Student Write Up: How to become a sports lawyer’ hosted by Law in Sports CEO Sean Cottrell – Leoni Waghorn

Are you intrigued by sports law or ever wondered what it would be like to work alongside clubs and players from a variety of sports? I recently attended an online webinar on “How to become a sports lawyer’ hosted by Law in Sports CEO Sean Cottrell, with the hope of finding out exactly what it takes to become a successful lawyer in the sports law world. Joined by 6 esteemed speakers all from different areas of sport, Sean questioned them on the challenges of reaching the top, pitfalls to avoid and their own personal experience of the highs and lows of the sector they specialise in. Each speaker gave an open, honest and inspiring account of their own pathway and how they believe that collectively, the law world can progress the somewhat ‘niche’ area of sports law.

The speakers included a range of professionals from different areas of sport law including; Carrie Donaghy – Motorsport legal director Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula 1 Team, Acta Mahamat Saleh – Director of legal affairs & compliance division of Confederation Africaine de Football, Steve Argens – former vice president and general council; Caroline Panthers, Natalie St.Cyr Clarke – legal affairs manager of FIBA and Craig Harris – Barrister and arbitrator at Furnival chambers. Discussing how they navigated their way to the top, the female speakers expressed some of the barriers that they faced trying to break into a usually male dominated area and how the sports law world is now evolving to represent talent and expertise rather than gender.

Throughout the session, all speakers remained consistent with the notion that any future perspective sports lawyers must first and foremost focus on becoming a quality ‘all round’ lawyer. Whilst this sounds simplistic, it can be an initial first hurdle most fall at. Being flexible and adaptable across a range of law areas can open up a broad range of rewarding opportunities.  Sports law in certain areas can be niche, with approximately only 200 sports specific lawyers in the world practicing exclusively sport law only. Craig Harris stressed ‘don’t create a problem by pigeonholing yourself by not keeping an eye on current affairs and law areas outside of your specialist area’. Being too niche too early in your law career can hinder future progression when opportunities in a post Covid era could be sparse.

Sports law is developing at a fast pace and now requiring more specialists from a range of different areas such as media rights, data protection, social media regulations human rights, intellectual property and more. Being commercially aware and tuned into what is happening in the sports world can only help to seize any potential career opportunities. Signing up to newsletter emails, articles and events from organisations such as FIFIA, UEFA, BASL, CAS and LawInsports, is the first point of call in keeping up to date with the latest interesting cases and regulations.

The takeaway from the webinar was that there are many positive and rewarding opportunities in sports law. Being good at whatever field you go into is the first place to start. There is always room for quality lawyers who know their field. If you are on top of current regulations and prepared to work hard – the opportunities are there. I left the webinar feeling empowered, positive and full of research content. Don’t be afraid to reach out to current barristers or sports law specialists for advice, people are always more approachable than you think. So, if you are thinking about pursuing a dynamic and fast paced career in law and love the world of sports – perhaps a role in sport law could be for you.

By Leoni Waghorn.