Darren Heitner Recap
On 09/27, the Villanova Sports Law Society was fortunate to welcome Darren Heitner for a video conference centered on the evolution of the sports law industry and best practices for aspiring sports law students.
Darren Heitner is the founder of south-Florida based Heitner Legal. He has represented athletes in a variety of capacities. He has worked as both an agent and now a sports lawyer, helping athletes with business matters and in areas like Intellectual Property. He is also the founder of the Sports Agent Blog and Sports Dot Biz.
How did you get started representing professional athletes/how did you get started in the sports law industry?
--He broke into the industry through writing. While in law school at Florida he and friend decided to try and begin to represent players and subsequently started the Sports Agent Blog. His writing for SAB gained traction and allowed him to get his foot in the door with a variety of agencies.
If you were a current law student, interested in sports law hoping for a career in the industry, what steps would you be taking to give yourself the best chance at that happening?
--First, Darren advised sports law students to soak up as much as they can in the sports industry and take every opportunity they get to network and connect with professionals in the field. Second, he advised students to write about sports and to write as often and as much as possible. Darren cited his ability to get published by various law reviews when he was beginning in the industry as instrumental to his career trajectory.
--Darren noted the importance of doing something different to add value and help to gain traction in the industry. He talked about how he has had success in working with agents, instead of athletes. He works with agents in offering legal services in areas like Intellectual Property. Then, when agents' players have issues in areas Mr. Heitner practices in, the agents direct the players to him for counsel. Thus, he "represents" players in certain areas, without actually representing the player as an agent.
--He emphasized "adding value" and its benefit in helping a young sports lawyer gain traction in the industry. He noted that you can add value in something as simple as lower fees than other sports lawyers.
Do you believe it's better to break into the sports industry as early and best as possible or go and get practical legal experience, become the best lawyer you can-then pivot into sports?
--Darren emphasized that there is no right or wrong way to go about trying to work in sports. However, he noted that the "Sports 1st" route is the riskier option. He advised students to look at their situation and do what is best for them, to pursue their interests and areas they believe they can add value and be successful, as opposed to trying to take a known-route.
Can you talk about the importance of Intellectual Property in sports law?
--With the increased popularity of sports videogames, esports, etc., intellectual property has a significant place in sports law. A lot of money is being poured into IP and there is great value in being able to handle legal issues for athletes in this area. He talked about working with athletes in cases involving the use of tattoos in video games as well as filing trademarks for athletes to start their own clothing line.
Can you talk about the future direction of the sports law industry?
--The industry is shifting towards new and emerging areas like esports and sports betting. This is where all the money is going and all of the different leagues and entities are involved. He noted the value in being able to work as a lawyer in these areas. He himself has done a lot of work in esports recently and has positioned himself as a go-to lawyer for esports issues. He advised that being on the cutting edge of emerging areas such as those mentioned, is a great way to have success in sports law.