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Sports Law

On the Offense

Sam Katz helps retired NFL players receive the disability benefits they deserve—a tough game to win, he says, on a field ruled by nepotism.

Athlaw's Sam Katz, with student Jennifer Cima ’24, an apprentice at his firm, both wearing his company's signature sweatshirt.  Photograph by Vicki Sanders

Sam Katz, the managing partner of sports law firm Athlaw LLP, visited BC Law on October 11 to speak to the Sports and Entertainment Law Society. Katz works with retired NFL players to secure their benefits through the NFL Concussion Settlement and NFL Disability and Retirement Plans.

Katz walked students through the complicated process of navigating obtaining benefits and settlement dollars for players, and how the NFL’s massive legal and financial resources, as well as the many lawyers and players in the pipeline, can present challenges.

BC Law 2L and SELS member Jennifer Cima introduced Katz, whom she connected with several years ago via a University of Southern California Los Angeles job posting (both are alumni). She is currently a sports and entertainment law clerk at his firm and, like Katz, wore a blue “Athlaw LLP” sweatshirt to the talk.

Katz told students how he founded his firm and got his start in the industry, from humble days in law school spent almost entirely in the law library where one day a former football player at USC found Katz and asked him for help with obtaining benefits. Katz took an interest in the issue and decided to learn as much as he could about the benefits system.

Eventually, he made it the focus of the law firm he founded in Los Angeles. But, he said, it was a tough climb. When he started out, he had no connections in the field and had to confront what he describes as rampant nepotism in the sports industry, which included attorneys. In the incompetence of some of those lawyers, Katz says, he saw opportunity. His tenacity in “briefing every case” during law school translated into a work ethic he’s taken with him to his practice—something he prides himself on.

Katz underscored how knowing the law “backwards and forwards” and staying “ahead of the others” is key, and that if one does wrong by a single player, that can and will become one’s reputation.

Athlaw LLP intentionally doesn’t promote itself, according to Katz, as he believes “winning cases is the best promotion.”

BC Law’s Sports and Entertainment Society was resurrected from dormancy last year by then-1Ls Henry Booth and Joe Prisco, who were college athletes with an interest in working in the field once they became lawyers. They recruited a group of students and this year, with events like the Katz talk, are growing their calendar. Next up, an “Ask the Artist” session on October 25 with ANTWIGADEE! as he speaks about his life, his art as a DJ, and his business interactions with the law.