Robert (Bob) Lattinville is one of those rare sports lawyers, who has had two highly successful careers in sports law – one as a lawyer and one as an agent. Besides that, he has also played an important role as a board member of the Sports Lawyers Association for a quarter of a century.
Thus, Sports Litigation Alert sought him out for an interview, just nine months after he joined William Morris Endeavor as an agent. That interview follows.
Question: Why did you decide to become an agent again?
Answer: After 30 years of practicing law for individuals and institutions within and outside of the industry of sports across many areas of law, I wanted to focus on serving coaches, executives and athletes in employment matters.
Q: What do you now miss most about being a sports law attorney at a law firm?
A: My friends and colleagues. Practicing law is a challenging profession and an even more challenging business; those pressures forge some terrific personal and professional bonds.
Q: How is your day different as a sports agent?
A: My mentality is truly “whatever it takes”. I no longer measure my days (and most nights) in 6-minute increments, which means that the amount of time spent to achieve the desired result is typically only a consideration in the context of a client deadline rather than a mounting legal bill. It’s truly life changing in the sense that my and my company’s success is inextricably linked to our clients’ success. I always enjoyed practicing law but I’m also confident that if the business model for law firms aligned more closely to the agency business model, clients would be better served and we, as attorneys, would keep more talented and decent people in the profession . . . and they and their clients would be happier.
Q: are the biggest challenges in your current role?
A: At present, the biggest challenges are trying to identify and assist our client’s in implementing the most productive strategies during a remarkably fluid period in college athletics. The advent of NIL coupled with: (a) another round of conference realignment in relatively recent proximity to, (b) the expiration of media rights deals, at a time when (c) the impact of the Alston decision is still being calibrated, along with (d) the potential (read: likely) restructuring of the NCAA, represent more critical disrupters in any industry at one time than I can recall. And, to a meaningful degree, each of them will be affected by a global pandemic.
Q: What is your take on the NIL movement and the opportunities for the agent industry?
A: It’s important. It’s necessary. It represents a great opportunity for agents. But NIL also comes with some potentially serious risks; at least until the industry and its law and regulations become better defined. As much as the general public (and many industry participants) may complain about certain aspects of professional sports, its overall competitive balance and fiscal viability is aided immensely by collectively bargained labor agreements and uniform player contracts, negotiated by skillful and experienced principals and attorneys. And although it represents great opportunities for student-athletes and agents alike, the NIL market has the realistic potential to become the Wild West. To be sure, the significant business, legal and administrative issues it creates do not outweigh its enormous value and utility. But there are going to be some major growing pains along the way (in countless aspects of the business of college athletics) to new definitions of amateurism, equality and competitive balance.
Q: What impact has the pandemic had on the Sports Lawyers Association?
A: Ironically, it’s made the resources and contributions of our talented membership more available; the mode of access is just different. Our most recent presidents (Bobby Hacker and Nona Lee) have rallied the membership to make “SLA 2.0” an even more valuable resource for sports lawyers via expanded podcasts, virtual meetings and other important and topical web-based content. Please check out our website: www.sportslaw.org
Q: What are the chances we will have a an in-person SLA conference in May?
A: We are planning on an in-person SLA Conference in Atlanta in 2022. I’m looking forward to seeing my sports law colleague and friends there.