Most would be surprised to know that UC Law has a strong connection with Minor League Baseball. In fact, Scott Poley ’94 plays a major role in all legal aspects of the franchise. A native of Michigan, Poley came to the UC College of Law after completing his undergraduate studies at the University of Michigan. Although he was a communications major, Poley had taken some legal classes as an undergraduate student and found them very intriguing. This led him to law school. The College of Law appealed to Poley on many levels, but he was especially drawn to the school because of the small class size. “I liked that it wasn’t a ‘lawyer factory,’” he said.
During his summers in law school, Poley worked on many issues related to corporate law. He worked for Hook-SupeRx drug stores in the legal department. His work there encompassed many areas, including commercial leases for drug stores, as well as some labor and employment law issues. Poley worked in the Kroger Company’s legal department during his second summer and third year, focusing on labor and employment issues, as well as other legal issues.
After finishing law school, Poley went to work for Denlinger, Rosenthal and Greenberg Co., LPA, in Cincinnati. The firm is a management labor boutique, and Poley’s work again centered around labor and employment issues. He was with the firm for six years when another opportunity presented itself.
A First-hand Look at America’s Favorite Pastime
In 2000, a classmate alerted Poley that Minor League Baseball’s general counsel was leaving, and the organization needed someone with labor and employment experience to fill the position. Poley’s classmate, Tom Allen, was working at Frost & Jacobs, LLP (now Frost Brown Todd, LLC), which at the time was (and still is) the primary outside law firm handling Minor League Baseball’s legal issues. Minor League Baseball was looking for someone with experience handling labor and employment law issues to fill the general counsel role, particularly because the Minor League umpires had recently organized a union for the first time and the subsidiary that employed umpires, Professional Baseball Umpire Corporation, needed someone who could assist with negotiations with the union.
As Vice President, Legal Affairs and General Counsel for Minor League Baseball, Poley works for the various companies that oversee all Minor League Baseball teams and leagues in the United States, Canada, Dominican Republic, Mexico and Venezuela. Primary among these is the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, which consists of 250 teams across 20 Minor Leagues. In his role as general counsel, Poley regularly deals with many different areas of law. As in the case of the umpires’ union, Poley still deals with labor- and employment-related legal issues. He also deals with intellectual property issues for the licensing arm of Minor League Baseball, Professional Baseball Promotion Corporation, and assists with the negotiation and drafting of national marketing and sponsorship deals. Most recently he worked on significant deals with Fritos and Kraft Singles to promote their products in Minor League stadiums around the country.
Another facet of Poley’s job involves assisting the teams with trademark applications for their logos and advising clubs on the appropriateness of their promotional activities. “Sometimes,” Poley admits, “we’re too late. Like when a team in Utah held a ‘Mormon night’ in which the promotion was, ‘pay for the first wife, all additional wives get in free,’ or when another team had an Enron-related promotion which involved shredding fans’ tickets at the door and allowing them to sit wherever they wanted.”
Poley is also responsible for reviewing, with the president, proposed new owners of Minor League teams to ensure that they can be approved by the league. He also works closely with the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball and the various Major League Baseball entities including Major League Baseball Properties and Major League Baseball Advanced Media, the licensing and internet arms of MLB. Poley works with lawyers at Major League Baseball on the agreements that govern the relationship between Major and Minor League Baseball and under which the Minor League teams’ receive players and coaches in exchange for a portion of the Minor League teams’ ticket revenues and a number of other requirements such as providing stadiums that meet certain minimum standards. Poley works to ensure that both sides are adhering to the contract and holding up their end of the bargain.
The Big Break
Recognizing that sports law is a difficult area to get into, Poley offered some advice to law students and lawyers alike. “There are really two ways to get into it,” Poley said. “The first is to take a low-paying, entry level job and work your way up. The second option is to become really good at an area of the law and then network your way into the sports field.” Poley acknowledged the difficulty the first option poses to law students and new lawyers, who have student loans and other responsibilities to worry about. For those who are able to consider entering the field through this route, however, Poley stated that the Professional Baseball Employment Opportunities (PBEO.com) is a great place to start.
Poley himself got into sports law through the second route. “I never planned on doing sports law,” he stated. “It just worked out that Minor League Baseball needed someone who had experience in labor and employment work, and I happened to fit that description.” He explained that there are many tangential ways into the sports world as well, such as working at a bank in its sponsorship division. Poley also emphasized the importance of making contacts with those in the sports law world. One way to do so is to become part of the Sports Lawyers’ Association. The connections and activities available through the Association are a great way to meet people in the sports world, said Poley, and could open doors in the future. The Association’s website is available at Sportslaw.org.
Although his work keeps him busy, Poley enjoys spending time with his family in his free time. He and his wife, Jeanie, spend a lot of time chasing after their four-year-old son. Poley recently coached soccer and basketball for four-year-olds, too. And, logically, he enjoys attending baseball games when he has the chance.
Lindsay Mather '11