In some ways the Second Annual Sports Law Negotiation Competition held at Thomas Jefferson School of Law the weekend of September 28-30 was twice as successful as the first one in 2011.
For example, there were twice as many teams. Forty teams from 28 different top law schools across the nation, from UCLA to Harvard, came to TJSL to compete with each other in their negotiating skills.
It was a major-league success!
The overall winner was the Oklahoma City Law School Team of Jarin Giesler and Cameron Feil, both 3Ls.
Second place went to Southwestern School of Law. Third place to UC Hastings and Fourth place went to Chapman.
The panel of judges in the final four was distinguished indeed. San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith, Federal Magistrate and TJSL Trustee William McCurine, and Major League Hall of Famer and San Diego Padres Executive Vice-President Dave Winfield heard the teams negotiate their hypothetical scenarios.
“I was very impressed,” said Winfield. “All of the teams represented their institutions well. They were very professional.”
The students were equally impressed with the judges, said Professor Randy Grossman, Faculty Advisor to the competition. As Grossman said to the judges afterwards, "The feedback from the students you judged was outstanding. They were very appreciative of your insightful and thoughtful comments. All of those in attendance told us this was one of the best judging panels they have ever seen anywhere in a law school competition. You each brought a unique and important perspective that was appreciated by all."
Overall, it was an exciting weekend for all of the participants, beginning on Friday evening with a private luxury box at Petco Park for everyone to watch the Padres versus San Francisco Giants. The event was hosted by the intellectual property law firm CONSOR, the overall sponsor of the competition.
Competition began on Saturday morning and ran through the entire day as the 40 teams were narrowed to the final four. As the host school, Thomas Jefferson School of Law does not compete, of course.
Saturday’s highlight was the keynote address by legendary sports agent Leigh Steinberg, whose career inspired the Tom Cruise Movie “Jerry Maguire.”
As the sun set in front of him and the moon rose behind him on TJSL’s 8th floor outdoor terrace, Steinberg began by saying to the many aspiring sports law attorneys and negotiators: “It’s great to speak to my people.”
Steinberg shared his negotiation philosophy, which made him the first true super-agent in sports. His mantra could be: Above all, really know who is across the table from you and what makes them tick.
“Put yourself in the heart and mind of the person you’re negotiating with,” he said. “Draw out their hopes, their fears and their greatest aspirations.” And of course, he recommends that you need to research their business know it inside and out.
“The goal is to negotiate a deal that works for both sides and allows the other side to emerge with dignity and honor,” said Steinberg. “To do that, you establish a paradigm of cooperation. An aggrieved party will never give in. Your job is to quantify your offer with statistics so you can present them with a compelling reason to accept it.”
During the Steinberg’s presentation, the cheers of the Padres crowd at Petco a couple of blocks away could often be heard, as if to underscore his most important points.
One thing Steinberg has always been known for is to encourage his athlete clients to get involved in their communities – to set up foundations, scholarships or other programs –to get them out of themselves and actively working on things they care about. For example, when he represented former San Diego Chargers kicker Rolf Benirscke, Steinberg and Benirscke created the “Kicks for Critters” program, which raised money for endangered species, something near and dear to Rolf’s heart.
Steinberg says the key to negotiation is to “sit down with your client and get their values down on paper - what’s most important to them. Financial security? Endorsements? Being a starter? If everything is equally important, then you can’t make a deal.”
“Always keep in mind that the quality of how you negotiate makes a difference in people’s lives,” Steinberg said as he wrapped up. “I challenge you to not be just another plumber. Make it a better world.”
“Leigh Steinberg was engaging with all in attendance and referenced real life business and personal examples going back 30 years showcasing good negotiation strategy and life lesson,” said the Director of the Sports Law Negotiation Competitions Jeremy Evans, ’11. “Steinberg’s speech was a wonderful highlight of the weekend and he wants to return again next year in some capacity. “
Rounding out this action-packed weekend at TJSL, the 11th Annual Sports Law Symposium was held. The agenda could not have been more timely and relevant, “Negotiating Professional Athlete’s Contracts and Avoiding Major Infractions in Big time Athletic Programs: What we can learn from Penn State.”
The panelists spoke about the effects the Penn State scandal will have on college football, saying there would be more accountability for collegiate coaches and more of an emphasis on compliance control when hiring college coaches.
They gave some great advice to law students that want to get into the sports law Field. Panelist Jack Green emphasized that students should become solid attorneys first, and then try to breach the sports law field. He said the doors will open to attorneys who are good at what they do, regardless if their background is in sports law.
“Thomas Jefferson was a wonderful host,” said Olivera Jovanovich 3L of UC Hastings School of Law, who competed on one of the negotiation teams. “The scenarios we worked with were stimulating and challenging. A good mix of reality and imagination. We had fun.”
“It’s been great,” said competitor Amanda Singer 3L of Chapman University Law School. “It was really well-organized.”
“The NSLNC Board, Assistants, Volunteers, Judges, Competitors, our sponsor Consor, and all participants should be praised for their efforts in making the 2nd Annual National Sports Law Negotiation Competition a complete success.,” said NSLNC Competition Director Jeremy Evans ’11. “From the feedback received, a great time was had by all. Personally, I could not be happier about the weekend of events, but there is always room for improvement and the Board will be working to make those changes over the next year.“
Adjunct Sports Law professor and TJSL Trustee Randy Grossman, who was the faculty advisor for the negotiation competition and symposium has this special message of thanks to everyone involved in the event:
“Thank you to everyone that helped make this event such an overwhelming success. This competition brings national recognition and prestige to our law school and we all should be extremely proud.
A very special thanks to the Board of the NSLNC, Jeremy Evans, Brandon Leopoldus, and Professors Rod Smith and Paul Spiegelman. The Board received invaluable assistance from students Sam Ehrlich and Jonathan Stahler. Special recognition should also be given to the entire Communications department, Events, the Center for Sports Law and Policy and the Sports Law Society.
It took 63 judges to score this competition and we are thankful to Professors Greenberg, Herald, Neal, Nwanna, Slomanson, Templin, Waldman and Vandevelde for volunteering their time on a Saturday. Members of the legal community from the bench, criminal defense bar and prosecuting agencies also volunteered their time to round out the field. Dean Mitnick was also instrumental in helping to get the word out to judges. On Sunday, for the Championship Rounds, City Attorney Jan Goldsmith, Federal Magistrate Judge and TJSL Board of Trustee William McCurine, along with Hall of Famer Dave Winfield, served as judges, further adding to the TJSL experience for the competitors that advanced to the Championship Rounds.”
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