Paul J Greene, the founder of Global Sports Advocates, was named a 2019 WWL Global Elite Thought Leader for sports law (one of five from North America). Paul handles sports law matters globally, including before the Court of Arbitration for Sport. In 2019, Paul has again successfully represented some of the world’s highest-profile athletes such as UFC Champion Jon “Bones” Jones. Paul prevailed, allowing Jones to return to the Octagon and recapture his world title.
What inspired you to pursue a legal career?
During the course of my first career as a sportscaster I had the privilege of getting to know some of the world’s greatest athletes. I figured out that there was a need for trusted lawyers to represent athletes and protect their rights. I went to law school hoping to build a new career as a sports lawyer. Today, I feel fortunate that I have been able to do that.
What do you enjoy most about practising sports law?
Clients come to me in moments when their careers are hanging in the balance. I most enjoy prevailing on behalf of someone in that situation, enabling them to move beyond a challenging patch of life and return to pursuing their hopes and dreams.
Looking back over your career, what is the most memorable case you have been a part of?
The case of Russian long jumper, Darya Klishina, before the ad hoc panel of the Court of Arbitration for Sport at the 2016 Olympics in Rio. Klishina was declared ineligible to compete in the Olympics just days before her event was scheduled to begin. Within hours of that decision, I flew overnight to Rio, filed a challenge to the decision upon arrival in Brazil and met Ms Klishina at the Olympic village to prepare for her case the next day. A four-hour hearing was held while hordes of reporters waited downstairs in the lobby. A favourable decision was issued early the next morning deeming Klishina eligible to compete. Because of the decision, Klishina was the lone Russian track-and-field athlete who participated at the 2016 Olympics. She went on to win the silver medal in the long-jump competition at the 2017 World Championships in London. The case shows that a lone athlete can successfully challenge a decision of an international sporting body even in the face of seemingly impossible odds. Ms Klishina’s case had the added element of being covered by hundreds of reporters from around the world, most of whom attended a press conference I held the morning after the decision was rendered that was broadcast live in multiple countries.
How do you predict the new World Anti-Doping Code, coming into effect in 2021, will affect your practice?
The legal field devoted to the protection of athlete’s rights pursuant to the World Anti-Doping Code has grown dramatically in recent years. I expect that this trend will continue when the Code goes into effect, since more athletes than ever will be required to comply with its strict mandates.
In Rio, a number of anti-doping cases were heard onsite at the Olympics. How do you think having the new anti-doping division at the 2020 Olympics will affect proceedings?
The 2020 Tokyo Olympics should be the biggest yet in terms of the number of cases heard onsite by the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s ad hoc anti-doping division. This will require more lawyers on site who are qualified to handle anti-doping matters on behalf of athletes. The Japanese Bar Association is preparing for this by training a group of local lawyers to be ready for these cases next summer.
How has digitalisation impacted your practice in recent years?
Digitalisation has had a major impact on my practice. The advent of reliable universal digital platforms such as WhatsApp have enabled me to more easily communicate with clients across the globe. I am also able to interview with foreign media outlets while sitting in my office, by way of my computer.
How do you see your practice developing over the next five years?
If the past five years is any guide, my practice will grow steadily over the next five years as the field of sports law continues to expand.
What is the best piece of career advice you have received?
Strive to maintain balance in life. A career as a sports lawyer is extremely fulfilling but also very intense and demanding. I aim to exercise every day. Running keeps me grounded and energised to better handle the rigours of my profession. I also spend as much time with my family as possible. My wife and kids give me strength and a healthy perspective.
Paul Greene wins praise from sources who note that he "possesses the unique skill to get to the heart of the legal issue" and is "very knowledgeable, well connected and dedicated".
Paul J Greene, the founder of Global Sports Advocates, is recognised by WWL as one of the world’s leading sports lawyers. In 2018 he was named a Global Thought Leader for sports law (one of only five from North America).
Paul has handled sports law matters around the world, including numerous hearings before the international Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland – known as the “Supreme Court for sports law”. Paul has represented athletes from more than 20 countries and more than 30 different sports. Paul even represented an Olympic gold medal-winning horse. He is best known for his successful advocacy on behalf of athletes in high-profile matters, including his representation of Russian long jumper Darya Klishina before an ad hoc panel of the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Rio at the 2016 Olympic Games. Greene prevailed on behalf of Klishina and overturned the IAAF’s decision to declare her ineligible. Klishina competed as the only member of the Russian athletics team at the Rio Olympics, and then won a silver medal at the 2017 World Championships.
Paul is a well-known speaker and author in the area of sports law, both nationally and internationally, and is also a professor of sports law. Paul is an editorial board member of leading sports law publications LawInSport, World Sports Advocate and Football Legal; a long-time member of the Sports Lawyers Association; and a member of RexSport, an international association of sports lawyers.