This week, I had the pleasure of interviewing Joseph Shaw, partner at Shaw & Shaw P.C., and former NFL player agent. Joseph is a Buffalo native who attended Canisius High School. Following high school, Joseph went Lemoyne College for undergrad before attending the University of Toledo for law school. When asked about whether law school was always his plan, Joseph responded that it was more something that his father wanted him to do and, at the time, he went along with the plan.
One of the major points of emphasis of this interview was how Joseph became involved in sports law. His response was that he happened to be “in the right place at the right time.” At the time he became involved in sports law, Joseph was practicing real estate law in Hamburg, which is not very far from the Bills stadium. Through his real estate practice, he was able to meet members of the Buffalo Bills. In addition to working on real estate matters for some players, he began to know them socially, which in turn lead to him meeting more and more players. Soon after, one of the players he knew socially asked him to look over his contract, thus starting his work as an NFL player agent. This led to negotiations with the general manager of the Bills, at the time, as well as Joseph signing more clients. At the height of his work as an agent, Joseph had around 25 clients.
As we all know the sports agency practice area is a very competitive business. Interviewing a former NFL player agent was a great opportunity to gain some insight into what would make a successful agent. Joseph believes that the ability to be a successful agent comes down to one thing, how you interact with people. He said an agent has to be able to market himself/herself and having people feel comfortable talking to him/her. In addition, another point that Joseph reiterated throughout the interview was that it also helps to get lucky with a name or two. Being a sports agent also requires a good work ethic, as the hours may fluctuate during different periods of the year such as draft season and the off-season.
On behalf of players, Joseph negotiated contracts, as well as providing the full extent of legal services for clients. In addition, he would bring in financial advisors to work with clients as well so they could remain financially stable. However, he noted that it was important to ensure the financial advisors were reputable and honest because the work they did reflected on Joseph. When asked about contract negotiation, Joseph said it was a give and take process with the general manager. He said that in some ways the preparation required for a negotiation was similar to that of a litigator in preparation for a trial. In order for there to be an effective negotiation on behalf of a client, Joseph had to become familiar with age statistics, and comparable players throughout the league in a time where this information was less easily accessible. Further, the general managers of NFL teams know football, so it is important to be accurate in negotiations or one might risk the possibility of losing credibility.
Interviewing Joseph Shaw was a great opportunity to not only learn about his work with NFL players, but also to gain insight as to how to potentially become a sports agent in the future with the tools necessary to be successful. I am thankful that Joseph Shaw allowed me to interview him and it was a great experience to gain knowledge on an area of interest. I was able to learn a lot from this interview and I am very appreciative that Joseph Shaw was able to dedicate some time in order to complete this interview.
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