We are especially pleased to introduce our first combined #SLBrief, featuring Kristin Hoffman and Kara Vosburgh. Ms. Hoffman and Ms. Vosburgh both received the Sports Law Certificate through the National Sports Law Institute and held editorial positions with the Marquette Sports Law Review. Specifically, Kristin served as the Articles & Research Editor, while Kara served as the Executive Editor. Both were also involved in the Sports Law Society, as Kara served as president during her final year on campus.
In terms of academic recognition, these graduates have plenty of it. In 2015, Kara received the Martin Greenberg Award, which is given each year to a third-year law student “who has both excelled in the study of sports law and service to the Sports Law Program.” Also in 2015, Kristin was the recipient of the Joseph E. O’Neil Prize for her law review article, Flipping and Spinning Into Labor Regulations: Analyzing the Need and Mechanisms for Protecting Elite Child Gymnasts and Figure Skaters, and the Joseph E. Tierney, Jr. Award, which is given to the student that “graduates with the highest grade point average in sports law classes.” Finally, Kristin and Kara both received the Annual Sports Law Alumni Achievement Award and the Annual Sports Law Alumni Scholarships.
Currently, Kara works at Wisconsin-based Michels Corporation as an Associate Legal Counsel. Kristin currently works at Illinois-based Kinnally Flaherty Krentz Loran Hodge & Masur as an Associate Attorney. Kristin and Kara were among the panelists at a recent Marquette Sports Law Speakers Series event, with some overlapping answers that they acknowledge below.
Why Law School?
KV: “I think I went to law school because I did not know what else to do. I majored in Political Science and Psychology at (University of Colorado-Boulder) — I loved the psychology side but did not want to go to grad school for that [because] I didn’t want to do experiments, case studies, and things like that. … I don’t even remember the day when I looked at the Marquette Sports Law Program, but somehow I found them and that’s when I decided what I wanted to do. … And [I decided to pursue sports law] because of interning with the Compliance Office at Santa Clara University (before my junior year of college).”
KH: “My dad is a lawyer, and he has worked out of my parent’s house since I was in second grade. So I was always around it and liked what he did, even though I obviously had no clue as an eight year old what he really did. I always saw him meeting with people, talking on the phone, reading, and writing, and those were the skills that I thought I had and enjoyed. Around my junior year of high school, I realized I wanted to go to law school. I was a history major (at Northern Illinois), and I remember my mom saying all of the time, ‘What are you going to do if you don’t go to law school?’ I said, ‘I don’t know, but I’m going to law school so it’s OK.'”
Viewing School Differently After Internship Experience
KV: “I recognized that the only way to be successful in this whole mess of sports law is to find out what you love in the law. That’s what working both at a law firm and with the Brewers helped me to recognize. That doesn’t discount sports law courses — they’re equally as important and, as Kristin said during the Panel, you get a way wider range of topics than you would in one regular class, just in Professional Sports Law. That’s huge, but I think it’s also huge to recognize the places where you really want to develop your skills and start taking those classes as well.”
KH: “Those experiences just confirmed that I wanted to take all of the college sports classes, whether it was in workshops or whatever else was being offered. It also helps give you a different perspective once you’re actually working in (the sports law industry) as opposed to just reading about it, [and] it seems more relevant as opposed to vaguely remembering a case about college football games and how they should be broadcast more than once.” See NCAA v. Board of Regents of University of Oklahoma. “When you’re at Baylor, for example, a school with a big football program, you can better understand how these [college sports] issues affect the day-to-day of what those administrators are doing.”
Changes that NCAA Needs to Make
Kristin was an outstanding Division-1 volleyball student-athlete at Northern Illinois University. During her senior year in 2011, Kristin was an All-American for the third time, the Mid-American Conference (MAC) Setter of the Year, and named to the Capital One Academic All America First Team.
KV: “I’m going to defer to Kristin on this one. I worked at Santa Clara after my junior year of college, and I really wasn’t in that same frame of mind that I would be now when I was interning there.”
KH: “There are so many moving parts right now, and so much change going on. I think everyone just needs to be open to having frank conversations and to specifically include student-athletes, not just football and men’s basketball student-athletes but especially Olympic sport student-athletes. Rightfully so, a lot of focus should be on football and men’s basketball because that’s where we’re at in college athletics. But, you can’t forget that most other student-athletes are in other sports. Having been a student-athlete, some of the conversations are frustrating because there is a lot of people that want to completely change the collegiate athletics model, which I don’t agree with. Just like anything, it needs to adapt and evolve. Having those conversations and making sure that the right people are at the table, that’s what needs to happen for collegiate athletics.”
What They Learned About Themselves During Law School
KV: “I always used to tell people I went to law school, maybe because I didn’t want to tell them I didn’t know what else to do, because I never really — and this might sound snotty — felt challenged throughout my education. I really wanted to put myself in that position, and it’s almost as if I ate my words during law school.”
“I learned a lot about myself as a person. I knew I valued balance, but I didn’t understand what that would look like in the law school setting. But, somehow I did what the opposite of most people would say is balance throughout my law school career. … I learned a lot about my limits and gained a lot of confidence, which is an odd thing in the law school setting as well. For me, it was really internal — learning what makes me happy, what makes me tick, and how far I can push myself.”
KH: “I really echo what Kara said. (Law school) made me a lot more self-aware, knowing that I needed to take care of myself and what I needed to do and not be concerned, which I still am, about what other people are doing and how they think. I needed to figure out what worked for me and stick with that, as well as lean on my time-management skills that I learned while being a student-athlete, but it was so different in the law school world.”
“Anything that I had related to time-management skills and balance, I felt that it went out of the window because (law school) is such a unique environment. It was an evolving process for me to get to where I am today to realize what works for you doesn’t work for me, and that’s OK. That took me some time to learn and be OK with.”
Most Enjoyable Internship
KH: “My experience as the law clerk at the NCAA. Absolutely.”
KV: “The Brewers. I sat and read contracts all day, and I never loved reading so much. Being Sports Law Society President was second to that because that was a lot of fun, but it was also a lot of work that some times didn’t feel like it was very fruitful. Still, it was awesome, and as Peter said, (SLS) has a lot of fun.”
KH: “The internships and the experience that you can have as a sports law student, that’s why we have those to begin with. Being able to say that I’m in the Marquette Sports Law program is what got me in (with the NCAA).”
We sincerely thank Kara and Kristin for taking the time to talk with us and serving as our first duo Sports Law Brief interviewees. Their law school journeys were surely unique, and there is no doubt that their work as practicing attorneys will continue to trend upward.
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