By Connor Oniki
Maggy Carlyle is General Counsel and Senior Vice President for the Pac-12 Conference. In a turbulent time for college athletics with issues ranging from NIL to conference reorganization, Maggy has been tasked with navigating the Pac-12 through these complicated legal issues. I had the pleasure of speaking with Maggy and learning about her work and experiences. Check out the interview below.
Name, Position, and Location
Maggy Carlyle, General Counsel and SVP, Business Affairs, Pac-12 Conference
Current Practice Areas/Industries
University of Missouri, Bachelor of Journalism, 2003-07
University of Missouri, Juris Doctor, 2008-11
Cardozo Law School, Juris Doctor (Visiting), 2010-11
Harvard Kennedy School—Business of Entertainment, Media, and Sports, 2022
Did you always hope to work in sports law? What did you do in law school to prepare yourself for those opportunities?
Starting law school at the beginning of an economic downturn, I realized quickly that I would need to be creative both to find work in school to pay my bills and to find legal experience for my future career. Traditional jobs were scarce. Firms, community organizations, and businesses were downsizing, deferring hires, or simply going under.
Going into sports law wasn’t my focus, but I was a former athlete, loved sports, and had experience teaching, so I got a job at the Mizzou athletics department doing academic advising, tutoring, and mentoring during the school year to pay rent and buy groceries. That led to a conversation with the head of the professional advising office and an externship organizing NFL pro days and the NFLPA agent hiring process. It was my first “sports law” experience and fed my interest in working with sports organizations.
I took advantage of any academic support opportunities that could be related to sports in some way. I participated in OCI with firms that did sports work; I sat for a resume review with the only sports-related lawyer on the Mizzou alumni network; I worked in the Arts, Intellectual Property and Entertainment Law group. I sent letters and requests for internships and informational interviews with tens (if not hundreds) of sports and entertainment related organizations—teams, leagues, sponsors, media broadcasters, apparel companies, production houses, etc. I volunteered to be a gopher for broadcast trailers on football and basketball game days. I sent out endless letters for informational interview and advice. I ultimately got an internship with the KC Chiefs which led me to apply to and receive a clerkship with the NFL Management Council. While I was in New York working as a law clerk, I worked in the NFL command center on the weekends as an officiating monitor.
I also signed up for short opportunities that were completely unrelated to sports but increased my legal experience. I worked on document review and appellate briefs for a criminal defense attorney. I did a two-week January “intersession” shadow assignment with a judge in St. Louis. While I was there, I asked the Rams’ head of football administration to meet for coffee and give advice… and he agreed. The little experiences were often as helpful as the big.
Little by little, after 3 years and a lot of couch hopping, I had gathered a meaningful variety of legal experience and sports work.
What work did you do following law school?
After law school and my NFL clerkship, I got a job at the San Francisco 49ers in football administration doing clock management reports, contract analysis, reviews of rules and impacts of the new CBA. It was not “legal” work, per se, but my legal training was helpful. I also got a job with the Pac-10 helping them set up their first officiating command center, having recent experience and exposure to the NFL’s command center operations. After a season with the Niners, I moved into a generalist role with the San Jose Sharks and my legal career began there.
How did you get connected and begin working with the PAC-12 Conference?
I was initially hired at the Pac-12 by my former boss at the Kansas City Chiefs who had moved to the (then) Pac-10 a few years prior. He gave me a call when there was an opening at the Pac-12 that fit my experience. After 4 great seasons at the Sharks, I jumped to the Pac-12. On one hand, I was excited to apply my legal experience in live event production that I gained at the SAP Center as Pac-12 was launching its new neutral-site basketball tournaments in Vegas. I also knew that the job would allow me to expand my experience and knowledge to include broadcast media, sports governance, and sports betting and game integrity.
In your position, you wear a lot of hats besides just the strictly legal work that a typical General Counsel might have. What are some of those roles and how have you been able to grow into those roles with the PAC-12?
General Counsel roles can vary wildly form organization to organization. I’ve had the opportunity to have experience beyond strict legal department parameters throughout my career which allowed us to create some helpful efficiencies at the Pac-12. In addition to legal management, my oversight includes integrity & sports betting oversight, security, and medical policy & operations. Historically, each of these areas works very closely with legal on a daily basis. Combining them under one umbrella helped to incentivize collaboration and synergies.
What do you most enjoy about your work?
There are no easy answers and there is never a dull moment. I get to work on novel and interesting issues in an ever evolving and growing industry. I get to work with non-lawyers every day to try to build out new ideas, solve problems, support teams as they compete (and win!) competitions, and create incredible experiences for teams, athletes and fans.
What piece of advice would you give to a current law student?
Work smart and work hard. Figure out the experiences that could help you be really good in your future career and connect you with interesting, smart, successful people. Learn from others. Read about people who are doing what you would like to do, find those people, ask henm questions. Don’t be afraid to try something new. Use this opportunity to be a “beginner”—it’s harder when you’re out of school.
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