2L day student, Justin Orsini, highlights his experience during Sacramento Kings internship
2L day student, Justin Orsini, highlights his experience during Sacramento Kings internship
and discusses legal advice, contracts, NBA insights, and shaping future sports law
Can you describe your role and responsibilities during your internship with the Sacramento
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
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.