Sports and Entertainment Law: How to Pick the Right J.D. Program

Many law school graduates find success in careers that keep them out of the public eye. Others see their names featured regularly in publications like Sports Illustrated and Hollywood Reporter.

A sports and entertainment law career can put an attorney in the limelight. While the work can be stressful, it can also be fun, particularly for those who like the thrill of navigating high-pressure situations.

“It’s probably a bit more unique and exciting than some of the other fields of law,” says Jayson Weingarten, a senior college admissions consultant at Ivy Coach.

Both sports and entertainment are popular passions, and many students interested in law should consider studying them, experts say.

“I strongly feel that students should do what they love and what compels them,” says Bhamati Viswanathan, a faculty fellow at New England Law Boston in Massachusetts. “If you care about sports, or you care about entertainment, there’s so much work in those fields.”

Career possibilities in sports and entertainment law have increased in a digital age as sports have become more global and entertainment has expanded to newer mediums such as virtual reality and social media platforms like TikTok. Sports and entertainment law experts can become agents, litigators and even intellectual property attorneys.

Having a law degree can also aid professionals in the sports and entertainment world who do not actively practice law, experts say.

“For example, a sports law student could end up becoming the General Manager of a major league team, or a front office executive managing the team’s salary cap,” Eric Blevins, sports law program manager for the Center for Sport at Tulane University in Louisiana, wrote in an email.

Here are three things to consider when selecting a law school for sports and entertainment law:

The Specialization May Not Be Necessary

Students who attend any law school will leave with skills that can help them in sports and entertainment law careers, experts say. Some of those skills are contract drafting and negotiating.

“I wouldn’t worry too much about trying to learn entertainment law in law school,” says Tre Lovell, a California trial lawyer and owner of The Lovell Firm in Los Angeles. “Law school is about getting an overview about all law.”

Lovell worked for an insurance defense firm after finishing the University of the Pacific’s McGeorge School of Law in California, where he did not do coursework to practice specifically in the entertainment sector. In addition to practicing entertainment law, he now also specializes in business law, civil litigation, employment law and and intellectual property law.

However, an increasing number of schools have programs to prepare students for careers in sports and entertainment law. Students interested in this sector may benefit from entering such programs, experts say.

For example, Pepperdine University’s Rick J. Caruso School of Law in California offers an entertainment and sports law degree. Recent courses in the program include patent law, copyright law and internet law.

When evaluating law schools, students with an interest in sports and entertainment law should also look at opportunities that exist beyond the classroom such as extracurricular activities, student groups and internship possibilities.

For example, in Tulane’s sports law certificate program, students can hear from experienced professionals through the Tulane Women in Sports Law Symposium, participate in negotiation competitions through the student-run Sports Law Society and receive guidance from experts through the Tulane Sports Law Mentorship Program, according to Blevins.

Internships are especially worth exploring when choosing a school for sports and entertainment law, Weingarten says, because they can give students the chance to temporarily specialize in a role that piques their interest.

Lovell recommends that law students also seek moot court and trial advocacy experience.

Location Can Matter

When picking a law school of any kind, location factors into logistical considerations, like cost of living and distance from home. But for students interested in sports and entertainment law, location is important for less obvious reasons.

For more of a sports law emphasis, students may want to target schools in places near a number of professional and college teams. Those more interested in entertainment law might find more professional opportunities studying in entertainment hubs.

“Regional flair does maybe matter a bit more” for sports and entertainment law, Weingarten says. “Schools that are stronger in sports and entertainment are the ones that are already in the cities that are a little bit stronger in sports and entertainment.”

Weingarten cites New York City and Los Angeles as places where entertainment law jobs are plentiful. Only a handful of cities, like Chicago and Miami, host teams in all four major professional sports leagues.

“On the one hand, if the one thing you really want to do is work for the Red Sox, you kind of want to be in Boston,” Viswanathan says. “But every single place in America has sports teams.”

Although location is worth thinking about, it’s not definitive when seeking the best school fit in any law sector, experts say.

“What really matters is that you get a good, strong legal education,” Viswanathan says. “Graduates from all law schools end up in every city imaginable.”

S&E Law Is a Popular Focus

Many law schools are very selective. That was even the case a few decades ago, Lovell recalls.

Those who explored reach, target and safety schools when looking at undergraduate schools may want to take a similar approach when looking into law schools. A potential downside of applying to law school for sports and entertainment law, which Weingarten says has “glitz and glamour,” is the fact that applicant pools are even deeper than those for other law sectors.

“From the admissions perspective, sports and entertainment law is in a little bit more demand than other fields,” Weingarten says. “It’s important for students to understand that how many other students have that interest is going to matter.”

That said, prospective law students interested in the sports and entertainment industry should be optimistic about finding their educational fit, even if it is not with one of the most prestigious law schools.

“I think that you can always have a home somewhere,” Lovell says.

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