Next in our Sports Law Brief series is Casey Schwab. Casey is a Manager of Media Administration with NFL Media Group, and he was a panelist at the Sports Lawyers Association (SLA) Conference on the topic of “Breaking into the Sports Law Industry.” The Marquette Sports Law Society Blog interviewed Casey about his current position and some tips for breaking into the sports law industry.
MULS: What does a typical day at your position look like?
CS: “Well, there is no typical day. Each day is a little bit different. Some days I will be buried in a contract for a couple of days and communicating back and forth with attorneys. Other days will focus on contract administration and meetings that involve labor law, production, or several other aspects of law. This position involves about seventy percent contracts and about thirty percent problem-solving. The problems I’ve encountered have incorporated Human Resources, Employment, and even live animals.”
MULS: Live animals?
CS: “Surprisingly, I’ve dealt with a number of issues involving live animals on set. In the past we had turkeys on set for a Thanksgiving Day game, but more recently we had a live ram on set after the NFL announced that the Rams franchise was moving to Los Angeles. Having live animals on set is complicated; you need insurance, liability releases, and must abide by PETA and humane society regulations. Yes, there is a wide range of issues that I’ve encountered in this position.”
MULS: What’s the best advice you’ve received pertaining to your position?
CS: “The best advice I’ve gotten was probably to take a step back and look at the whole picture. Sometimes when there are a bunch of problems occurring simultaneously, taking a step back is the only way to ensure that all of the problems are addressed. Also, being the “cooler head in the room” also helps resolve all of the problems that people come to me with. Like I said before, a good portion of my job is problem solving.”
MULS: You previously mentioned to me that you were involved in the production of the Super Bowl. What was your involvement in the big event?
CS: “I was responsible for a number of vendor contracts, which includes the stage, cameras, sets, talent, and anything else that you might see on a NFL Media broadcast. I dealt a lot with labor unions for some of the construction and electrical workers for the construction of our sets. I also dealt with hotels and other accommodations so that we had definite plans when the workers and talent arrived. I was also wrapped up in solving last-minute problems that suddenly arose, such as clearing some voice-overs that we wanted to use in clips and some Intellectual Property issues coming from last minute ideas. In my position, you have to move and respond very quickly. You can try to have as many contracts signed and cleared in advance, but sometimes it’s not feasible to have any and every contract signed and approved. It does come with some risk, but that’s the job.”
MULS: What are some potential legal issues you foresee in the near future for NFL Media?
CS: “A big problem I foresee is social media and Intellectual Property rights. A lot of media in professional sports leagues involve engagement of fans and viewers, and social media is one of the best, if not the best places to engage with fans. A lot of the unsettled legal issues involve copyrights. For example, who owns the copyright of a tweet that a fan directs at NFL Media? A fan gives consent to use the tweet when you direct the tweet at us. However, the bigger problems occur in ownership when a fan posts a tweet with a picture or video, especially one involving a celebrity or athlete or minor. People have a right to their own likeness, and you need to get consent in order to use it in a broadcast or on air. In addition, because you want to use the tweet on air, you have less of a timeframe to get consent from that person. It goes back to how fast this industry is.”
MULS: Do you foresee any problems from the Rams’ move to Los Angeles, other than having to deal with live rams?
CS: “Considering I live in Los Angeles, I personally think it’s great, but I also think it’s unfortunate for the fans in St. Louis. For Los Angeles as a market and the NFL as a brand, it makes complete sense and fits the brand to have a team in LA. I also think it’s very interesting in how teams are making stadiums more of a destination. The plans for the new stadium, and plans of other teams, such as the Green Bay Packers making their ‘Titletown District,’ are a great thing in the evolution of the NFL as a brand and as a league.”
MULS: Switching it up and focusing more on breaking into the sports law industry, what are some things law students can currently do to prepare for a job in the sports law industry?
CS: “I have two pieces of advice that go hand-in-hand. First, become a good lawyer. If you get an opportunity to write or learn in a class or internship or job, then be excited about it. Seek out opportunities that will make you a better lawyer because that will benefit you in the long run. You have to be a good lawyer in this industry. Second, connect with a good mentor who you respect as a lawyer and as a person. To learn how to be a good lawyer, you need to learn from a mentor or attorney who is a good lawyer. Sports law is really a bunch of different areas of law compiled into one, with some added problem solving thrown in there. So, mentors are not restricted just to attorneys who focus on sports law, you can find mentors in any area of law.”
MULS: Are they any particular courses in law school or undergrad that you took that are particularly helpful in practice?
CS: “I would have to say the most beneficial course was a Mediation Clinic that I took in law school. It’s most valuable because I got hands on experience with dealing with people. There’s a human element in law that you don’t get in most law school courses. You need to be able to listen to people and discern what kind of problem they have. So really any class or clinic that involves hands on experience with clients is extremely beneficial.”
MULS: What are some networking tips that you think are effective?
CS: “Networking is really a separate skill apart from law. The first thing I’ll say is to be meticulous when networking. In emails, make sure there aren’t any typos and mold the email based on the person you are emailing’s preference. Also, follow up when you meet someone. The little things always count and add up. Second, people should network with people whom they believe they will get along with. You should like them as a person, have a similar sense of humor, and other things like that allow you both to connect other than about work. People who you don’t really connect with won’t really help you out much when all is said in done. Finally, just be yourself. Don’t put on a persona or send boilerplate emails because people like connecting with others.”
MULS: Do you have any advice for those students who are shy and feel intimidated reaching out to attorneys?
CS: “Networking is about finding people who you have connections with and can relate to, so the only thing I can really say is try to power through it and don’t be nervous in reaching out. But, you do need to be thoughtful about with whom you network and connect. I really don’t even like the word ‘networking.’ I think it’s a bad title and implies that you are only trying to ‘use’ someone to get to a desired position. It’s more of ‘relationship building’ and getting to know people instead of using them.”
MULS: Do you suggest getting a legal job outside of sports or a sports job outside of law?
CS: “It really depends on your particular career goals. If your goal is to work in sports in general and in any capacity, then there is a ton of value in getting your foot in the door and making contacts and connections with people. However, if your goal is to work in sports in a legal capacity, then a legal job is most likely your best course. Any sort of legal training and experience, whether or not the experience involves sports, is greatly beneficial in developing yourself into a good lawyer. You can also attend sports law events and conferences to make contacts and connections with people in the sports law industry.”
MULS Sports Law Society Blog sincerely thanks Casey for taking the time to discuss his position with NFL Media and some advice for breaking into the sports law industry with us. In closing, we wish Casey continued success with NFL Media, as well as his future endeavors.
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