With the National Football League's playoffs less than two weeks away, ex-commissioner and Covington & Burling senior counsel Paul Tagliabue's reversal of the league's controversial Bountygate bans earlier this month, and other players threatening litigation over management-mandated suspensions, The Am Law Daily decided this would be a good time to focus on the player agents who advocate for the interests of those that take the field.
One member of that fraternity, Albert Elias, died last week on a ski trip at the age of 41. Like most agents, Elias was a law school graduate, and at the time of his death had his own Dallas-based agency called Elias Sports Management.
In reviewing a registry of agents certified by the NFL Players Associationan organization headed by former Latham & Watkins and Patton Boggs partner DeMaurice SmithThe Am Law Daily found that a surprising number of player representatives are currently working at Am Law 200 firms.
Adisa Bakari, for instance, is the president of the sports and entertainment practice at Dow Lohnes. This summer, Bakari launched a "life retreat" event aimed at teaching the skills he says are necessary to succeed at life off the field. Bakari made partner at Dow Lohnes in 2010, the same year the firm picked up the vice president of its sports practice, Jeffery Whitney, a player agent who joined Dow Lohnes from his own shop.
Another agent, Balch & Bingham litigation practice chair J. Russ Campbell, represented former Auburn head football coach Gene Chizik last year in connection with an NCAA investigation into the school's football program. The firm's sports practice, which also includes agent and associate Patrick Strong, signed a partnership agreement in October with Coaches By The Numbers to advise some of the top coaches in college football. (Chizik was fired by Auburn in late November.)
Weil, Gotshal & Manges litigation associate Paul DeRousselle is a founder of the Cover 2 Sports Agency. Stinson Morrison Hecker general business division chair Joseph Hipskind Jr. is a member of his firm's sports practice, which is chaired by fellow partner and player agent Robert Lattinville. The group, also known as Premier Stinson Sports, expanded its client base after merging with Premier Sports in 2008.
Lattinville is among the agents also registered to advise players up north in the Canadian Football League. Also holding dual NFL/CFL agent eligibility: Miller Canfield Paddock and Stone associate Joseph Vernon and Eugene Egdorf, a lawyer with leading plaintiffs shop The Lanier Law Firm who this month was named a fellow of the Texas Bar Foundation, according to sibling publication Texas Lawyer. (Egdorf, who serves as general counsel of sports management agency ETL Associates, also appeared in an ESPN documentary about agents directed by Morgan Spurlock called The Dotted Line.)
Other NFL player agents toiling within the Am Law 200 ranks include Mayer Brown partner Charles "Chuck" Harris II, Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn partners Cameron Evans and Joseph Sgroi, Gibbons partner William Deni Jr. and counsel Jordan Solomon, Kutak Rock partner J.R. Carroll, and Fulbright & Jaworski partner John Simpson. (Earlier this year the NFLPA hired Richard Smith, chair of the global white-collar and government investigations practice at Fulbright, to advise the union during the league's Bountygate probe.)
There are also agents with other kinds of Am Law 200 ties. Andrew Kessler, an agent with Athletes First, whose clients include embattled New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez, is the son of Winston & Strawn antitrust practice leader and sports law group cohead Jeffrey Kessler, who grabbed both of those leadership roles this month during a reshuffling of practice and subpractice group heads at the firm.
The younger Kessler has helped craft Sanchez's lucrative contracts (whose recent extension shocked Jets fans) in tandem with the quarterback's older brother Nick Sanchez, another registered agent and senior attorney with California's Theodora Oringher.