Ashwin Krishnan, Vice President and General Counsel of the Miami Marlins. is an accomplished executive in the sports industry with more than a decade of extensive legal and business.
But it didn’t always used to be that way.
As Krishnan tells it, he just another law student pining for a career in the sports industry when the proverbial golden opportunity came along – a summer internship with the Boston Celtics. Krishnan practically lived at the office that summer, which mad an impression – a good one .
Years later, Krishnan, sitting outside a Miami Beach restaurant, discussed his epic journey.
Question: When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in sports law?
Answer: It really started in law school. I had always been a huge sports fan. I knew early on that my athletic abilities would not lead to a career playing sports.
When I got to law school, I kind of fell into this sports law field. I saw there was a sports law class on campus taught by Peter Carfagna. There was also a very nascent sports law society at the time, which I became involved with. It really opened my eyes to all the legal jobs in this field, which I didn’t really appreciate. Understanding that there’s lawyers that work at teams, leagues, unions, agencies, sponsors, apparel companies, media rights companies, and on and on. There’s this whole universe of sports lawyers
So, a light bulb went off in my head, where I said, wait a minute, “I’m really passionate about the sports field. I’m checking ESPN a hundred times a day. There’s also a room for lawyers in this field. I’m passionate about being a lawyer. Maybe there’s a way I can combine the two. So, I decided that I’m going to do everything I can to, to get involved in the field, whether that meant attending conferences, writing articles, speaking on panels. Etc.
Q: What was your big break in sports law?
A: My biggest break was getting an internship with the Boston Celtics as a 2L in law school. Professor Carfagna had developed a relationship with Mike Zarren, who’s the general counsel there at the Celtics. Together, they created an internship program, which was just a great opportunity for a student to kind of shadow and learn on the job. Professor Carfagna had recommended a group of students for Mike to interview for a spot in his program. I was very fortunate that Mike and I connected. He selected me to be an intern in that program.
I really dove in and really embraced every opportunity. And, in fact, I would say I almost focused more on that internship, than any of my other coursework. In fact, I would bring my other textbooks to the Celtics offices and just sit there and study because I was so enthralled and enamored with being part of this team sports environment.
That was the threshold moment for me, where I said, “This is what I want to do. Let me figure out how to get into this field.”
Q: What, what do you like most about the job?
A: Two things. First, I love the people. I love the fact that we’re an organization, we’re a team. We have so many different disciplines and specialties. From creative people to technical people to baseball people to operations people to finance people. You name it, we’ve got them. However, we’re all United, we’re all working towards one goal. I love working with so many different types of people.
The other thing I really love about it is just the uniqueness of the issues that we deal with every day. Every day I go, not knowing exactly what I’m going to be dealing with. I love the fact that every day I get challenged to think about new problems, new issues. I don’t know what’s coming at me, but I have to kind of figure it out. Its problem solve, or use my judgment, my intuition, and try to figure new issues out every day. I just don’t know which part of the business is going be popping up that day. And I compare it kind of like a little bit to whackamole where yeah, different issues pop up and you just have to kind of put on different hats and take care of them and try to keep everything under control.
Q: Sounds like you really have to be kind of a multitasker. You can’t focus on one area?
A: Absolutely. When people always ask me what the biggest challenges are with my job, I say it’s the time management prioritization, because we’ve got so many different business units that are activating and doing things. And everybody thinks their issue is the most important and needs to be solved right away. I’m not necessarily communicating with everyone else, nor do they see my to-do list. So, for me, it’s always a challenge to kind of communicate to everybody and and let them know how my priorities are driven by what’s most important to the organization. For example, here are the five issues that I’ve been hit with. Which one do I tackle first? How long is each one going to take? How do I communicate to each person? So, every day is an exercise in prioritization and time management.
Q: How much do you interact with GCs in other sports?
A: A fair amount. Our roles are fairly unique in terms of the issues we deal with from fans, vendors, ticketing, etc. We may deal with privacy laws. Or it might be IP issues that are very unique to the sports world. Living in Florida, we also have our own set of laws and everything else we need to kind of comply with and deal with. I’m very close with the legal folks, at the Dolphins, Heat, and Panthers. I can quickly call them and say, “Hey, we’re facing this issue. What are you guys doing about it? Or what are your thoughts on this? Or have you explored this or? Or hey, this is a new thing that is coming, have you guys thought about it yet?
And we can have those kinds of collaborative discussions because, while we are all trying to get fans to come to our buildings, on a legal front, we’re all trying to solve the same issues. And nobody wants to see anybody else go down the wrong road, where they set bad precedent for all of us, or just suffer negative consequences. I’m very grateful for that because that’s usually one of the first networks that I tap into and say, “Hey guys, what are you doing about this?”