Lakers' General Counsel Does it All
Thursday, Apr 21, 2011
Story and photo by Maria Iacobo
He is an alum who did not need an introduction to a classroom filled with law students interested in launching a career in sports law.
Jim Perzik ’62, the secretary and general counsel for the Los Angeles Lakers, answered questions about his career path, the areas of law that apply to his job and collective bargaining. And, of course, questions about Kobe and Shaq, trade rumors and whether or not a collective bargaining agreement can be reached between the players union and the NBA before the June 30 deadline.
Chuckling when asked how he got into sports law, Perzik simply says, “I happened to be standing on the corner when the Buss came by.”
Perzik is referring to Lakers owner Jerry Buss (also a USC graduate) who was a longtime client when Perzik practiced real estate law and Buss was building a successful career in real estate development. When Buss decided to transition into acquiring sports franchises, he asked Perzik to handle the legal work.
In 1979, Perzik closed what was at the time the sports world’s largest deal: Buss acquired the NBA’s Lakers, the NHL’s Kings and the 18,000-seat Los Angeles Forum which was home to both teams. With the forum hosting rock concerts and tennis and boxing matches, Perzik became quite accomplished at drafting a number of entertainment and sports contracts.
“There are special things that make working in every sport unique,” said Perzik. “With the NBA, you need to know their “rule books” for collective bargaining, bylaws, sponsorship and broadcast agreements.
In addition to contracts for the Lakers’ players and coaches, Perzik handles employment agreements for about 75 full-time employees including trainers and general staff; operational issues and the lease agreement for the Staples Center.
Recently, Perzik managed an unprecedented agreement between the Lakers and Time Warner Cable to distribute all Lakers games via two regional sports networks – including the first national Spanish-language regional sports network – for 20 years.
Because he holds an undergraduate degree in accounting and worked as a CPA before earning his law degree, Perzik fielded questions regarding the extent in which his business background plays versus his role as an attorney.
“It plays a tremendous part,” said Perzik. “I work with our chief financial officer on accounting and business affairs matters.”
Perzik took away some of the allure of traveling with the Lakes by describing what life can be like on the road.
“You leave right after the game,” he said. “Lets say you’re in Portland and the game ends at, maybe ten o’clock. You travel by bus to the airport and you board the plane at midnight. By the time you land in Utah and get to the hotel, it’s 3:30 in the morning. The team practices at 11 a.m. and then, it’s back to the hotel before the game. Then after that game, it’s back to the airport for a flight to Denver. And that’s a West Coast trip. Imagine the East Coast trips.”
Judging by the line of students waiting to speak with Perzik after his talk, the glamour of working in sports law may not have been too tarnished.
Sports Law Society Pays Lakers a Visit
Jim Perzik ’62 hosted members of the Sports Law Society to dinner and a tour of the Lakers’ practice facility in El Segundo recently. The group explored the practice court, locker rooms, training and rehab areas, coaching and scouting offices, and executive and team meeting rooms.
“We stopped by Lakers’ General Manager Mitch Kupchak’s office which was a real treat for the students,” said Sports Law Society’s faculty advisor Vered Yakovee. Kupchack showed the students his high tech means of maintaining his bird’s eye view of the NBA player market.
He took time to answer questions about his day-to-day job, and he gave advice to students about their future. He even joked—while eyeing the one 6’10” student in the group—that only one person in the room might have a future on the court. After the tour, Perzik sat for dinner with the students in one of the facilities’ meeting rooms and hosted a roundtable discussion about his experiences and current events in sports.
The Sports Law Society is a student organization committed to fulfilling the educational and professional goals of law students interested in exploring the intersection between the law and sports.