The Score: Kelley Drye Snags NFL Stars with Agent Hires
Lewis Rose, a past chair of the advertising and marketing practice at Kelley Drye and current managing partner of the firm's office in Washington, D.C., said in a statement announcing Bakari and Whitney's hire that "their clients provide a natural synergy to services we offer throughout several of our practice areas."
With six offices throughout the U.S. and one overseas in Brussels, Kelley Drye also offers Bakari a wider geographic base to reach out to new clients, most of which he gets through word-of-mouth referrals or pitching them about his services in highly sought-after face-to-face meetings.
"If we can get in a room, I can show them we offer more than the competition," says Bakari, adding that Kelley Drye’s wide variety of practice areas can provide prospective clients one-stop shopping for all their business needs. "There’s a reason Jay-Z has his own lawyers or why CAA has Winston & Strawn on retainer."
Bakari also wants to branch out into other sports like the National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball, where fees for sports agents aren’t capped. He acknowledges that the arena of player representation in the NBA has long been dominated by Williams & Connolly, where former partner Lon Babby has gone on to serve as president of the league’s Phoenix Suns. (Current Williams & Connolly partner James Tanner Jr. represents NBA stars like Tim Duncan, Ray Allen, and Jeremy Lin.)
"There is big money to be made in pro sports," says Bakari, noting that times have changed with players being paid higher salaries and teams hiring outside counsel rather than handling all of their legal needs in-house. "I think you’ll see more and more large firms realize that this can be a profitable practice area."
The Am Law Daily has previously reported on the Am Law 200 lawyers like Bakari serving as registered NFL agents, as well as the efforts of other firms like Jackson Lewis to enter the sports business through the hire of former MLB agent Gregg Clifton and ex-National Hockey League Players’ Association executive director Paul Kelly to cohead its collegiate and pro sports industry group.
As for Dow Lohnes, the loss of Bakari and Whitney are the latest defections from the firm, which has been struggling since the loss of key client Cox Communications this summer, according to a story by sibling publication the Daily Report. Dow Lohnes has offices in Atlanta and Washington, D.C. The firm did not respond to requests for comment.