ALUMNI PROFILE Martha Sabol
Building a global gaming practice
Martha A. Sabol (JD ’99) is a shareholder and serves as co-chair of the Global Gaming Practice and the Global Women's Initiative at Greenberg Traurig (GT) in Chicago. Sabol focuses her practice on regulatory gaming and business law and represents casino owners, gaming operators, lotteries, suppliers, private equity, and investors in the areas of gaming regulatory compliance, acquisition, licensure, internal investigation matters, and corporate counseling. Before joining GT, Sabol served as vice president and general counsel at Hyatt Gaming Management and was in private practice representing companies and individual clients with corporate governance, mergers and acquisitions, securities, and tax related matters. Below, she discusses how her career led her to the exciting and complicated area of gaming law.
Before law school, you enjoyed a successful career in business. What made you decide to pursue a JD degree?
Before law school I worked in contract outsourcing for the healthcare industry. One part of my job I really enjoyed was drafting and negotiating contracts and working with lawyers on both sides to enter into mutually beneficial agreements.
In my position as vice president of sales, I led a national team, which involved extensive travel. My daughter was only two years old and I wanted to be at home more but still invested in my career. My mentor was the CEO, and a lawyer, and suggested that I consider a JD degree to enhance my career. After serving in management and sales leadership roles, law was a natural next step. The timing was perfect to move into a new direction.
When did your area of specialty turn to regulatory gaming law?
I practiced corporate law at a large Chicago firm for over three years. It was a great experience, but I missed working in the boardroom where strategic decisions are made. Hyatt recruited me to serve as assistant general counsel of its gaming subsidiary, and I was promoted to general counsel within six months. At the time, the company operated casinos in the United States and around the world. We worked with many local law firms and I thought it would be more efficient and cost effective if we had a single law firm that could take care of regulatory, licensing, and other legal needs in most, if not all, of the jurisdictions in which we operated.
When the company elected to exit the gaming business, I joined Greenberg Traurig with the goal of building a global gaming practice. It has been 12 years since that decision, and we have built a truly international practice offering numerous legal services to our gaming clients worldwide.
What do you enjoy most about this area of practice?
The industry is always evolving. Keeping on top of and in front of this ever-changing environment is exciting. Although heavily regulated, the gaming industry is a fascinating and fun business. I also enjoy the collaboration of the Global Gaming Practice team and appreciate how we work seamlessly together to provide legal services to our gaming clients.
How did your legal education at Loyola influence your career?
Loyola was, and still is, an excellent law school for working professionals who are interested in earning an outstanding legal education to help them advance their careers. Course schedules for students like me with family and work commitments was vital, and allowed me to succeed in my studies. I also made great friends during law school. We supported each other as students, and continue to do so as practicing attorneys.
What advice would you give to law students as they decide which areas of legal practice are right for them?
Take your time. Get as much experience and exposure to different areas of the law as you can. You never know what may interest you and where your path may take you.
In your experience, what traits are most important for success early in a lawyer’s career?
Learn how to be a good lawyer—be open to learning as much as you can. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and get involved. Partners and other lawyers will want to work with you, which will provide you with many different experiences. Finally, develop your contacts early. Building good relationships with clients takes time.
Are there new or emerging areas of law that you predict will be “hot” in the coming years?
As the world becomes more inter-connected and complicated, understating cross-border issues will be important in international corporate transactions. As technology continues to advance, securing intellectual property will also continue as an important legal service to companies around the world.
What is next for your career?
In addition to continuing to support and grow the Global Gaming Practice and the GT Women’s Initiative, I look forward to helping the younger members of our team develop as successors to eventually lead the practice. From there, I will be open to see where I can provide the most value to the firm, the gaming industry, and the next generations of future leaders in our legal profession.