Gary Leibowitz is a sports agent who represents football players in the NFL and CFL for Cole Schotz. I had the privilege of speaking with him for a Locker Room Update exclusive, during which time he sheds light on what it’s like in his world as an agent. We’ve heard many stories from the athlete’s side — check out the perspective of an agent from someone who’s been in practice with sports law for a decade.
Can you describe you role as an agent at Cole Schotz P.C.? What is the company’s professional mission?
Cole Schotz is a full-service law firm with offices in Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Texas and Florida. We strive to deliver highly focused personal service to our clients no matter how complex the challenge. Relationships and results are the core of the Cole Schotz experience. I am a partner in the firm, and the Chair of the Cole Schotz Sports Law Group.
How did you get your start working as an agent?
I have been practicing law as a Commercial Litigator and Corporate Restructuring / Bankruptcy lawyer for 20 years. I began in Sports Law close to 10 years ago working with professional teams such as the Washington Nationals baseball team, and the Dallas Cowboys, as well as stadiums, arenas, racing associations, ski and golf resorts, and sports equipment manufacturers. In 2009, Sports Illustrated ran an article which stated that 78% of former NFL players filed bankruptcy or suffered financial distress within 2 years of retiring, as a result of bad investments, incapable or greedy advisers, and/or freeloading friends and family. As a bankruptcy lawyer, I was extremely disturbed by these facts. After the 2012 ESPN “30 for 30” episode entitled Broke aired, I had seen enough. I wanted athletes who give so much of themselves for colleges, pro teams, and their families, to maintain their earnings, and grow their wealth for the betterment of themselves and their children. I believed that I could use the resources of my law firm to represent athletes holistically, and provide them with asset protection, trust and estate, tax, corporate, and other legal services, in addition to contract negotiation and career management, in a coordinated effort so the ball is not dropped. We created the Cole Schotz Sports Law Group so athletes can have a trusted advisor who can quarterback all of these crucial concerns, and provide the protection and guidance they deserve. I then obtained my licenses from the NFLPA and CFLPA.
Do you primarily represent players, or do you have experience working with coaches or even entertainers outside of the sports industry?
I personally represent players for the NFL and CFL. My law firm also represents athletes and entertainers in sponsorship and marketing deals, and we provide the legal services I mentioned above to them as well.
Who are some of the most intriguing athletes that you’ve represented or currently represent?
I thoroughly enjoy meeting athletes from such diverse backgrounds. I learn so much about our society from their personal experiences, and my players seemingly end up as my extended family. Don Jackson, a running back for the Green Bay Packers, is a perfect example. There have been many articles published about the challenging times he faced growing up in South Sacramento, which is often referred to as South-Sac-Iraq. The focus, determination, and strength he showed to take ownership of his future, be accountable, and take the necessary steps to turn his life around, is inspirational, and should serve as a blue print for success for kids today.
Out of curiosity, how much time do you spend traveling on the job?
From November through the NFL draft in April, I travel nearly every week. There are trips for bowl games, recruiting, signing, combine training, all-star games, Pro Days, media events, the NFL Combine, etc. I think I flew to 15 states during this period this season, and have the additional 10 lbs. of fast food weight on me to prove it.
I imagine there are a lot of complications that can arise in a sports agent’s job – vertical and horizontal representation conflicts are the first that come to my mind when dealing with players and coaches at the same position or on the same team. What would you say is the most difficult aspect of your job, and how do you overcome that?
The most difficult aspects are managing expectations of players, and seeing players fall short of their goals. With less than 2,000 players in the NFL, and thousands of extraordinary athletes competing for the few openings on each team each year, the challenge to get to the league is great. By way of example, only 6 true Centers were even selected in the 2016 NFL draft. So you may be an outstanding college football player, but that does not mean you will get an opportunity on the next level. I wish all my players could achieve their goals, but some may fall short. It is the competitive nature and reality of the NFL.
And lastly, what do you love most about being an agent?
Seeing the sheer joy and raw emotions from players and their families when they get that call from an NFL team welcoming them to the league. It is a thrill to just be there to watch.
For prospective clients, you can reach Gary by calling him at (410) 528-2971, or by emailing him at GLeibowitz@coleschotz.com. You can also visit their website here.