By Tatum Wheeler • June 30, 2019•Ms. JD, Law School, Choosing a Career and Landing a Job, Issues, Sexism, Sexual Harassment, and Other Forms of Discrimination, Women and Law in the Media, Other Issues
I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Jill McBride Baxter, a sports lawyer, and certified CFLPA and NFLPA sports agent. A graduate of University of the Pacific's McGeorge School of Law, Jill has worked as a sports lawyer for over thirty years, representing professional athletes—including those in the NFL and MMA—athletic administrators, coaches, and media personnel. Ms. Baxter also runs a blog and podcast featuring sports law topics and helpful advice for those interested in sports law.
As someone who’s had a successful career as a sports agent for over thirty years, Jill has a wealth of lessons about becoming a successful sports agent. Check out some of the SPORTS AGENT themes we discussed below, and if you’re interested in learning more, be sure to check out her podcast of our recent conversation and Jill's own Sports Agent Academy, an online course with over twenty lessons covering all aspects of working as a sports agent.
S trategize: Clients aren't just players anymore. Everybody needs an agent: coaches, athletic directors, and members of the media are now seeking representation. The stakes are higher than ever with deals extending to longer terms and offering a lot more money. The best sports agents help their clients be strategic in their decision-making and develop long-term approaches to their goals.
P roblem-solve: Representing a single client can bring up issues in immigration, such as when a non-citizen gets cut from a sports team, or employment, such as different right-to-work restrictions in the client's new state. Successful sports agents problem-solve quickly, and can both recognize and delegate to other attorneys and professionals when an issue is beyond their expertise.
O utside the industry: Having taught herself on the job, Jill isn't afraid to look outside the industry and pull from the latest in marketing research, business, and other fields to create and maintain workable processes.
R esearch: Before signing a contract, learn more about a client, including their most significant issues, their long-term goals, and salary levels.
T ake a long-term view: Just because a client has talent doesn’t mean they’ll break out and be successful right way. Rather than focus on the present, always consider where the client will be in ten years. Most athletes and coaches are focused on the upcoming season, and in doing so, they lose sight of where they want to be ten years from now.
S ocial Media: Players, coaches, and media personnel are still people. Sometimes we forget that in using social media, there are human beings at the other end. Being mean about someone’s performance is never okay.
A dvocate: As a sports agent, you are a holistic advocate to your client. Beyond just protecting them contractually, you have to handle personal issues that arise, such as arrests or family matters, as well as creating action plans for when your client-athletes gets injured.
G ender: Unfortunately, the number of women sports agents is declining. This trend may be because more women are entering the team or league side, which offers greater stability and job security; however, this is still troubling.
E ntrepreneurial: As a sports agent, you have to be fearless and entrepreneurial. You have to be willing to take risks on clients and comfortable selling yourself to clients.
N egotiate: Negotiating a good deal for a client requires knowing what your client is worth. Ask questions of your client, contact the union, and go into negotiations ready to protect your client's interests. Sometimes, this may lead to adversarial conversations, which may reflect gender bias; however, most people in the industry negotiate respectfully.
T raining: A law degree is still a valuable asset for becoming a sports agent. There are still many different situations that arise that require legal training and analysis. Often, a client is competing with an institution that has a team of lawyers, and clients quickly recognize they need access to someone with a legal background on their side.
Thanks so much, Jill!
Tatum Wheeler is a law student at UC Irvine. When she’s not studying, she spends her free time exploring the coastline, connecting with friends and family, and cheering on her favorite sports teams. Please feel free to contact her with any questions, comments, or further advice.