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Volume 1, Number 1
May 2001—www.ncbar.org  

The Chair’s Comments . . . Marshall Happer

North Carolina has some of the best Sports & Entertainment lawyers and law school professors in the nation.  Until recently, however, no state-wide organization existed that could serve as a focal point for offering a complete range of educational, reference, professional guidance and networking opportunities to lawyers and law students interested in Sports and Entertainment Law. This state of affairs changed when the Sports and Entertainment Law Section was formed at the gentle urging of our Executive Director, Allan Head. He promoted and supported the formation of the SEL Committee on June 12, 1998, which began with 40 members. This led to an October 20-21, 1999, CLE sponsored by the SEL Committee that was titled “Sports and Entertainment Law for the Millennium.”  The conference, which featured a nationally prominent faculty (many from North Carolina), attracted over 200 attendees, 15% of whom were from out of state. The SEL Section was founded with 102 charter members on December 8, 2000.  We are off and running under the leadership of a Council comprised of some of the best SEL lawyers in the nation.

The formation of the SEL Section mirrors the increasing importance of the sports and entertainment industries in North Carolina. Our state has received significant recognition for the strength of its amateur, high school, collegiate and professional sports programs. Moreover, the music and film business is booming in North Carolina.  Screen Gems Studios in Wilmington is a nine-stage facility that is the largest full service film lot in the United States outside of California and has hosted over 100 feature films. North Carolina is the #3 filmmaking state in the nation. There are a number of independent filmmakers in North Carolina and we are home to several record labels. Several professional recording studios are located in Charlotte, Durham and Winston-Salem and many nationally recognized bands have their roots in North Carolina. This state is also home to one of the largest independent music distributors in the country.

The SEL Section membership includes lawyers who serve as counsel to individuals and organizations engaged in the multi-billion dollars sports and entertainment industry, lawyers who wish to broaden their practices to include the sports and entertainment area, and many law students. The Section will provide its members with expertise drawn from its members’ affiliations with the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, MLS, WUSA, motors sports, Olympic sports, professional tennis, professional golf, the NCAA, and the music, film, theater, publishing and television industries. This experience and expertise will be clearly demonstrated at this year’s CLE program, which will emphasize the negotiation and drafting aspects of sports representation, endorsement, sponsorship, licensing, film, recording and other business contracts, as well as intellectual property and anti-trust litigation.  The CLE program will provide an opportunity for attendees to become better acquainted with the many substantive areas of law that are relevant to a Sports and Entertainment Law practice, as well as the business aspects of practicing law in this area.

The importance of becoming familiar with relevant legal and business concepts is demonstrated by the deal-making component of the practice of many SEL lawyers. These attorneys will confirm that one of the more important services that they perform is to help clients make a deal and usually on a very fast track. SEL lawyers quickly learn of the importance of both the legal and business aspects of deals. Complete contracts, written in plain English, are essential because usually the stakes are high, and all of the egos are large. In addition, often professional business people who negotiated the deal will be in different jobs with different companies long before the term of the contract is completed or any renewal discussions commence. As general practitioners, we were trained to let controversies ripen over time. In the SEL field, controversies that arise in the morning seem to mature and must be resolved before the end of the day. SEL practice is demanding, stimulating and never boring.

It has been a privilege for me to serve on the SEL Committee, our first CLE Committee and as the initial Chair for the Section.  I look forward to the future as Professor Timothy Davis who teaches Sports Law at Wake Forest University Law School and is a nationally recognized sports law author, takes over as our new SEL Chair on July 1st. Our new Vice Chair, Stoke Caldwell of Robinson, Bradshaw & Hinson, P.A. in Charlotte, has and continues to represent some of the most famous participants in motor sports. They are a perfect combination to lead our membership into the future.

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