Wallace Brings Real-World Experience to an Exemplary Sports Law Practice

May 31, 2024

Whether it is servicing his professional sports clients at Thompson Coburn or supporting the industry as a long-time board member and former president of the Sports Lawyers Association, lawyer Robert (Bob) Wallace is a powerful asset to the sports law industry.

Chairman of the firm’s Sports Law practice group, Wallace represents teams, prospective buyers of sports teams, companies interested in sports marketing and civic and government entities facing team relocation or facility issues.

He also assists players, coaches and executives with contract negotiations and separation agreements, and served as an NFL-approved hearing officer for violations of the league’s drug and conduct policies.

Wallace has cultivated more than 30 years of experience in both the St. Louis business community and the national sports arena through his past executive and legal work for the Philadelphia Eagles and the St. Louis Football Cardinals.

During his career, Wallace became one of the highest-ranking African-American club executives in the National Football League. Thus, is voice on DEI matters carries significant weight in the sports industry.

Question: What led to you gravitating to sports law?

Answer: A number of factors.  Interest and opportunity are probably the two most important, however.  I grew up playing sports, but when you are a backup running back at Yale, you realize that there is not a professional playing option on your horizon.  And as a high school student, I had a family friend that was able to help me a get an opportunity working at the St. Louis Football Cardinals training camp.  This experience opened up my eyes to other career options in sports.  I was able to work as an intern in the NFL (I was the first NFL intern even before Roger Goodell) during the summer after my second year in law school, and then got a job at a law firm in St. Louis that represented the Football Cardinals.

Q: Were there mentors along the way and who were they?

A: Yes, there have been several.  My first bosses, Tom Guilfoil, senior partner at Guilfoil Petzall and Shoemake and St. Louis Football Cardinals owner William Bidwill.  Tom taught me how to practice law, and Bill the business of football.  They gave me great responsibility as a young lawyer, from negotiating player contracts to arguing before the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals.  They introduced me in league circles and let me grow.  Also. Charles Harris who was Athletic Director at Arizona State and University of Pennsylvania whose professionalism and ability to solve problems helped me develop those skills.  And John Shaw who was President of the St. Louis Rams whose intelligence was breathtaking and thought process strategic. He taught me to try and think at least two steps ahead.

Q: How would you describe your practice?

A: It is a law practice that focuses on representing people and entities that have sports interests, ranging from facility management to negotiating contracts for individuals and companies in the sports space.  We try and stay on the cutting edges of what is going on in the fast-changing sports world and are paying close attention to the college space. Our Intellectual Property group touches the sports space, as does our real estate and public finance group.  We advise corporate client in sports sponsorship and assist our corporate clients with their immigration needs and issues. Because we are a full-service law firm, we handle litigation for clients, including those with sports connections.  Practice in the dispute resolution space both as a litigant representative and as an arbitrator/mediator.

Q: What’s the best part about being a sports lawyer?

The subject matter and the passion that follows it.  Working on exciting issues with driven people.  Being part of a team or organization, or helping an individual reach his or her goals. Being part of a team sports organization gives you the opportunity to experience the highs that come with winning (and the lows of losing).  There is nothing like gamedays!

A: What trends are you watching closely in 2024 and why?

Q: The college space.  NIL, transfer portals and what is the next iteration of the college conferences. Will it finally end up being only two super conferences?  Will Congress address these college athletic issues?  Will the recent growth of women’s basketball and the NWSL continue?  With the pushback against diversity, equity, and inclusion, will the progress that’s been made be turned back?

Articles in Current Issue