As we all know, there is a massive demand for international lawyers. And there's a massive demand for sports lawyers. But the two together? If you join two fantasies, can you form a superfantasy?
With FIFA getting nailed recently, international sports is a hot topic. Fresh from the laboratory of freaky LLM hybrids that would make Monsanto's most perverted researchers blush, St. John's has merged both of these fine snowflake specialties into one ass-kicking LLM: international sports law practice.
No, I did not add a word. They use the word "practice." And the website makes clear that it's for real lawyers wanting a "rewarding" career:
This program is designed for attorneys with a passion for sports and a clear desire to practice in this rewarding global legal specialty.After gushing generically about the faculty and "unique" curriculum, the LLM page makes what may seem like an empty promise:
Through this combination of engaging classroom and experiential learning, doors will open to the exciting global sports law profession and you will thoroughly prepare yourself for the challenges and rewards of a thriving career in this arena.Here, they clearly should have gone with a more sports-like metaphor. How about "you'll have an empty net one-timer for the Cup!" or "it's first and goal and coach is calling your number!" If you're going to sell the passion for sports as a reason to invest in this thing, you might as well give it the full slate of Disneyesque tropes.
The remainder of the overview describes Queens as " ethnically rich and financially accessible", describes the Big East as "venerable", and states that "New York City is home to one of the most storied sports teams in history, the MLB New York Yankees and the Mets...."
Ignoring clumsy phrasing that makes me want to call this program a "fertilizer produced by the world's most diverse thoroughbreds," I want to focus a bit on the faculty.
The faculty list at the bottom of the page has thirty-eight names for this particular program. As best I can tell, here is a guide to where they went to law school:
Foreign (Western Europe): 10
Foreign (Everywhere Else): 5
Traditional Top 14: 6
Second-Tier Private During Better Times: 9
All Other Schools: 8
Among the "other" category, there are a few genuine success stories, but most appear to be former athletes (Jeff Gerwitz, Brooklyn, was a tennis player; M. Quinten Williams, the only St. John's alum on the list, was a football player; etc.), practiced in other areas prior to moving into sports law (Jay Reisinger, Ohio Northern, did white collar defense; Don Zavelo, Kansas, was a labor law attorney; Daniel Mullin is basically an insurance defense attorney), or they are just plan accidents of history (e.g., Walter Champion, Temple, was hired two years out of law school to be what appears to be the library director at Texas Southern).
Landing a sports law position today, much less an international sports law one, is incredibly difficult without connections, a strong athletic background, and/or expertise in an area that happens to overlap with sports law.
Indeed, sports law is a fantasy field, and often has no more existence than "soft drink law" or "pickup truck law." If you negotiate labor rights for a sports league, you are a labor law attorney with a sports-industry client. If you defend athletes against disciplinary proceedings, you are an employment lawyer with an athlete for a client. The basic nuts and bolts of law do not change because the client plays a game for a living.
We don't isolate non-sexy areas of the law this way. There's no "kitchen appliance law" LLM or "international shipping logistics" LLM. It's 2015. We should ideally be past the point where law schools are selling bogus dreams with "rewarding" fantasy specialties and a "thriving career" representing Tom Brady.
You know who actually represents Tom Brady? Jeffrey Kessler, a Columbia grad who's been in BigLaw since the 70s.
While this LLM may have a slight purpose for those already in the field or those with elite credentials and bottomless wallets, it's not the world it was in 1985, and for St. John's to peddle this to all comers with a "passion for sports" as a ticket to a thriving career and a hallway of open doors in international sports law is cynical and shameless.
Here's one of its own faculty members talking about the field:
Mendelez stressed that it is considerably harder to get into the business today. There is an enormous amount of competition, and as a result it is necessary for applicants to be highly qualified, experienced and specialized.And here's Reisinger's practical advice for sports law aspirants:
The most important advice that I can give to those interested in Sports Law is to get practical legal experience in areas outside of Sports Law.And this is before we even consider that international sports law is a very narrow subset of a narrow fantasy area.
The converse, of course, is that international sports law is also a narrow sliver of the fantasy of international law. The odds of some third-tier snowflake ever practicing in the Hague or drafting transnational trade agreements seems low; the idea of doing it while specializing in defending footballers and working with Olympic sponsorships seems even more infinitesimal.
International sports predate many forms of international commerce and have been proceeding without a specialty LLM for well over a century in every possible permutation. Why in the world do we, now, need a new credential, and how in the hell does anyone think it would be an advantage? If you truly want to practice international sports law, the best thing you can do is go back in time and be born in the 1950s in Switzerland, or maybe be born as a world-class athlete in a European-friendly sport. The 2nd-best thing you can do is go to a top law school and finagle your way into BigLaw. The 3rd-best thing you can do is probably to hang around middle schools befriending future athletes.
But, hey, if you're a sports law aspirant or an international law aspirant or just a struggling attorney, why not go for it? Tuition is only $55,500.00, and it's open to law school graduates foreign and domestic.