Legal Awards 2021: Interview with Armstrong Teasdale LLP
We hear from Lawyer Monthly's Law Firm of the Year.
We asked Zane Shihab to provide information about Armstrong Teasdale’s renowned Sports Law practice. The following is a summary of his responses:
What first attracted you to working at Armstrong Teasdale?
In February 2021, London law firm Kerman & Co. combined with Armstrong Teasdale, myself included. Armstrong Teasdale has a significant platform that we found very attractive, and similarly, we saw an opportunity to support their expanding global platform given our longstanding experience in London and Europe. The firm serves clients around the world and having access to a robust team of attorneys and other professionals across practice areas at our disposal is certainly a great asset, and one we can offer our sport clients as well. For me personally, the opportunity to lead the firm’s sport practice was of great interest and has been rewarding over the past year as we’ve continued to advance our efforts and grown our team.
Why did you gravitate towards Sports Law in particular?
I have always been passionate about sports and obtained a law degree at a time when the associated laws and governance were just coming into play. It seemed to be a natural opportunity for me to combine my interests with an emerging and interesting area of law.
What would you consider the team’s proudest achievement to date?
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause huge disruption to major sporting events around the world. As such, in terms of recent achievements, we would have to say that the advice we have provided since the beginning of 2020 to those of our clients who stage sporting events in the UK and across Europe (including in tennis, football and marathon running) has been some of the most challenging but rewarding work we have undertaken to date.
This advice has included advising on the operational side of the events with respect to both cancellations and rescheduling; drafting and enforcing ticketing terms and conditions; negotiating hospitality and concessionaires’ agreements; drafting the COVID-19 codes of conduct in relation to players, officials, accredited persons and spectators; running anti-infringement programmes to prevent unauthorised sales of tickets and hospitality; liaising with governments with respect to entry and exit requirements, COVID-19 measures and stadia requirements; onsite assistance in relation to brand protection and ticketing, and obtaining and coordinating advice across Europe.
What motivates your team to achieve the best possible results for your clients?
The Sports Law practice at Armstrong Teasdale is not a side-line or occasional area of interest. It is the core and sole focus of the department’s work. As such, we really do believe that many of our longstanding sporting clients see us as an extension of their business, rather than just an external law firm who they instruct occasionally. For example, for many of our clients, our work has gone beyond that of legal advice and expanded into event management and delivery. In addition, achieving the right results for our clients is key in ensuring we both maintain our reputation as one of the leading firms in Sports Law and in retaining our unrivalled list of clients.
Armstrong Teasdale has a significant platform that we found very attractive, and similarly, we saw an opportunity to support their expanding global platform given our longstanding experience in London and Europe.
How do you measure your success?
Aside from the volume of deals agreed, the number of events staged and the key litigation successes, all assisted by the advice we have provided, the key barometers of measuring success are the breadth of sports we cover, the retention of established clients and the gaining of new clients. Over the last year, the firm has attracted further clients in this sector, many of which have come to us via referrals, and has expanded and developed the work carried out for longstanding clients.
In what ways has the team developed in the past 12 months?
Developing and expanding our team is essential to our success. We have amassed a team of talented and engaged individuals and strive to create an innovative atmosphere that encourages cooperation, teamwork, and trust among its members. Three new solicitors have joined the department in the last year alone and this allows us to handle an ever-increasing volume of work, whilst also broadening our depth of experience (for example, in technology). We also have expanded our team geographically – collaborating with our new US colleagues.
Can you tell us anything about the team’s plans for the coming year?
In 2020 and 2021, we expanded our technology practice within the sporting sector, and we expect this area to grow significantly over the coming year, particularly in relation to virtual/augmented reality, the metaverse, cryptocurrency and nonfungible tokens. We already regularly advise on contracts for tech services, whether as provider or procurer, including managed or outsourced services and SaaS and on legal and regulatory challenges of dealing in or with the tech sector, from privacy/GDPR issues to financial services regulation, especially in emerging technologies including blockchain, AI/machine learning, smart contracts, and nanotechnology.
To further strengthen this, we are actively looking to bring highly experienced patent lawyers on board in the UK. This will further enhance our ability to provide management service across all stages of the innovation life cycle.
Our team will continue to grow its presence as a ‘Leading Firm’ for Sports Law through thought leadership such as speaking opportunities at top sports conferences like LawInSport and the British Association for Sport and Law annual conference. We will be developing a series of communications and webinars, and we will continue to share critical legal updates and new insights on hot topics as the year moves forward.
About Armstrong Teasdale LLP
Armstrong Teasdale is a 121-year-old law firm with 14 offices across the US and one in London. The firm is ranked among the top 200 law firms in the US and boasts more than 370 lawyers serving over 125+ Fortune 500 companies. Some of the world’s largest brands, professional athletes, sporting events, rightsholders and governing bodies have long turned to Armstrong Teasdale for counsel in all aspects of global brand management and protection, reviewing and negotiating commercial contracts (including endorsements and sponsorship opportunities) and the handling of complex litigation.
Our attorneys have decades of experience in the sports, media and entertainment sector, including as former licensed sports agents, personal counsel to professional athletes, in-house counsel for iconic Fortune 500 brands, event organisers and executive leadership for sporting organisations. In recognition of their representations, Armstrong Teasdale is recognised by the Legal 500 UK as a ‘Leading Firm’ for Sports Law, with one lawyer described as “an institution in the world of Sports Law.” In addition, our lawyers have written articles and given interviews to international broadcast media on current Sports Law issues.
As such, our experienced attorneys are recognized as being at the forefront of the development of Sports Law in football, rugby, horse racing, cricket, golf, cycling, motor racing and tennis, and have led groundbreaking work involving complex litigation on issues such as competition, ticketing and brand infringement.
Our UK Sports team is led by Zane Shihab, who has been practicing law since 2009 and has represented many of the world’s largest brands throughout his career. His unrelenting passion for sports, coupled with obtaining a law degree at a time when ‘Sports Law’ was just being recognised as a valid description of a system of law governing the practice of sports, meant that his gravitation to Sports Law was somewhat inevitable.
At Armstrong Teasdale, Zane provides practical commercial advice to global sporting brands, international sporting bodies and events and high-profile individuals. Zane specialises in intellectual property, data protection and drafting commercial contracts including sponsorship, joint venture, merchandising, broadcasting, new media, agency, distribution, franchise and image rights agreements, venue agreements and IP and software licences. He has negotiated numerous lucrative sponsorship and supplier agreements and other event-related contracts on behalf of sporting events and governing bodies including in golf, athletics, marathon running, horse racing, cycling, tennis and football.
James Thorndyke is a partner in our Sports department. He acts on behalf of sportsmen and women as well as sporting bodies and has extensive experience in resolving contractual disputes in a variety of sports including tennis, motorsport, football, athletics, cricket and rugby union. James has particular experience in advising on regulatory and disciplinary issues. He has acted for clients in proceedings involving the Football Association, the British Horseracing Authority, the Motor Sports Association and the Football League. He acts for and is the main point of contact for event organisers and governing bodies when enforcing ticket terms and conditions to major sporting events. This involves advising clients on the process of obtaining interim injunctions against third parties selling ticket-only or hospitality packages to well-known sporting events taking place in England and Wales without authority to do so and acting for clients in the ensuing court proceedings.
Nick Bitel is a consultant at Armstrong Teasdale and was Chair of Sport England from 2013-2021; Chief Executive of the London Marathon, the world’s most successful city centre marathon since 1995; a Board Member of UK Sport, and a Trustee of the Wimbledon Foundation. Nick is a past Chairman of the British Association of Sport and Law. Before his current appointment (through being Chair of Sport England), Nick was also Board Director of UK Sport for six years when it was the UK anti-doping agency. Nick has acted for some of the most iconic events in British sport. As Chair of Sport England, Nick has had detailed involvement in the government’s approach to the funding, organisation and regulation of Sports.
Emma Shaw is an associate in our Sports team and has a wealth of experience in both contentious and non-contentious sporting matters. She advises clients across a variety of sports including tennis, football and rugby on the enforcement of their ticket terms and conditions and assists these clients in obtaining interim injunctions. Emma also has extensive experience in civil contempt where both interim and permanent injunctions have been breached, including three successful outcomes before the Court of Appeal in this area. Her previous experience includes assisting on domestic and international disputes in a variety of sports including football, athletics, rugby, MMA and motor sport. She has substantial experience of proceedings brought before the High Court and has also acted on disputes brought in arbitral forums including the Court of Arbitration for Sport and the European Court of Arbitration. Emma has carried out dispute work for clients and negotiated image rights and endorsement agreements for high-profile sports personalities.
Philippa Kwok is one of the firm’s newest solicitors on the Sports team. Prior to being named a solicitor, Philippa was a trainee at Armstrong Teasdale. She works with clients in the sports, media and technology sectors on matters including commercial contracts, and also has experience in corporate law and capital markets.
Matt Santer (solicitor) and Mark Galli (associate solicitor) were tremendous additions to our team this year. Both work across our portfolio of high-profile clients, providing commercial and regulatory advice. Matt and Mark are highly experienced in advising on a wide range of commercial arrangements including agreements relating to suppliers, sponsors, brand partners, IP, data protection and image rights. Mark has previously been seconded to the in-house team at the Premier League.
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