Sports & Entertainment 2016: Analysis

The 2016 edition of Who’s Who Legal: Sports & Entertainment comprises a total of 455 listings across 247 firms and 37 jurisdictions.

We also identify the most highly regarded individuals throughout both the sports and entertainment chapters of this edition. 

Most Highly Regarded Individuals
Sports
Michael Beloff QC Blackstone Chambers, London
Michele Bernasconi Bär & Karrer, Zurich
Adam Lewis QC Blackstone Chambers, London
Joseph Leccese Proskauer Rose, New York
Ian Lynam Charles Russell Speechlys, London
Mike Morgan Morgan Sports Law Limited, London
Richard Pound QC Stikeman Elliott, Montreal
Bradley Ruskin Proskauer Rose, New York
Jonathan Taylor Bird & Bird, London
Entertainment
Robert Darwell Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton, Century City
Leonard Glickman Cassels Brock & Blackwell, Toronto
Jörg Hofmann Melchers, Heidelberg
Joe Kelly A&L Goodbody, Dublin
Quirino Mancini Tonucci & Partners, Rome
Jamie Nettleton Addisons Lawyers, Sydney
Stefano Sbordoni Sbordoni Studio Legale, Rome
Garron Whitesman Whitesmans, Cape Town
Shaun Clark Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton, Century City

 Bird & Bird emerges as the leading sports and entertainment firm in our research this year, achieving an impressive nine listings across both chapters. It boasts a strong European offering, particularly in London where co-head of the sports sector Jonathan Taylor is considered “one of the best sports lawyers globally by sources who highlight his “deep knowledge of the theory and practice of sports law as a particular strength. He represents a range of international governing bodies, leagues and clubs. Alongside him, Max Duthie is recognised as “a leading international sports lawyer”. He is highly valued for his “vast knowledge” of rules and regulations, player contracts and brand protection and marketing. Felicity Reeve is well known in the market for her “excellent” sports and entertainment practice that encompasses sponsorship, media rights and publishing.

The entertainment practice also impresses in Stockholm; the media sector group is headed by Staffan Boström. He possesses particular expertise in the music industry, acting for songwriters, artists and musical producers. He is joined by the “brilliant” Michael Frie whose dispute resolution practice is a well regarded by media clients. In Germany, Markus Körner is an IP litigator who is particularly known for his trademark, copyright and licensing work in the television arena.

The firm’s expertise also extends to Asia, where Hong Kong-based Justin Walkey chairs the Asia-Pacific practice. He wins praise for his “exceptional understanding” of all areas of sports law, from corporate matters to regulatory issues.

US firm Loeb & Loeb achieves eight listings this year across its Los Angeles and New York offices. In Los Angeles, chair of the entertainment finance group Mickey Mayerson is highly rated for his extremely active financial practice, having acted for clients on transactions totalling more than $3 billion in the past decade. Alongside him, John Frankenheimer chairs the firm’s music industry practice, and is recognised for his “dedicated and diligent” representation of clients in connection with contracts, licensing, distribution and financing matters. Barry Mallen is “a first-class practitioner” who is highly sought after by clients in the music, television and motion picture industries. 

New York–based Brian Socolow co-chairs the sports group, and acts on behalf of players, sports companies and media companies. He provides expert advice to clients on sponsorship and contractual matters, trademark licencing and media negotiations. He is joined by the “nationally known” Barry Slotnick. He wins praise for his impressive roster of entertainment clients whom he regularly represents in copyright matters.

Entertainment and media boutique Ziffren Brittenham also performs well this year. The Los Angeles-based firm achieves eight listings, including founding partner Skip Brittenham. He is considered among clients, including high-profile producers, actors and directors, to be “a brilliant transactional lawyer”. Co-founder Kenneth Ziffren advises corporate clients on mandates involving the television and film industry, including financing and distribution agreements. Sam Fischer is well regarded in the industry for his “first-class practice”, which focuses on transactional work involving high-profile actors, producers and media companies.

Seven leading practitioners from UK sports boutique Couchmans are highlighted for their stand-out work this year. Chairman Nic Couchman is a sports law specialist who is highly proficient in handling contracts, IP and rights issues. Alongside him, the “incredibly bright” Jon Higton heads the firm’s broadcasting team. He is considered among clients to be “the go-to lawyer” when it comes to broadcasting and media rights matters. Daniel Lowen is “a true expert” in the field of sports law. He is praised for his “impressive” commercial and regulatory understanding, and advises clients on player transfers, sponsorship and rights matters and disciplinary issues.

In the UK market, Blackstone Chambers stands out as the number one barrister’s chambers in sports and entertainment work, achieving a sensational 17 listings. Adam Lewis QC is regarded as one of the foremost sports counsel in the country. He represents governing bodies, individuals and clubs before courts and tribunals, and is regarded as “a very user-friendly and very, very smart individual”. High-profile silk Michael Beloff QC is internationally recognised for his distinguished sports practice. His invaluable experience covers an array of sports, with a background working with cricket, motor racing and Olympic authorities in particular. Leading junior barrister Nick de Marco continues to impress both clients and peers alike with his “impressive knowledge” of sports law, particularly regarding commercial and regulatory issues in football.

At Proskauer Rose, chairman of the firm Joseph Leccese also co-heads the sports group. He provides clients, who include sports teams, leagues and marketing companies, with “incredibly pragmatic” counsel on transactional matters. He is joined in the New York office by the “fantastic” Bradley Ruskin who, according to peers, adds great value to contentious cases. He regularly acts for all the major US sports leagues. 

Robert Darwell at Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton is the top-rated US entertainment practitioner this year, according to our research. He handles all aspects of television and motion picture productions, from the development and financing, to production.

In Canada, Stikeman Elliott is represented by former head of the World Anti-Doping Agency Richard Pound QC, who is internationally regarded as “a leading light in the sports doping field”. At Cassels Brock & Blackwell, Leonard Glickman assists prominent industry clients in relation to transactional and IP matters. Notable clients include the BBC and Bob Dylan. Gowling WLG’s Susan Abramovitch is a leading entertainment lawyer in Canada. She uses her “exceptional industry experience” to provide clients with advice on regarding contractual and rights matters, as well as assisting with dispute resolution.

In London, Ian Lynam at Charles Russell Speechlys co-leads the firm’s sport group. Sponsorship deals, image rights and financial regulations are just some of the areas in which is considered “a total expert”. At his own firm, the “excellent” Mike Morgan is renowned in the sports industry as an anti-doping specialist. Sources “can’t sing his praises highly enough”, as they commend his “very effective and results-oriented” approach. Andrew Danson at K&L Gates is “a commercially minded, clever and creative” practitioner who focuses on sports and entertainment broadcasting, licensing and regulatory matters. At 4 New Square, “sensational barrister” Daniel Saoul is highly respected for his “incredible industry knowledge”. He regularly represents clients, including athletes, agents and governing bodies, on both contentious and non-contentious matters, and is particularly known for his expertise in rowing. In Dublin, A&L Goodbody’s Joe Kelly heads the firm’s gaming and betting group and is highly regarded for his “exceptional industry knowledge”.

At Bär & Karrer, Zurich-based Michele Bernasconi advises both domestic and international clients on sports-related litigation, regulatory and commercial issues. His “brilliant practice” encompasses doping matters and international player transfers, as well as sponsorship deals and broadcasting agreements. Niederer Kraft & Frey’s András Gurovits is highlighted for his “excellent arbitration work with the Court of Arbitration for Sport” in which he demonstrates his “superb knowledge of sports law”. According to peers, Antonio Rigozzi at Lévy Kaufmann-Kohler possesses an “international reputation” as “one of the most formidable lawyers and one of the great thinkers in sports law”. At Lenz & Staehelin, head of arbitration and co-leader of the sports group Xavier Favre-Bulle is “absolutely brilliant” when it comes to representing clients before CAS, and possesses great experience in dispute resolution having been involved in more than 200 arbitrations.

In Germany, Jörg Hofmann at Melchers leads the firm’s gaming and betting law group and is highly recognised for his “unparalleled gaming law expertise”. At Tonucci & Partners, Quirino Mancini is global head of the firm’s gaming and gambling practice and garners praise for his “exceptional work” in the area. At his own boutique firm, the “remarkable” Stefano Sbordoni focuses on gambling and betting law. He regularly counsels prominent international and domestic gambling operators and is considered “a consummate expert” in the field.

At Addisons Lawyers in Sydney, Jamie Nettleton runs a widely respected business law practice, with a strong focus on gambling law. He regularly advises international sport betting operators, industry bodies and gaming machine manufacturers on navigating the Australian regulatory framework. Melbourne-based barrister Ben Ihle is described by peers as “the best anti-doping barrister in Australia”. He represents professional and amateur athletes in both domestic and international courts.

Cape Town-based Garron Whitesman is a gaming and gambling law specialist, and is “a prominent figure” in the industry. He is described as “a top-notch litigator” by clients whom he represents before the High Courts of South Africa and England as well as other tribunals in the US and Europe. Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr’s Emma Kingdon is highly sought after for her “superb understanding of media law”, and is well versed in handling broadcasting, sponsorship and film option agreements.  

In Brazil at Bichara e Motta Advogados, founding partner Marcos Motta possesses a wealth of experience working in the football industry, particularly in relation to cases brought before FIFA and CAS. He is noted for his “excellent work protecting and representing athletes” and also assists with high-profile transactions in Brazilian football. According to clients, Pedro Fida “has a deep understanding of the media and entertainment industries” and never fails to produce “meticulous work”. He is also recognised for his “outstanding” contentious and transactional sports practice, as well as his great ability to ensure he is “always up to date with legal and regulatory issues”. Alongside them, Bichara Abidao Neto boasts “strong global credibility” in the sports industry and is known as a skilful litigator. At Tannuri Ribeiro Advogados, “skilled attorney” Breno Costa Ramos Tannuri is considered “a football law specialist” among peers. He regularly advises international and domestic football agents, Brazilian football clubs and international players.  

In Mexico, Ricardo de Buen at De Buen Rodríguez Abogados is one of the country’s leading sports lawyers, renowned for his “solutions-oriented approach”. At his own firm, Singapore-based Samuel Seow is highly regarded for his “superb practice”, and is considered “one of the foremost entertainment lawyers in Singapore”.

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Nominees have been selected based upon comprehensive, independent survey work with both general counsel and private practice lawyers worldwide. Only specialists who have met independent international research criteria are listed.

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