In a winter Elon Law residency-in-practice with one of the world’s most influential sport training institutions and a related company, Andrew Tawiah L’21 learned how corporate law makes possible some of the biggest athletic, entertainment, and fashion events of the year.
This is the fourth in a series of occasional stories on residency-in-practice experiences for Elon Law students in the Class of 2021.
Sporting events. Concerts. Beauty pageants. Film festivals. Nary a corner of the entertainment world went untouched by COVID-19 as countless programs found themselves postponed or outright canceled over the past year because of the pandemic.
But in most instances, canceling an event – even in a public health emergency – isn’t so easy. How do promoters handle broken lease agreements and sponsorship contracts where millions of dollars are on the line? And what are the implications of writing future contracts when there’s no way to know if a live event will be possible?
Andrew Tawiah L’21 now has a better sense of the answer to those questions.
In his Elon Law residency-in-practice over the winter with Florida-based IMG Academy, one of the world’s largest sport training and educational institutions, Tawiah assisted staff attorneys with drafting and reviewing venue agreements, sponsorship agreements, and sales and marketing contracts. He also assisted with periodic sponsorship research.
The academy is an extension of IMG, itself a management firm with clients that include sports figures and fashion icons. In addition, IMG stages hundreds of live events each year, part of a self-described “network of integrated companies at the nexus of sports, fashion and entertainment.” Tawiah had the opportunity to work for both.
“The biggest thing I’ve learned is the ability to communicate with a business and a legal team efficiently,” he said. “As a lawyer, working in different contexts, you have to make sure the information you’re relaying to the business team is sound advice. Sometimes you can’t give them a full memo. You have to be formal, but you can’t be as formal as you would with just the legal team.”
Elon Law’s Residency-in-Practice Program is the only one of its kind in American legal education. Students earn academic credit by working full-time under the supervision of a judge or attorney during the winter or spring of their second year.
The experience is grounded in a learning plan that students develop with their supervisors and a professor to increase proficiency in at least two legal skills and in an area of law practice.
Tawiah’s interest in sports and entertainment dates to his youth. Given a choice between playing basketball for a small college or attending the University of Maryland, Tawiah picked the latter, recognizing that most collegiate athletes do not advance into professional sports.
While he wanted school to be his focus, Tawiah spotted another venture that was possible between classes: an event management business he founded with a focus on entertainment for underrepresented groups that didn’t feel the university sponsored programs that catered to their tastes.
He also served as a scout player for the women’s basketball team. By the time he reached his senior year, Tawiah recalls, a pre-law professor was encouraging him to think about opportunities in sports and entertainment.
And his Elon Law experiences to date help inform the advice he offers current students and prospective students. “You should see sports and entertainment as two different industries,” Tawiah said. “Try to learn as much about them before deciding which one you might want to work in. I’ve been fortunate that I’ve been able to intern in both.”
“But read up on the trades. If you don’t have an internship, you can still learn about an industry. Try to figure out what legal areas you want to focus on.”
Tawiah credits two Elon Law alumni in particular with mentoring that has set him up for early career success. Advice from Danielle Hardy L’18 and Jordan Thompson L’17 “helped me do some of the things I’ve been able to do,” he said. “I can’t give them thanks enough.”
What’s next for the current president of Elon Law’s Sport and Entertainment Law Society? A summer internship with ViacomCBS at the BET Network in New York. After Tawiah’s initial introduction to sport and entertainment law through his residency with IMG, he is now looking to work closely with attorneys involved in television and film.
Tawiah is deciding between New York or the California Bar Exam after he graduates in December. Though he isn’t settled on a particular path – in-house counsel or work for a law firm? – he knows that sports and entertainment law is his calling.
“It’s an interesting business,” he said when reflecting on his experiences at Elon Law. “You can see your work come to life. You’ll work on a project and see how things transpire and how it can really help somebody.”