General Counsels in Sports: An Analysis of the Responsibilities, Demographics, and Qualifications
56 Pages Posted: 18 May 2017
Date Written: May 8, 2017
This Article is the first ever in-depth analysis of the responsibilities, demographics, and qualifications for general counsels of clubs in the four major North American sports leagues: the National Football League (NFL); Major League Baseball (MLB); the National Basketball Association (NBA); and, the National Hockey League (NHL). As the highest-ranking attorney at each club, general counsels are prominent individuals in both the sports and legal industries. We sought to better understand their roles and experiences.
Our analysis did not reveal any essential characteristic or qualification on the path to becoming a general counsel. Nevertheless, we did find several interesting pieces of information. Specifically:
(1) Prestige matters. Fifty-two general counsels (49.5%) attended a law school currently ranked in the top 25 and seventy-five of them (66.4%) previously worked at a law firm of at least 101 attorneys.
(2) Prior experience at a league office or at a major sports law firm helps, but is not essential. Only seventeen general counsels (15.0%) previously worked at a law firm with a substantial sports law practice, and only ten (8.8%) previously worked at a league office.
(3) More gender and racial diversity is needed in the roster of general counsels. Only twenty-one (18.6%) general counsels are female and only sixteen (14.1%) are non-white.
The Article includes other information about the backgrounds of general counsels, including their age, the industries in which they previously worked, and the amount of legal experience they obtained before becoming a general counsel. Ultimately, we hope that this Article helps shed light on an important role in the sports industry, and provides guidance for those who seek to aspire to such heights.
Keywords: General Counsel, NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL
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