Yesterday, Indiana University selected Indianapolis attorney Fred Glass as their new Athletic Director. Glass has been called the “architect” behind Indianapolis’ successful bids to host major national sporting events such as the NCAA Final Four, and has been heavily involved with other Big Ten and collegiate sporting events. Interestingly, there is no immediately apparent connection with Glass’ legal practice areas (“government affairs” and “insurance and financial services”) and these prominent sporting activities. Glass’ experience provides a perfect example of how an interesting law practice, when combined with a strong personal interest in sports (or entertainment or IP, for that matter), can lead to exciting new career paths for attorneys.

IU President Michael McRobbie (R) congratulates Indianapolis attorney and IU alum Fred Glass on his new post as Athletic Director.

IU President Michael McRobbie (right) congratulates Indianapolis attorney and IU alum Fred Glass on his new post as Athletic Director.

So what kind of position has Glass inherited? Initially, it’s worth noting that Indiana has an overwhelmingly successful athletic program. Their men’s basketball team has won five Final Fours and their football squad, though far from a national super-power, did in fact make a bowl game last year. In addition to these marquee sports, IU has twenty other varsity teams that Glass will now oversee.

So why did IU decide that a lawyer was qualified for this position? IU specifically cited Glass’ involvement with the planning and management of sporting facilities and other large venues, as well as his extensive financial and managerial experience, as reasons for the selection. Interestingly, none of these skills have an exclusively legal or non-legal nexus to Glass’ prior career.

What is the lesson here? Take heart, young and aspiring lawyers. Just because you didn’t start your career off at that boutique sports law firm that you loved, or you missed out on the internship with that chic IP group, you have not forsaken a big-time career in entertainment or technology. Particularly in these harsh economic times, it may be more critical than ever for starry-eyed legal minds to look for non-traditional ways to involve their passions in their practice. Fred Glass worked his way into civic positions with sports slants, such as the committee that would eventually bring the Super Bowl to Indianapolis. Perhaps Glass had the foresight to realize that it would take more than just some contractors and PR folks to bring Super Bowl Sunday to Indiana. Undoubtedly, something of that scale doesn’t happen without attorneys.

So stop pouting about how you don’t stand a chance of getting an interview with the Dallas Cowboys’ Legal Affairs Office. Look for advisory boards, planning groups, and other organizations that may benefit from your legal expertise and passion and go for it! Maybe you’ll find yourself directing a top-tier college athletic program in just a few years.

–James Gibson

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