Thanks to movies like “Jerry McGuire,” many people have a romanticized idea of the role of a sports and entertainment lawyer. In reality, sports and entertainment lawyers fulfill many of the same roles as contract, copyright and intellectual property lawyers, just with different clients. Women make up only 31 percent of all lawyers, but thanks to organizations such as Black Women in Entertainment Law and the National Association of Women Lawyers, more and more women receive the support and encouragement to join the law ranks in sports and entertainment.
The path to becoming a sports and entertainment lawyer starts by hitting the books to earn an undergraduate degree. A pre-law degree is a good choice for undergraduate schooling, but many law schools look for students with more diverse backgrounds and undergraduate degrees such as business, journalism and social sciences. After earning a bachelor’s degree, aspiring lawyers take the Law School Admission Test and apply to law schools. Some of the top law schools for sports and entertainment lawyers include UCLA School of Law, USC Gould School of Law and Harvard Law School. Sports and entertainment lawyers should have a solid background in contract law, copyright law, intellectual property and litigation.
The main job duty is negotiating contracts for a sports or entertainment star, company or producer. When working with musical artists, a lawyer may delve into copyright and intellectual property law to help protect that artist’s works. Musicians do not belong to unions, while actors do, so a lawyer may have to negotiate contracts among the union, actor and movie or television company. Working with athletes and sports teams involves negotiating sponsorships, managing risk and insurance, and advising on contract matters. A sports and entertainment lawyer also helps with media relations, public relations, image consulting, financial planning and business developments.
Along with education and knowledge in different types of law concepts, a sports and entertainment lawyer must be able to deal with the potentially big egos and personalities of sports and entertainment celebrities. To gain and maintain clients, a lawyer should be personable and able to relate well to people, as many earn clients through word-of-mouth. Because most sports and entertainment stars live and work in big cities, a lawyer should be flexible and willing to move to cities like New York, Los Angeles and Nashville.
Salary and Work Environment
Most sports and entertainment lawyers charge per transaction, earning a certain percentage of each contract they help negotiate. Yearly salaries vary from state to state, with lawyers in Indiana earning just over $96,000 a year and those in New York over $110,000. The average across all states is $120,000, according to Law Crossing. Lawyers interested in sports and entertainment law have several choices for employers, including working in-house for a television or movie studio, production company or record company. Other options include employment with a sports and entertainment law firm, or working independently for one or more sports or entertainment figures.
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