Jason Saiban

Job title Sports lawyer

Employer Charles Russell Speechlys

So you want to be a sports lawyer? Jason Saiban reveals what's involved…

Hi Jason, briefly explain your role as a sports lawyer and some of your key responsibilities?
I am a lawyer who specialises in the sport industry. I head the Sports Group at my firm, Charles Russell Speechlys, which is ranked as one of the top sports law teams in the UK. My responsibilities include supervising my team and acting for a number of our key clients, including the likes of Nike and Leicester City FC.

A sports lawyer sounds like someone who might spend a lot of time defending rogue sports people from their misdemeanours! What’s the reality?
That is certainly not all we do! It completely varies. I specialise in commercial work, so that involves advising on large sponsorship agreements (for example, Nike sponsoring Chelsea), merchandising, endorsements and even football transfers. Sports lawyers also advise on regulatory and disciplinary issues, for example where players/individuals or clubs are in breach of sports laws or regulations.

Presumably no day is the same. Explain a typical week in terms of how you break down your time?
Absolutely, every day is different. I spend the majority of my time advising organisations on their commercial activities, such as sponsorship, merchandising, advertising and marketing, but I have also been advising sports bodies on reforms to their governance procedures and how they operate. The team is also advising a large sport on ways to adapt its rules and to increase its income.

“The variety of work is fascinating, you get to be involved in cutting-edge stuff that is often very high profile. It is very exciting to be involved in something that the public are interested in”

Tell us a bit about your career path so far… and how you landed your current role?
I trained to be an intellectual property and tech lawyer  – someone who specialises in brands. I was then asked to head up and develop the firm’s sports law offering.  I have been here for nearly 20 years.

What do you like about it?
The variety of work is fascinating, you get to be involved in cutting-edge stuff that is often very high profile. It is very exciting to be involved in something that the public are interested in.

Did you always want to work in sports law?
I hoped to have the opportunity at some stage!

What degree did you get, and what experience did you get when you were starting out?
I did a law degree and then went to law school. However, I don’t think a law degree is important – study what interests you most at University and then you can go to law school after. As for experience, I tried to get as much summer experience in the legal profession as possible – to be sure I actually liked it and to show my commitment when it came to completing my cv. It is incredibly competitive to get a training contract to be a lawyer, even more so if you want to be a specialist in something like sport.

What are the key skills required to be a sports lawyer?
Good people skills, as you will meet a varied and sometimes demanding group of people. Excellent analytical skills – you need to be able to solve problems for people. Good attention to detail.

“I don’t think a law degree is important – study what interests you most at University and then you can go to law school after”

What advice would you offer anyone keen to pursue a career in sports law?
Get work experience if possible in a firm with a specialise sports law team. Get good grades!

Are you a sports fan?
Absolutely, I am passionate about sports – have always played it (with remarkably little ability) and have coached both rugby and football.