New York antitrust and sports law attorney Jeffrey Kessler of Winston & Strawn shares how he got into sports law.
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Purely fortuitously. So the first firm I joined, the one where Ira Millstein was mentor, had just settled one of the first sports antitrust cases for players called the Oscar Robertson case. Which was an antitrust class action for the basketball players in the NBA who also didn’t have any free agency or ability to realize any economic benefit of significance at that time. As a very, very young lawyer, I started doing a little bit of antitrust work for the NBA Player’s Association. A few years later, the North American Soccer League retained our firm because we had done very well in the Oscar Robertson case to bring a new antitrust case against the NFL because the NFL had a rule to prohibit NFL owners from investing in soccer teams, which we thought were anticompetitive. We won that case eventually on appeal. And that sort of established a niche that kept developing of doing antitrust in the sports world and then just doing sports litigation in general. The opportunities presented themselves and I was able to take advantage of some of those opportunities. But young lawyers ask me well, how’d you get into, how did you plan it? I had no plan at all. I became a good lawyer in the antitrust world and I took advantage of the opportunities as they came up.