Chidi Oteh is an experienced associate at Ropes & Gray LLP in Boston in their asset management and sports groups. In his sports practice, Chidi works on the negotiation of employment, sponsorship, media and speaking arrangements for various collegiate and professional coaches, administrators and broadcasters. In addition, he assists in the negotiation of sponsorship, licensing, joint venture, broadcast and media rights agreements for professional leagues, teams, and colleges and universities. Chidi also has experience on the team side, having spent a year as associate counsel for the Oakland A’s and San Jose Earthquakes. During the Ropes & Gray Summer Program, Chidi organized their first Women in Sports Panel, where women in the summer associate class were able to listen, learn, and receive valuable advice from women across the industry on how to succeed and leave your mark in the competitive environment that is sports law.
JSEL reached out to Chidi to talk about his professional journey and advice for law students ahead of EIP!
Name, Position, and Location:
Chidi Oteh, Associate in the Sports and Asset Management groups at Ropes & Gray LLP, Boston
Current Practice Areas/Industries:
Asset Management and Sports
Sports Industry Experience:
I’ve enjoyed four years as an associate in the Sports Group at Ropes & Gray, accented by one year spent as an associate counsel for the Oakland A’s and the San Jose Earthquakes. Prior to my legal career, I enjoyed five years of collegiate football (four years NCAA DI-AA, one year NAIA).
JD, Howard University School of Law, 2015
MBA, Lindenwood University School of Business and Entrepreneurship, 2012
BA (Finance), Lindenwood University, 2010
What do you most enjoy most about your job?
It has to be the people. Interacting with, learning from and helping people.
What do you enjoy about practicing at Ropes & Gray?
Working on some of the most complex legal issues along side incredibly down to earth and humble people. I am certainly biased – but everyone here cares about you and takes an interest in your comprehensive development. Ropes has incredible training, talented and kind people, and the firm takes care to concern itself with the passions and interests of its employees.
How did you begin doing in-house sports work with the A’s and the San Jose Earthquakes?
I applied for the role via TeamWorkOnline. When applying, I did not imagine that I would get the job, or that I would want to move across the country if I did. I truly just saw the great opportunity and took a chance to mark myself to the sports job market. The interview process was lengthy (about six months if I remember correctly). Once I met with the legal team, I knew I had to work for them and hoped they would hire me. I eventually left the A’s and Earthquakes to be closer to family on the east coast. I am incredibly grateful that I was able to come back to Ropes.
What has been one highlight from your career?
It has to be my time with the Oakland A’s and San Jose Earthquakes. The people are incredible and the experience I was able to gain unparalleled.
What piece of advice would you give to a current law student?
Take risks. While it is really good to take certain classes (i.e. if you know you want to be a deal lawyer, you should take a corporations class, a tax lawyer, a tax class, an IP lawyer, trademarks and copyright classes, etc.), balance that approach by taking a risk on a class that interests you or challenges you.
What is a recent case or trend in your industry that interested law students should do some research about?
Not just in my industry, but in the world, the fight for social justice is so important right now. From the great work teams in the NBA are embarking on, to the updates to the hiring and diversity policies of the NFL, great work is ongoing in the social justice arena and law students should take note.
Player empowerment is also a big item. The shift of power from institutions, to individuals is at a very interesting inflection point that will continue to develop. This trend can clearly be seen in both (i) the NCAA policies regarding name, image and likeness, and (ii) the power players continue to garner in free agency and over their brands via social media. (Editor’s note: Chidi recently co-authored a piece for the Licensing Journal on NIL policy. Visit his Ropes bio to download his article and learn more)
What do you like to do in your free time?
Pre-pandemic: Cooking, sports, and travel.
During-pandemic: Cooking and any outdoor activity with my family.