By Nicole Greenstein C’14
With Super Bowl XLVIII just a couple weeks away, Penn Law students learned what it’s like to work in an industry as unique as the National Football League. On January 14, students gathered in Fitts Auditorium for “From Law School to MetLife Stadium,” a panel hosted by the Penn Law Entertainment and Sports Law Society.
The panel featured William Heller L’78, VP and General Counsel of the New York Giants, Hymie Elhai, VP and General Counsel of the New York Jets, and Mark Stefanacci, VP and General Counsel of MetLife Stadium. The three discussed the challenges they face in maintaining joint tenancy of MetLife Stadium and offered an inside look at the life of sports lawyer.
With two teams sharing the same stadium, Heller and Elhai were quick to admit that disputes often arise. Yet when there is disagreement, Heller explained that the two always “just talk and work it out” to come to a resolution. For instance, the lights of MetLife Stadium alternate between blue and green according to a strict schedule, so both the Giants and the Jets have their team colors displayed for an equal number of days.
“The one thing I love about working with these guys is there is no ego,” Heller said. “Every brief and every agreement and every position you take as a lawyer will be better if you have good colleagues.”
Although working for the Giants and the Jets comes with its perks, Heller and Elhai stressed that being a sports lawyer is not all that different from other fields of law. Heller’s favorite part of the day hasn’t changed since he’s joined the Giants — it still involves writing a good contract and negotiating a good deal.
“It has nothing to do with the fact that people think I spend my mornings with Tom Coughlin and my afternoons with Eli Manning,” Heller said, drawing laughter from students.
Hymie also expressed his belief that the term sports law is really just a “cute terminology” rather than its own discipline. As a sports lawyer for the Jets, he still practices in a wide range of areas.
“You’re doing IP, you’re doing property, you’re doing contracts,” Elhai said. “You’re doing all these things that make you really well versed in how to be a better lawyer.”
Bill Heller: I still get a kick out of writing a good contract, negotiating a good deal, having a civil conversation with an adverse lawyer.— Nicole Greenstein (@n_greenstein) January 15, 2014