRE

The most important part of your law school application is your LSAT score. The admissions committee will use this score to assess your potential to succeed in law school and thus weigh it heavily in their decisions.

More law schools are now accepting the GRE in lieu of the LSAT, in an attempt to offer more inclusivity and accessibility to students. If you feel the LSAT cannot accurately reflect your abilities, you should consider writing the GRE instead.

Regardless of the standardized exam you choose to write, it’s essential you create a solid study schedule that factors in any other time commitments you have. 

Step Four: Go to Law School

After submitting a stellar application to your dream school and getting accepted, the next step is to complete your JD. Ensure you choose a law school that can offer you the best resources to succeed in sports law.

For instance, Tulane Law School was one of the first law schools to offer a certificate of specialization in Sports Law to its JD students. It has a renowned Sports Center that gives students the opportunity to work on real legal cases and get their feet wet!

Regardless of the law school you decide on, it’s essential you maintain high grades and network. Your grades and connections will influence the types of employment offers you receive post graduation. 

Step Five: Complete the MPRE

One of the many exams you’ll have to complete throughout your law school journey is the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE). This exam is designed to assess a law student’s ethics and professional conduct.

The majority of students write this exam during the summer of the second or third year of their JD to ensure they can dedicate enough time to prepare for it.

Step Six: Pass the Bar Exam

The final step before you can begin your career as a sports lawyer is to pass the bar exam. This final exam will provide you with the licensing to practice as an independent lawyer and assure you meet the necessary standards to practice law.

This bar is notorious for being difficult, so it’s essential you learn the correct strategy to manage it! Give yourself at least two months to prepare for the exam and set up a study schedule that you know you can stick to!

Step Seven: Obtain an LLM in Sports Law

While this final step is optional, some lawyers choose to gain advanced training in sports law by pursuing an LLM. This one-year program can increase your pay potential and job prospects.

However, the majority of sports lawyers do not have an LLM. Since many JD programs allow students to specialize in Sports Law, obtaining an LLM can be redundant and unnecessary.

What Does a Sports Lawyer Do?

Now that you know how to become a sports lawyer, you may be wondering what their day-to-day duties are. Sports lawyers are typically responsible for performing the following legal tasks:

  • Representing sports players, teams, leagues, athletic associations, and boards
  • Negotiating sponsorship deals
  • Negotiating and executing player contracts
  • Helping clients understand their rights 
  • Representing clients in criminal court matters
  • Speaking with the media on behalf of players
  • Resolving labor and contract disputes
  • Handling false accusations

Sports law is a complicated specialty that is essentially a combination of various other specialties:

  • Contract law: negotiating contracts between players and the teams that employ them
  • Trademark law: enforcing and protecting trademarks on behalf of teams and regulating merchandise
  • Personal injury law: handling personal injury claims by players or fans
  • Labor and employment law: ensuring the correct labor laws are implemented in a sports team
  • Criminal law: representing clients that face criminal prosecution

Aspiring sports lawyers must have a breadth of knowledge and experience with all of these specialties to ensure they offer the best representation to their clients.

Sports Lawyer vs. Sports Agent: What’s the Difference

When people think about sports lawyers, they often also think about sports agents and get the two mixed up. While these professionals typically work together, and many sports lawyers are also sports agents, they are responsible for different tasks and have different training.

The main differences between sports lawyers and sports agents are:

Their Education

While sports lawyers receive formal legal education and must pass the bar exam to begin working with clients, sports agents do not require legal education. Typically, sports agents do not have any higher education but an abundance of experience in the industry.

Their Area of Expertise

Sports lawyers handle the legal matters involved in the sports industry, whereas sports agents know how to help players excel in their careers and represent their professional interests. They often play a large role in contract negotiations but leave it to sports lawyers to fine-tune them and ensure they follow the correct regulations.

Sports Lawyer Salary and Job Outlook

One of the other important factors to consider when deciding if sports law is the best career path for you is their salary and job outlook.

The average sports lawyer salary is $103,104 per year, however, this salary can drastically increase depending on the types of professionals or sports organizations you represent. For instance, lawyers that represent high-profile professional athletes will make much more than those that represent college-level players. 

As long as there are athletes playing sports and teams sponsoring them, there will always be a demand for sports lawyers. Professional sports leagues only continue to grow, so this demand is steadily increasing!

FAQs: Becoming a Sports Lawyer

We’ve covered the basics of how to become a sports lawyer. For any remaining questions, here are some of the most frequently asked questions about this profession. 

1. How Long Does It Take to Become a Sports Lawyer?

Education-wise, it will take seven to eight years to become a sports lawyer: four years to obtain an undergrad, three years to complete a JD, and an optional additional year to pursue an LLM in Sports Law. However, it often takes lawyers a few years to build up a good clientele of players and organizations.

2. Do Sports Agents Go to Law School?

Law school is not required to become a sports agent, but many sports lawyers are also sports agents. 

3. How Do You Use a Law Degree in Sports?

Various areas of law intersect in the sports industry, including contract law, trademark law, personal injury law, labor and employment law, and criminal law. Accordingly, a legal degree is essential to know how to best represent clients to ensure all the rules and regulations involved in these specialties are met. 

4. How Do You Become an NFL Lawyer?

Becoming an NFL lawyer will require dedication and persistence, and it won’t happen overnight. To represent such a high-profile league, you’ll have to start from the bottom and work your way up! Begin by representing lower-profile athletes to build a reputation for yourself. 

Work hard to meet your clients’ needs so that you’re known for your dependability and expertise. Prioritize networking and maintain strong relationships with everyone that crosses your path. You never know who will help you get your breakthrough!

You should also consider working at a big law firm that is known for representing high-profile athletes. This will make the process of networking and building your brand easier and can give you direct access to NFL players.

5. What Skills Do Sports Lawyers Need?

The main skills that sports lawyers need to succeed are:

  • Technical knowledge: in both sports and the various areas of law involved in the sports industry
  • Dedication: to continue advocating for your clients and searching for better ways to represent them
  • Communication: to be able to properly negotiate with teams and explain your clients’ rights to them and courtrooms
  • Attention to detail: to fine-tune contracts and ensure there are no violations
  • People skills: to network and bring in more clients

While you may think you need to be a die-hard sports fan to become a sports lawyer, this isn’t necessarily true! While you should know the players or leagues you represent, it’s much more important that you know the law than their passing stats!

6. How Much Are Sports Lawyers Paid?

The earning potential of sports lawyers depends on who they represent and the firm they work with. But, on average, these legal professionals make over $100,000 a year.

Final Thoughts

Sports law is a complicated yet essential legal specialty. If you believe you’re up to the task of going to law school and networking to build up a good clientele, you can have a prosperous and high-paying career representing your favorite players!

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