Job Watch: Sports law

With Olympics fever hitting London, there’s no shortage of interest in sports, but what are the prospects for lawyers in this sector?

“Sports law has been in consistent demand, whether the partner is a commercial contracts lawyer acting for famous footballers or a projects partner acquiring stadiums nationally and internationally,” says Christopher Clark, a senior consultant at RedLaw Recruitment. “With a number of nations looking to host events on the world stage for the first time, demand for leading UK partners has never been higher and will continue to be high post-Olympics and Paralympics, as the vast majority of large scale projects are often governed by English law, whether the work comes from Qatar or Battersea.”

According to James Franklin, manager at Robert Walters’ London office, there hasn’t been a significant increase in demand for lawyers with specific sports law expertise.

“Within private practice, there hasn’t been a huge increase in demand for sports lawyers,” he says. “Most teams are fairly small in nature and the boutique firms have already recently hired within their teams. However, there is always a steady stream of positions within this area. A couple of firms have recently looked to expand their practice into London in response to growth generated by the Olympics.”

Where there is demand, both agree that more senior lawyers are the most desirable candidates right now.

“As always, firms want a ‘safe’ pair of hands, so lawyers with between two and six years’ PQE are most sought-after for these roles,” says Franklin. “Demand for more senior associates and junior level professionals is relatively low within this area.”

However, Clark adds that there is a slow but growing need for lawyers lower down the career ladder.

“Firms really want to tap into the vast amount of work that’s available under the umbrella of sports law and so I am seeing high levels of demand for partners and teams, but there have also been a number of associate roles for those with two years’ PQE.”

So where are the best opportunities?

“In the UK, the best options are in the smaller boutique agencies. However, these usually require previous experience in sports law, which can be hard to gain from the top-tier firms,” says Franklin. “Typically, lawyers will move from a general commercial role into a mixed role at a smaller firm and then make the move into pure sports law later in their career.”

Clark adds: “Generally speaking, we’ve seen opportunity across the UK as the vast majority of sports partners come with a national client base. Looking at the larger scale project-related sports work, this has mostly been in London firms or leading national firms that can staff deals with a number of associates and have the resources and international networks to service the international clients.”

However, in-house options may be limited, he warns.

“There’s also scope for in-house opportunities, but these are taken very quickly and they tend to be more commercial roles rather than project led opportunities,” reveals Clark.

49 sports law-related jobs on TheLawyer.com (24 July 2012)

5% of job alerts users on TheLawyer.com are looking for sports law roles (24 July 2012)