A team from Southwestern Law School beat 19 teams from across the nation to capture the title of “Champion” at the inaugural National Sports Law Negotiation Competition (NSLNC) & Symposium hosted by Thomas Jefferson School of Law the weekend of Sept. 23 – 25. A fascinating symposium on current issues in the collegiate and professional sports world concluded the exciting three-day event that can only be described as a major triumph for its organizers and TJSL.
“The inaugural Sports Law Negotiation Competition was a huge success,” confirmed Professor Paul Spiegelman, the Director of TJSL’s ADR Program who assisted the NSLNC planners. “Judges, competitors and organizers were unanimous in their praise of the quality of the competition. The problems were challenging, the judging was high quality and the hospitality warm and impressive.”
“The suite at the Padres game to start off Friday night put everybody in a great mood and the fun and learning continued throughout the weekend,” added Professor Spiegelman. “Twenty teams from fifteen schools from coast-to-coast participated and had a great time. We are all ready to do it again next year.”
"The inaugural National Sports Law Negotiation Competition combined with the 10th Annual Symposium is truly the belief in action that if you have an idea, believe in it, and work at it, anything is possible,” said Jeremy M. Evans '11, NSLNC Director. “We believed, and the NSLNC is a reality now, and for the future."
“The National Sports Law Negotiation Competition brought great exposure to our new building, students, faculty and programs,” said Adjunct Professor and TJSL Trustee Randy Grossman, who worked closely with the NSLNC organizers for three years to bring the competition to life. “This competition has the potential to become one of the preeminent sports law competitions in the country.”
The NSLNC kicked off Friday evening with tickets for all the competitors to the San Diego Padres game against the Los Angeles Dodgers and the opportunity to view the game from a private suite on the fourth floor of the Western Metal Supply building in left field. Guests enjoyed hot dogs, peanuts and Cracker Jack, topped off with a colorful fireworks display at the end of the game. The highlight of the evening, however, was a surprise visit to the suite from Padres co-owner, Vice-Chairman and CEO Jeff Moorad, a lawyer and very successful player representative for athletes in Major League Baseball and the National Football League.
Moorad commended TJSL for organizing and hosting the Sports Law Negotiation Competition & Symposium, adding that he still likes to negotiate player contracts. Accompanied by Padres V-P of Operations Mark Guglielmo, Moorad chatted with the TJSL guests and graciously posed for photos.
The competitors reported bright and early for a briefing session at 9 a.m. on Saturday, followed by Round One of the competition, which revolved around a negotiation for an endorsement deal for Clayton Kershaw, starting pitcher for the MLB’s Los Angeles Dodgers, with FRS, a fitness and wellness drink company. After lunch, Round Two got underway with the City of Los Angeles negotiating with the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings about making Los Angeles the team’s new home. The round was following by an awards ceremony for all competitors and the announcement of the finalists, UC Hastings College of Law and the two Southwestern teams. The competition was put on hold temporarily as the competitors enjoyed an evening of fun and relaxation at a mixer at the Double Deuce, a popular nightclub in the historic Gaslamp District.
The Championship Round on Sunday morning found the top Southwestern team facing the UC Hastings team in a negotiation between the National Basketball Association’s Boston Celtics and Denver Nuggets for a trade of players, particularly point guards Rajon Rondo and Ty Lawson. In the end, the judges declared Southwestern the champion.
The impressive group of judges for this final round included U.S. District Court Judge John Houston, Justices Patricia Benke (also a TJSL Trustee) and James McIntyre of the Fourth District Court of Appeal, San Diego Padres President Tom Garfinkel and former MLB All-Star Dave Stewart. Overall, the competition featured an impressive line-up of judges during the two days, including Superior Court Judges Browder Willis ‘83 and Pete Deddeh, U.S. Magistrate Mitch Dembin, several local attorneys and TJSL alumni and professors, among others.
“It was an extremely well run event, with very thoughtfully constructed problems and seemingly flawless organization,” noted Professor Ken Vandevelde, one of the 35 judges for the competition. “No one observing or participating would have had the slightest inkling that this well-executed competition was an inaugural event. I was really impressed by the work of every person involved -- organizers and judges alike -- and am sure that the visiting teams were impressed as well. It was also a terrific learning experience for the participants.”
As the competition ended, the 10th Annual Sports Law Symposium, presented by the TJSL Sports Law Society, brought together an interesting array of panelists that included professional sports agents/lawyers Barry Axelrod and Craig Fenech, who both represent major athletes, and Brian Hannula ’10 and Brian Adkins ’07, who also have launched careers as professional sports agents. Other panelists included: Vered Yakovee, a sports law lawyer and Editor-in-Chief of the ABA’s Entertainment & Sports Lawyer; UCSD Athletic Director Earl Edwards; sports law attorney Jeff Levine; and TJSL Professor Rodney Smith, the director of TJSL’s new Center for Sports Law & Policy.
The first panel discussed “Negotiating Contracts on Behalf of Professional Athletes” and was followed by another robust panel discussion on “Handling & Avoiding Major Infractions in Big-Time Athletic Programs: What We Can Learn from USC, Miami and Ohio State.” Professor Grossman moderated both panels.
In addition to Jeremy Evans, Professor Grossman and Professor Spiegelman, other key NSLNC organizers included Brandon Leopoldus ’10 and students Ryan McBride, Zoe Anderson, Alyssa Andrews, Adam Rosenbaum, Justin Heim, Dan Nguyen, Anastasia Korte, and Marty Stratte. The NSLNC was presented by TJSL’s Student Bar Association, Alternative Dispute Resolution Society and the Sports Law Society.
Evans is proud of what the NSLNC has done and will do for the sports law community of lawyers and law students. “The real-world problems have transformed the landscape and placed Thomas Jefferson right in the middle of the discussion,” said Evans.