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October 19, 2023 | BusinessGeneralSports

Game Recognizes Game: Sports Attorney vs. Sports Agent

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David Fish

Senior Counsel

Joseph Ford

Client Coordinator

In the world of sports, legal counsel and representation play a crucial role in ensuring athletes’ rights and interests are protected. However, the terms “sports attorney” and “sports agent” are often used interchangeably, leading to confusion. In this blog, we’ll clarify the key differences between a sports attorney and a sports agent, shedding light on their respective roles and the licenses required to represent athletes effectively.

Sports Attorney: The Legal Advocate

A sports attorney is a legal professional who specializes in providing legal counsel and services to athletes, sports organizations, and related entities. Their primary role is to navigate the complex legal landscape of the sports industry. They are distinguished by:

  1. Legal Expertise: Sports attorneys are licensed lawyers who have completed law school and passed a bar exam. They possess comprehensive knowledge of contract law, intellectual property law, employment law, and other legal areas relevant to sports.
  2. Legal Representation: Sports attorneys represent athletes in negotiations, contract disputes, endorsement deals, and any legal matters that may arise during an athlete’s career. They ensure that athletes understand the legal implications of their decisions.
  3. Compliance and Regulation: Sports attorneys help athletes comply with the rules and regulations of governing bodies, such as the NCAA, NFL, NBA, or FIFA. They also address issues related to doping, eligibility, and anti-discrimination laws.
  4. Intellectual Property Protection: Sports attorneys assist athletes in protecting their intellectual property rights, including trademarks, copyrights, and image rights, which are vital in the world of endorsements and branding.

Sports Agent: The Negotiator and Advisor

Sports agents, on the other hand, primarily focus on the business aspects of an athlete’s career. While they may (and likely should) have legal knowledge, their primary role is different from that of a sports attorney:

  1. Contract Negotiation: Sports agents negotiate contracts on behalf of athletes with teams, sponsors, and endorsements. They aim to secure the best deals for their clients, including salary, bonuses, and performance incentives.
  2. Financial and Career Guidance: Agents provide athletes with financial advice, investment strategies, and career planning. They often work closely with financial advisors to ensure their clients’ long-term financial stability.
  3. Networking: Agents leverage their industry connections to create opportunities for their clients, from endorsement deals to speaking engagements and appearances.
  4. License Requirements: Sports agents typically need to be registered or licensed with relevant sports leagues or player associations, such as the NFLPA or NBPA. Certain states also require that sports agents be registered and submit to background checks. These requirements vary depending on the sport and, in some cases, even involve written examinations.

Collaboration Between Attorneys and Agents

While sports attorneys and agents have distinct roles, collaboration between the two is common and beneficial. Athletes often benefit from having both professionals on their team, ensuring comprehensive legal protection and strategic career management.


In the competitive world of professional sports, understanding the difference between a sports attorney and a sports agent is helpful for athletes and aspiring professionals. Sports attorneys provide legal expertise and representation, while sports agents focus on contracts, finances, and career development. By working together, these professionals can help athletes navigate the complexities of the sports industry and make informed decisions that safeguard their interests and future.

If you are an athlete seeking legal representation, or an agent seeking representation for your client, contact an experienced attorney.


Photo by Hunters Race on Unsplash
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