Most agents have an extensive education, culminating in an advanced degree, often in law. While it isn’t required, a law degree helps substantially when negotiating contracts and complying with state and league regulations. In an industry where image is everything, having a law degree projects an image of business savvy, negotiation skills, and a high degree of professionalism. Each sports league has its own bylaws as outlined in the collective bargaining agreement between the league’s owners and the players. An agent must know the ins and outs of these agreements in order to negotiate effectively. Since lawyers deal with contracts regularly, understanding these agreements comes naturally.
Aside from legal knowledge, strong business skills are a must. A lawyer by trade, Pat Linden, who has also worked as an agent, is quick to point out that athlete representation is truly a business trade. “Negotiating the contract is most typically the easy part,” he says. “It’s recruiting and getting clients that is the more difficult part – that’s where sales and marketing skills are very helpful.”
Offering another perspective, former agent Kevin Rainge, says that being licensed by the bar provides a certain level of accountability. In other words, if a lawyer violates any league regulations or NCAA restrictions, he or she faces disbarment, or the loss of the right to practice law. Because the athlete knows that a wrong move could effectively end a lawyer agent’s career, there is a greater sense of trust in the relationship. In effect, Rainge’s perspective puts forward a strong argument for all agents to have a law degree.
In addition to a strong educational background, an agent should be outgoing, proactive, and aggressive. As an agent you should be willing to work long hours and have excellent phone communication skills. You must have an ability to thrive in uncertain environments. Agreements between agents and athletes are not binding; an agent can be fired at any time. In addition, there are risks inherent in just about every aspect of the sports agent job. Even if you have a stellar eye for talent, there is always a chance a gamble on a player will fall short.
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