Entertainment & Sports Law
WHAT ARE ENTERTAINMENT & SPORTS LAW?
The field of entertainment and sports law covers a remarkably broad and varied practice area. The practice involves such substantive areas of the law as contracts, labor, corporate finance, intellectual property, and antitrust. Lawyers in the entertainment and sports fields are specialists because of their knowledge of their clients’ worlds (entertainers, athletes, and organizations related to the entertainment and sports industries) and how the relevant legal issues intersect with their clients’ interests.
Contract Negotiations & Labor Issues
Entertainment and sports law includes negotiation of performance contracts on behalf of an entertainer or athlete. These contracts often involve terms of employment. Because these contracts involve the entertainer’s or sports figure’s compensation, attorneys must be familiar with the standard performance contract requirements in the relevant field or sport, as well as the details of any collective bargaining agreement or union requirements. Attorneys working on these special employment contracts need to understand estate planning, employee benefits (such as retirement plans), and tax law. Many athletes and performers are union members, which requires attorneys to be familiar with labor law.
Attorneys are also involved in negotiating complex marketing and endorsement contracts. Entertainment and sports law thus may require knowledge of right to publicity issues (use of an athlete’s photograph or likeness); right of privacy issues (paparazzi photographs of entertainers in compromising situations); defamation and media law; and First Amendment rights of free speech and free press.
Corporate Finance, Distribution, and Marketing
Sporting events, including tournaments, and entertainment projects, such as Broadway musicals and films, require financing and marketing. Attorneys practicing in this area work with event planners, studios, filmmakers, producers, banks, and other financial organizations to put together complex financial deals to support the development of the project. If the project is a film or an album, negotiations for distribution, both nationally and internationally, become very important. Attorneys working on distribution issues need to understand commercial law, secured financial transactions, intellectual property (copyright and trademark) rights, and tax issues.
Where do entertainment and sports lawyers work?
Attorneys who practice entertainment and sports law work in a wide range of environments. A number of them work in private law firms, where they represent individual performers and athletes, athletic teams, filmmakers and producers, studios, opera companies, dance companies, bands, and symphonies. Some large firms, particularly those in entertainment and sports capitals such as New York, Los Angeles, Nashville, Chicago and Miami, have entertainment and sports law departments. Smaller “boutique” firms may specialize in sports and/or entertainment law. A number of athletic teams, music companies, film companies, and other organizations have in-house lawyers. These lawyers may work with outside law firms on matters that necessitate teams of attorneys, such as litigation.
What skills are most important to entertainment and sports lawyers?
- An understanding of corporate and financial issues
- An interest in and understanding of the entertainment and/or sports industry
- Excellent communication skills
- Outstanding relationship-building skills
- Strong negotiation skills
- A flexible and creative approach to problem-solving
IF YOU’RE CONSIDERING PURSUING A CAREER IN ENTERTAINMENT AND/OR SPORTS LAW…
1. Take a core curriculum of business-oriented classes, including classes in secured transactions, international business transactions, antitrust, corporations and partnerships, corporate finance, negotiations, intellectual property, labor law, estate planning, and tax law.
2. Gather information about and make contacts in the industry. The best way to develop contacts is by doing. In general, get your hands dirty in the business of those you want to get to know and represent.
3. Work as a law clerk at a firm that has an active entertainment or sports law practice.
4. Pursue an entertainment or sports law focused externship.
5. Join Loyola's Sports and Entertainment Law Society.
7. Consider learning a foreign language - the knowledge of German, French or Spanish can be helpful in developing business contacts.
ENTERTAINMENT & SPORTS LAW RESOURCES
Sports Law Overview (Andreson & Associates)
Entertainment Law Overview (Andreson & Associates)