2L day student, Justin Orsini, highlights his experience during Sacramento Kings internship

2L day student, Justin Orsini

2L day student, Justin Orsini, highlights his experience during Sacramento Kings internship and discusses legal advice, contracts, NBA insights, and shaping future sports law leaders!

Can you describe your role and responsibilities during your internship with the Sacramento Kings?
I was the Legal intern for the Sacramento Kings, my responsibilities included: Legal research and writing (memos) regarding topics covering contest and sweepstakes law and data privacy, using the memos and research to give legal advice and ensure compliance to various departments who worked within these areas of law, drafting contract exhibits and other required language within the body of the contract for sponsorship agreements, drafting language for intellectual property licensing agreements, drafting NDA’s, drafting release of liability waivers for on-court sponsorship activities, and drafting arena rental agreements.


What motivated you to pursue an internship with an NBA team, and how did it align with your legal career goals?
I grew up playing basketball and being a fan of the game. When my playing career came to an end, I wanted to remain around the game and have an impact on team activities even if the role wasn’t as a player. I want to become a General Manager of an NBA team. This led me to pursue a legal path that would allow me to understand contracts, negotiations, and collective bargaining while being a high-level problem solver for the team. The Kings gave me the opportunity to learn about the business of running an NBA team and working within areas of law, such as contracts and negotiations. The team allowed me to see how impactful the legal department of an NBA team is and experience all parts of the business while utilizing the knowledge and skills of being a lawyer.


Did your internship involve any specific legal projects or cases related to the sports industry? Can you provide any insights into the work you did?
Yes. The projects I worked on had to do with skills learned in school, such as legal research and writing. The other aspects of contract drafting was a skill I had to learn while on the job.

The internship also introduced me to issues concerning intellectual property, specifically music. The NBA and all of its teams are being sued for songs being played in the background of social media posts on social media platforms that don’t have the requisite licenses to play protected copyrights (music) for business purposes. This makes NBA teams and other sports leagues have to evaluate what to post on social media and how careful they have to be when using social media and other copyrighted works.


How did your legal coursework and prior experiences in law school prepare you for the tasks you undertook during your internship?
My previous classes helped me understand and converse with my department about issues facing the legal team. Particularly contracts helped me understand drafting exhibits for deals and certain elements that the team prioritizes. Furthermore, understanding confidential information and how far that privilege extends, even in a corporate setting. Furthermore, working with outside counsel classes on civil procedure proved to be beneficial when discussing options for trial strategy.
Torts, particularly slip and fall cases and negligence, were a regular occurrence during my internship and especially within the sports law space. With thousands of fans attending games and events, there are a lot of negligence and tort cases. Furthermore, the Kings own all the land and space around the arena, so there is even more incentive to place protections and limit liability by reducing the number of tort cases the team gets sued for.


Were there any interesting legal challenges or issues that you encountered while working with the Kings? How did you approach and resolve them?
The biggest challenge I faced pertained to contract and exhibit drafting. This wasn’t an area or skill that my previous classes had addressed. In order to familiarize with how language worked and the types of protections the team wanted within its contracts I had to reference prior contracts and learn by trial and error. My supervisor would allow me to work with language in order to see the structure they wanted and the language used to protect the team and their interests. I went over these assignments with my supervisor and she corrected me and taught me how to utilize certain phrases. Eventually, this led me to understand how to draft a contract, use language to ensure certain protections and be detailed enough without overcommitting to certain obligations.


Did you have the chance to work closely with the team's legal counsel or other professionals in the sports law field? What did you learn from these interactions?
I worked directly under the team’s General counsel and Senior Associate. I would have weekly meetings with them to go over assignments I had and any questions I had for them. They would take the opportunity to get me up to speed with pending projects or future projects, their legal significance, there importance to the team, and the legal teams role within these projects.

Furthermore, the General Counsel and Senior Associate helped me understand that as in-house lawyer, they are not only in their roles to tell departments what they can or cannot do, but they also provide business advice and help the team navigate through problems. As a lawyer, it’s easy to say what a department or corporation can or cannot due under the law. However, my supervisors showed me that they added business sense and guidance. This made their position more valuable.


Can you share any memorable moments or experiences from your time with the Sacramento Kings that had a significant impact on you?
Some of the more memorable moments consisted of: attending the Kings Summer League, the “California Classic”, sitting down and connecting with the President of the Business Operations Department, attending meetings with high-level executives and being able to discuss the law to inform them or the status of projects, and attending weekly department meetings where I would be able to sit down with the General Counsel and Senior Associate. This would turn into not only getting on the same page with projects but educating me on the legal aspects of the business.


In what ways do you believe your internship with an NBA team has shaped your career aspirations and understanding of sports law?
This internship with an NBA team has not only expanded my knowledge of the intersection between the law and sports by being able to interact with the field directly, but has helped me become a better leader, more professional, and comfortable in rooms filled with executives.

This internship has motivated me to continue to pursue opportunities within the field.


What advice would you give to other law students who are interested in pursuing internships in the sports industry, especially with professional sports teams?
Apply as much as you can and do not turn away from an opportunity because you may be unqualified based on the job description. This internship was for 2L and 3L students, which I was not at the time but my credentials and previous experience within the sports industry separated me from the competition. Be prepared to work hard and work long hours. Sports is a grind and never stops. However, if you are truly passionate about the field this will not be an issue. Be professional and make a good impression on everyone and anyone, even fellow interns. Sports is a very small field and your reputation will precede you. How you treat people is everything and professionalism is a must. Get as much experience as you possibly can to separate yourself from the competition, even if the experience is not sports-related it can translate to a sports role.


Looking ahead, what do you see as the key legal challenges or trends in the world of professional sports, and how do you hope to contribute to this field in the future?
One key legal challenge that will continue for a long time is collective bargaining and player representation. Sports collective bargaining agreements are difficult to understand and have a lot of nuance. There is always a need for someone who can understand it and apply it. This skill applies to all areas of sports, especially team operations or player representation. Knowing the nuances and parsing legal language is a skill that is very valuable. Furthermore, collective bargaining and employment law will always continue, and ensuring there is equal representation and negotiating positions for the players and leagues will always be at the forefront of sports law challenges.

Intellectual property is a huge field in sports and players are attempting to monetize what makes them unique. This leads to copyrights, trademarks, and other intellectual property protections to be used. Players are businesses just as much as the league and the teams are and they will be seeking legal protection for what makes them unique and marketable. Intellectual property plays a role on the team and league side. For example, the NBA was sued by owners of copyrighted music for their use on social media. Teams rely heavily on social media, but these platforms don’t possess the licenses to have business use copyrighted works on their platforms. NBA teams have been sued for using the slightest of music being used in the background of social media posts. Moving forward, this drastically impacts the social media departments on not just teams, but the league as a whole.