Sonny Bill Williams’ Sports Lawyer and What It Takes To Become a Sports Lawyer


steve-cottrell-300x300The lawyer who stood beside Sonny Bill Williams during his judicial conduct hearing is one of the country’s most prominent sports lawyers and a member of LawFuel’s up-and-coming Power List members.

A former MinterEllisonRuddWatts lawyer and Cambridge graduate, Cottrell was General Counsel at the Rugby Union before moving into sports management with Cottsport, the larges such sports law business in the country.

He not only handles rugby players like Williams, but is also a Sanzar Judicial Officer andcottrell1 represents many sporting codes in the country and is also a director of Drug Free Sport NZ.

Much of his time is spent advising sports governing bodies on both legal and commercial matters, such as collective bargaining issues to broadcast questions, as well as advising on matters like the recent Sonny Bill complaint and other disciplinary matters.

How Do You Become a Sports Lawyer?

Many young lawyers – and some not-so-young – relish the opportunity to garner a role in the sports law business, one of the fastest-growing law areas worldwide.

Steve Cottrell, an Otago law graduate, has some advice on the topic, speaking with the Otago Law School alumni newsletter and saying he was regularly asked by lawyers about how to get into the sports law business.

“Invariably they are looking to work in an area they are passionate about and see sport as the answer.

“My response is to encourage them to go for it but to temper their enthusiasm with the reality that New Zealand sport is a small market with a limited number of organisations able to afford in-house or external legal resource.

“The key is to build contacts and gain experience. To do that you need to create an ‘in’ – for me that was my mate Filo being the first player cited under rugby’s new disciplinary rules.

“A good way for others to create their ‘in’ is to get actively involved with their local club or sports organisation at whatever level in whatever capacity they need – board, management, advisor or volunteer. Law and sport have mixed well for me in my working career to date. Looking forward to seeing how the second half plays out.”

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