Sports Law - Nationwide
THE FIRM This giant in the world of sports law has a raft of high-quality practitioners who dedicate the vast majority of their time to representing several of the biggest sports leagues and teams. In particular, the team is known for its continuing work for the NFL, which regularly uses Covington as its primary counsel, including in major recent matters such as the litigation arising from the 'Bountygate' scandal and issues relating to the salary cap. The firm also increasingly acts for the NBA.
Client Service "They're very thorough. You hear that all the time but I've witnessed it - they don't make mistakes. Their temperament is easy to work with and exactly what you'd want."
Commercial Awareness "They've got deep experience in the media space and a real grasp on the rapidly changing technology environment, and are very proficient at understanding the political dynamic."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Sources variously call Gregg Levy an "A-list guy" and "one of the smartest people I've ever met." His litigation strategy is particularly well regarded, with one commentator saying: "There is no way to out-think this guy!" Levy has long-standing experience as lead outside counsel for the NFL, for which he led the firm's representation in both the bounty litigation and the salary cap dispute.
Douglas Gibson is described as an "intelligent, thoughtful, detail-oriented and knowledgeable sports lawyer," and "one of the best corporate sports guys out there." He regularly advises the major leagues on corporate and sports media transactions, and recently advised the NFL on its credit facilities available to franchises.
Bruce Wilson undertakes sports work in addition to other corporate matters. He recently advised the owner of the New Orleans Saints, Tom Benson, on his acquisition of the New Orleans Hornets.
Peter Zern is known as "one of the preeminent new media guys" and a "great negotiator whose opinion is based on practicality and extreme knowledge." He focuses on transactional sports work and media-based deals, although he was also part of the team involved in the recent NFL credit facilities matter.
Senior counsel Paul Tagliabue is one of the most recognizable names in US sports administration following his nearly 17 years as commissioner of the NFL. He continues to advise clients in relation to sports, and notably recently presided over the appeals of the players suspended in the NFL bounty scandal.
THE FIRM Proskauer continues to be a dominant force in this area, representing every major league in some capacity and playing an integral part in a large proportion of the major cases in the last year. These include the NHL, NBA and MLB collective bargaining agreements, and the acquisitions of the Jacksonville Jaguars and Cleveland Browns. The team has also been active in the establishment of a series of regional sports networks on behalf of NASCAR, Time Warner and CBS.
Commercial Awareness "They are so aware and tailor their work to fit the league rules and conventions. There is no weakness that I have ever seen in them."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Peers consider the "terrific" Howard Ganz to be one of the "top-flight" labor litigators working in sports law. His impressive recent activity includes serving as outside counsel to the NBA in the continuing fallout from the 2011 lockout, and performing a similar role in relation to the MLB collective bargaining agreement.
Sources describe Joseph Leccese as "the top corporate sports guy," and as a "really talented client-facing person." His recent work has included advising on the acquisitions of the Houston Astros and Jacksonville Jaguars, and working on the creation of a number of major regional sports networks.
Leading labor lawyer Robert Batterman's stellar year has included key roles in the high-profile and controversial NHL lockout and a similar work stoppage by NFL officials. Clients describe him as "very practical, very smart and a very good negotiator."
Wayne Katz is admired for his "coolness under pressure, in addition to being brilliant, which is a given." His primary focus is on transactional and financing work, and he was part of the team that recently advised Jimmy Haslam on his acquisition of the Cleveland Browns.
Another corporate and financing partner, Jon Oram continues to stand out for his impressive work for major clients, which includes securing credit facilities for the NFL, MLB and MLS.
The "tremendous" and "amazing" Bradley Ruskin rounds off Proskauer's offering. An experienced litigator, he has overseen various major disputes of late, including defending the ATP Tour against claims of monopolization.
THE FIRM This prominent sports group includes two of the most notable practitioners in sports litigation work. It represents the major leagues, and has recently been extensively active for the NHL, including on collective bargaining agreements with the NHLPA and the league's $400 million credit facility. The team is also acting for several of the leading leagues in a case brought against the governor of New Jersey concerning sports gambling.
Client Service "They respond quickly to demands, turn around briefs and are responsive to requests for additional information."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Sources are effusive about Shepard Goldfein, describing him as a "standout general all-around legal counsel - exceedingly smart, very creative in finding solutions to problems, incredibly responsive and very proactive." He was among the lead lawyers representing the NHL in its collective bargaining agreement negotiations.
Sources describe Jeffrey Mishkin as a "top-notch litigator," with one adding: "I don't know of anybody who's a better advocate in court." Mishkin continues to be the first person the NBA turn to when they need a litigator. He was recently part of the Skadden team representing the NBA and former ABA teams in an antitrust suit brought by the former Spirits of St. Louis team.
Working with Thomas Gowan "is almost like having an in-house lawyer," says one source, praising his responsiveness, proactivity and "in-depth knowledge and feel for our business." Gowan has recently represented the NHL in several finance transactions relating to NHL teams.
THE FIRM This group is extremely active in various sports law fields, including media rights deals, franchise acquisitions and sponsorship matters. Its recent highlights include handling the purchase of the IP rights of soccer legend Pelé for client Sport 10 IP, and acting for the Brooklyn Events Center on the New York Islanders' move to the Barclays Center.
Client Service "They always bring a friendly approach and their billing was very fair."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Richard Brand is an "excellent," "all-purpose utility player," noted for his familiarity and experience with broadcasting rights matters. He was a key part of the team representing the Brooklyn Events Center.
THE FIRM Led by the excellent Bruce Keller, Debevoise's sports practice is a strong player in IP-related sports law, particularly in matters relating to trademark and copyright infringement. It acts for some of the major sports leagues, including the NFL, which it represents in several litigation matters concerning the use of players' identities by NFL Films after their retirement.
Sources say: "An extremely highly skilled group."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Bruce Keller is at the forefront of IP-related sports law, with sources praising him as a "widely respected" lawyer and "one of the most knowledgeable privacy and IP players." He advised the Brooklyn Nets on advertising and on updating the team's mascot.
THE FIRM This group practices across a wide range of sports law, although it is perhaps best regarded for its stadium financing work, which has recently included acting for the San Francisco 49ers on an $850 million loan for a new stadium. The team has also acted as counsel to Pac-12 Enterprises in a variety of areas. Other key clients include the Chicago Cubs and European soccer clubs AS Roma and Manchester City.
KEY INDIVIDUALS Peter White "does a tremendous job on financing," according to sources, who praise him for "always being very good at thinking outside the box" and creating innovative solutions. He led the representation of the San Francisco 49ers in the matter above, and also acted for several bidders on the Los Angeles Dodgers sale.
Charles Baker concentrates his sports practice on financing and M&A. His clients include major worldwide soccer teams such as Manchester City, which he represented in a sponsorship deal with Nike.
Experienced practitioner Mark Whitaker is "held in high regard" for his "tremendously detail-oriented approach." His practice is largely focused on sports financing.
THE FIRM Undoubtedly the highlight of the Foley sports group's year was the representation of Guggenheim Baseball Management in its $2 billion-plus acquisition of the Los Angeles Dodgers, which cemented the group's reputation as an expert in MLB-related matters. Aside from baseball, the firm also represented the Green Bay Packers in a new $67 million stock offering.
KEY INDIVIDUALS Sources call Mary Braza "a great practitioner" in her field, and she is regularly seen in sports matters across a range of areas. Her clients includes MLB Advanced Media, which she represents in a variety of IP-related matters.
THE FIRM This group's traditional strength is in the entertainment and broadcast rights sector of sports. It has acted for the International Olympic Committee for more than 20 years, recently representing it in negotiations with the USOC. The team also has a niche in boxing representation, and an increasing M&A aspect to its practice.
Sources say: "They achieve unbelievable results and prepare like no one else I've ever seen."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Joseph Calabrese is predominantly known for his expertise in entertainment law, but also has extensive experience in the sports arena. Sources highlight his knowledge and client-handling skills. He was part of the team involved in representing the IOC.
THE FIRM Winston & Strawn has shot to prominence on the sports front following the mass arrival of Dewey & LeBoeuf's sports practice in May 2012. Led by Jeffrey Kessler, the Winston group is present in most labor disputes for players' associations, and has recently represented the NFLPA and NBPA in various disputes, such as the NFL 'Bountygate' litigation and an arbitration concerning NBA players.
Commercial Awareness "They are very experienced in our business, which is so important, not wasting time on theories that don't really work. There's lots of people practicing this type of law, so specific knowledge and history of dealing with us previously on similar matters is invaluable."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Jeffrey Kessler is "a star," according to sources, who highlight his creativity as a litigator. He is arguably the country's leading lawyer representing player unions in sports labor disputes, most recently acting for the NFLPA on the bounty scandal and for the NBPA in arbitration against the NBA.
David Feher is praised by sources for his "exemplary" work and "very detail-oriented" approach. He practices across sports law, including representing clients in sponsorship matters and individual athletes' disputes.
THE FIRM Arnold & Porter's sports practitioners focus on aspects of IP and broadcasting, particularly areas such as copyright royalties. The team represents Joint Sports Claimants, which comprises most of the major sports leagues including the MLB, NFL, NHL, NBA and NCAA, before the Copyright Royalty Board.
KEY INDIVIDUALS Robert Garrett is recognized by peers for his expertise in the copyright area of sports law and related IP areas. He represented a coalition of sports leagues in front of the World Intellectual Property Organization concerning the illegal streaming of live internet feeds worldwide.
THE FIRM Following the 2012 merger of Bryan Cave and Holme Roberts & Owen, this group is now active in two significant areas in sports law. As well as undertaking cases involving arena naming rights and sponsorship, it also acts for a large number of US Olympic teams and governing bodies as well as the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). It recently advised USADA on various aspects of the case against Lance Armstrong.
KEY INDIVIDUALS Richard Young is renowned for his expertise in matters related to doping in sports, where he is described as having global understanding and knowledge. He led the team acting for WADA on potential changes in the World Anti-Doping Code, and has also represented USADA since its creation in 2000.
Steven Smith is highly commended for his focus and understanding in all facets of sports law. Along with Richard Young, he acts as general counsel for the Mountain West Conference.
THE FIRM The Katten team focuses mainly on the corporate side of sports law, in particular representing clients in transactional, financing and sponsorship deals. It represents many major franchises and teams such as the Chicago Bulls, for which it acted on sponsorship and revenue sharing matters. The team has also worked with Time Warner Cable in relation to regional sports networks.
Commercial Awareness "They understand what it's about because they've been working with us and other sports clients for over 30 years. Adam and his people are very, very expert."
KEY INDIVIDUALS "Top negotiator" Adam Klein stands out for his ability to "reduce complicated matters into simple language." According to sources, his specialty lies in representing franchises in transactions. He recently represented the Oakland Athletics in the arrangement of a credit facility.
THE FIRM This group has advised several of the major sports leagues' players' unions in various labor disputes, including recently advising the NHLPA on the NHL lockout. It also practices across other areas of sports law, including broadcasting, where it has acted for ESPN and other Disney companies on a dispute concerning high-definition TV networks.
KEY INDIVIDUALS James Quinn is considered to be "one of the leading trial lawyers in the country," and undertakes sports work as part of his overall litigation practice. Although known for his long-term relationship with the NBPA, he has expanded his practice to include other players' associations, and advised the NHLPA on the recent lockout.
Bruce Meyer is a "very, very bright lawyer" praised for his "extraordinary capacity to synthesize complex information." Often working alongside James Quinn, Meyer was involved in the NHLPA representation as well as previous work for the NFLPA and NBPA.
Labor lawyer Daniel Nash of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP is highlighted for his case strategy skills and preparation, with one source commenting: "He knows how to strategize a case from the get-go." Nash has represented the NFL in player-related issues.
Jason Young of Clifford Chance US LLP continues to impress sources as a "very fine young player" who is "very thorough but also efficient." He works predominantly on the bankruptcy, securitization and related financial aspects of sports law.
Maurice Suh of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP represents a variety of individuals and organizations in disputes against governing bodies and leagues concerning a range of issues, including sponsorship and anti-doping. He was involved in representing the NFLPA in the legal challenge to the NFL lockout.
Charles Henn of Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP focuses his practice on IP-related sports law, particularly the protection of sports brands. He recently represented adidas in litigation concerning its TECHFIT trademark.
Another Kilpatrick Townsend attorney, Alicia Grahn Jones was part of the team representing Louisiana State University in trademark negotiations with MLB. She was recently made partner at the firm.
Howard Jacobs of Law Offices of Howard L Jacobs is considered one of the top lawyers in the country for representing athletes in cases of alleged doping. Sources "have such respect" for Jacobs, who has acted for more than 80 individuals in his career.
Gregory Curtner of Schiff Hardin LLP is seen as "the guy" for collegiate sports law due to his experience of and connections within the NCAA. He has over 40 years' experience as a trial lawyer in antitrust and commercial litigation.
Mark Levinstein of Williams & Connolly LLP is respected by peers for his sports practice, which includes representing individual athletes in forums such as the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Denis Braham of Winstead PC earns client praise for his knowledge and experience as well as his "business acumen, toughness and attention to detail." He has undertaken a number of matters related to stadium financing and construction, including a nine-figure project for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.