Darren Heitner

Founder of Heitner Legal, owner of Sports Agent Blog, writer at Forbes and Inc

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON March 31, 2016

Discussion

Darren Heitner@darrenheitner · Founder, Heitner Legal
Hello! I am Darren Heitner, Founder of Heitner Legal, owner of Sports Agent Blog, writer at Forbes and Inc, professor at the University of Florida and University of Florida Levin College of Law, and author of How to Play the Game: What Every Sports Attorney Needs to Know. I am excited to interact with you about sports and entertainment law, intellectual property issues, sports business matters, the world of fantasy sports, or anything else your heart desires. Let's get this thing going!
Jesse Weinberger@jesse_weinberger · I'm just a guy
As a professor, what’s the most noticeable change you see in your students vs. your law school classmates?
Darren Heitner@darrenheitner · Founder, Heitner Legal
@jesse_weinberger that's a really interesting question. I would say that the make-up is largely the same. I can tell when a student is disinterested and when one just wants to soak up as much information as I will give him/her. I think the same was true about my classmates. Many of us just wanted to get through, earn a degree and start making some dough. Others were genuinely interested in the subject(s) being taught. I think I'm fortunate in that I teach an upper class elective and that it's in Sports Law. I also have an absolutely threatening syllabus. So the seats fill up fast and then there are openings during drop/add when the students who thought it may be cool to take a "Sports Law" class realize we won't be outside playing baseball most days.
Andrew Ettinger@andrewett · PMM @Twitter // Previously @ProductHunt
@darrenheitner Which days/periods do you teach? @jesse_weinberger and I are going to come sit in! Huge plus if we're outside playing baseball, though.
Darren Heitner@darrenheitner · Founder, Heitner Legal
@andrewett @jesse_weinberger I'm done teaching my grad school class for this semester. Last semester I taught at the law school. Don't have plans for Summer and/or Fall 2016 just yet, but stay in touch. I'll be in Gainesville on Monday to speak at the Sports and Entertainment Law Symposium.
Andrew Ettinger@andrewett · PMM @Twitter // Previously @ProductHunt
@darrenheitner @jesse_weinberger - @mlefcort wants to go to that. I'll probably stop by! Will reach out if I do.
Joe Ferrari@jaferrari44
Hey Darren, huge fan. What influenced your decision to branch out and start Heitner Legal and what were the biggest challenges in doing so?
Darren Heitner@darrenheitner · Founder, Heitner Legal
@jaferrari44 thanks! I had practiced law at 2 firms prior to starting my own. First was an insurance defense firm, which provided me the liberty to begin to acquire my own book of business. Exactly a year later, I left to help an entertainment lawyer start his own firm. I worked my way up to becoming a Partner. Promises were made and not always kept. I was strictly working for my own clients and no longer my partner's. Clients no longer preferred having him step in for larger issues. It was simply time to take the leap and form my own shop. Every single one of my clients came with me. The biggest challenge is coping with a fear of "what if". What if business stops coming in? I still think about that every day. I believe every entrepreneur does or they should. It keeps us driven, hungry, passionate. Fortunately, I have not had a single second of downtime since I started Heitner Legal in June 2014.
Mike Coutermarsh@mscccc · Code @ GitHub
Hi Darren! Which apps/tech, if any, have made practicing as an attorney easier?
Darren Heitner@darrenheitner · Founder, Heitner Legal
@mscccc I love Invoiceable for tracking my time and sending out invoices. I use the Sunrise app on both iPhone and computer for calendaring everything. Accepting Paypal and Venmo has differentiated us from bigger firms. The Bank of America mobile app and Mint are also great apps to keep track of finances.
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Community and Marketing, Product Hunt
@mscccc As an addition to this, which tech/ apps do you see as 'disrupting' the sports industry right now? And are there any trends we should be looking out for?
Darren Heitner@darrenheitner · Founder, Heitner Legal
@ems_hodge @mscccc Another client plug - SportsManias. They've been #1 in Sports in App Store during Super Bowl, NBA All-Star Sunday and now this week leading up to Final Four.
David Gold@gavid_dold · Currently @dropbox, previously @citi
@darrenheitner huge fan! Currently a UF student and a die hard Gator fan. Lately, I've seen a trend in sports with the elite athletes. Lebron, DWade, even Chandler Parsons (go gators!) are opting for "smarter" business deals, taking less upfront money and opting for equity with endorsements. I've even seen more athletes choose to go without an agent, or in some cases, create their own agency. How do you see the business landscape in sports changing now, and where do you see it in the future?
Darren Heitner@darrenheitner · Founder, Heitner Legal
@notoriousdig_ thanks and Go Gators! I've seen the world of endorsements change quite a bit since I started practicing law. 5 years ago, most contracts didn't include a social media provision. If they did, then it was a line or two. Today, we are negotiating deals where the only component is a social media requirement. This trend will only continue. Valuation will become a key component to these types of negotiations. Do follower counts matter? What if followers are purchased? How do you measure engagement? What's worth more - a Twitter post or a post on Instagram? All very interesting to me.
Jason Garcia@jasongarcia911
@darrenheitner @notoriousdig_Piggybacking off of that... we're seeing more and more athletes investing in tech companies and getting involved in VC. What advice do you give to athletes looking to enter the space?
Darren Heitner@darrenheitner · Founder, Heitner Legal
@jasongarcia911 @notoriousdig_piggybacking don't think you're smart enough to do it on your own. You are a pro at your trade, whether it's basketball, football, baseball, etc. Surround yourself with people who understand investing and the space(s) you want to invest in.
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
Hey, Darren! Curious to hear your thoughts on eSports. Are you a fan and what does it look like in a decade?
Darren Heitner@darrenheitner · Founder, Heitner Legal
@rrhoover Hi Ryan. Thanks for offering me this opportunity to chat. The world of eSports has been on my radar for some time now, and I am very bullish on the space. It is incredible to see the sheer growth in attention to the industry in the past year alone. 2016 should bring exciting new opportunities by way of new and strongly funded events, large prize pools for participants, brands interested in aligning themselves with players, teams and events, and new technology to bring about innovative ways to experience the area. In a decade, revenue received from companies related to eSports will far outpace the revenues earned from any one professional sports league. We are all gamers at heart. We grew up playing video games. An excuse to keep playing? No need convincing me further.
Andrew Ettinger@andrewett · PMM @Twitter // Previously @ProductHunt
If you had to place a bet (ironically) on the future of DFS, do you think it exists in 5 years the way it does now?
Darren Heitner@darrenheitner · Founder, Heitner Legal
@andrewett I guess that all depends on how we define "the way it does now." DFS is a rapidly changing industry. Just today, FanDuel and DraftKings came to an agreement with the NCAA to stop providing college sports contests. So I guess it is easy to answer you by saying that it definitely does not exist the way it does now. I have long believed that the solution was to make DFS legal under strict regulations. It could have been achieved much more efficiently. FanDuel and DraftKings did not choose to go that route, instead relying on ridiculous "100% Legal" claims. Their jobs are much harder and more expensive now. But I still believe that DFS is here to stay. Legalized sports betting may jeopardize it's prominence at some point (if we get there).
Garrett Green@garrettgreen · content: @brobible + @debatetheslate
20 years from now: how do you see the NFL/NHL/tbd concussion situation + suits looking? I feel like it's an issue that could go on for what seems like eternity then one day just explode like a 90s .com-bubble but essentially ending a league/sport.
Darren Heitner@darrenheitner · Founder, Heitner Legal
@garrettgreen I truly hope there are no lawsuits pending on this matter 20 years from now. I don't believe that the leagues have any option but for to make playing conditions safer, not ignore the facts and educate their players on risks. Thereafter, it somewhat becomes an assumption of risk issue for the players. The big problem in the past was what plaintiffs lawyers would call the negligence of the leagues -- turning the other cheek to what was so evident with regard to the number of head injuries and the consequence of same, along with the use of studies trying to contradict the damaging effects of concussions. It shouldn't end any league...as long as they adjust appropriately. They can't believe they are too big to fail.
Leon Franco@leon_franco
What advice would you give to a young professional who loves every single sport, follows them religiously and wants to get into the industry (i.e. agent, team office...) but has no desire to go to law school?
Darren Heitner@darrenheitner · Founder, Heitner Legal
@leon_franco I would tell you that law school is not a prerequisite to being an agent, working in a team's front office, or the like. What's key is that you earn your way up. That you get the experience you need. That you separate yourself from every friend of yours who has the same exact goal in mind. I interned at groupcse.com (before it was groupcse.com) Summer 2005. It was an unpaid internship. It was still extremely difficult to get the spot. I was the first person in and the last person out. I would wear a button down and tie even though it wasn't required. I went above and beyond the call of duty. Do that. Find opportunities and then take advantage of them. None of us get to where we are without hard work. A little luck helps too.
Andrew Ettinger@andrewett · PMM @Twitter // Previously @ProductHunt
Are you familiar with Fantex? If yes, what're your thoughts on it? If not, which university has the best looking and brightest students and why is it UF?
Darren Heitner@darrenheitner · Founder, Heitner Legal
@andrewett very familiar. In fact, if you type my name and "Fantex" into Google, you should find no less than 5 articles I have written on the company on Forbes. I think it's a fabulous opportunity for athletes to turn non-guaranteed dollars into guaranteed, up-front money as long as they are being properly valued. It's great for the agent, who will receive his/her commission up front as well (and take away the non-guaranteed dollars). But a poor investment vehicle for you and me. It's too risky to guess at whether an athlete will be injured, have off field issues, dramatically decrease quality of play, stop endorsing companies, etc. I'd much prefer to roll the dice in the stock market and just enjoy watching games on TV. Go Gators.
Troy Ruediger@troy_ruediger · Helping shape the future of sports!
@andrewett more Fantex insight from Darren at the bottom. 😉 https://medium.com/sporttechiehq...
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Community and Marketing, Product Hunt
What three things should every new writer be focussing on to achieve success?
Darren Heitner@darrenheitner · Founder, Heitner Legal
@ems_hodge 1) unique voice/style; 2) sticking to strengths; 3) developing a following and showing them love.
Niv Dror@nivo0o0 · Words @ProductHunt & @AngelList
Hey @DarrenHeitner! Curious who your role models are? 🤔
Darren Heitner@darrenheitner · Founder, Heitner Legal
@nivo0o0 #1 is my Grandma Lottie. I dedicated my book, How to Play the Game: What Every Sports Attorney Needs to Know to her. No matter what pains me in life, no matter what victories I have...it won't compare to what she went through as a Holocaust survivor. I'm blessed to still have her in my life today.
Darren Heitner@darrenheitner · Founder, Heitner Legal
Quick thanks to everybody for making this possible. I had a blast. Til next time!
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Community and Marketing, Product Hunt
@darrenheitner Thank you Darren! Awesome answers - we've massively appreciated your time. 😍
Troy Ruediger@troy_ruediger · Helping shape the future of sports!
Darren, thanks for taking the time to do this AMA, huge fan of your wok. I know that you are a contributor for a number of different publications. What is your process for putting a pice together/how do you come up with a topic for an article? Any analytics or number crunching involved when formulating ideas on what to write on?
Darren Heitner@darrenheitner · Founder, Heitner Legal
@troy_ruediger very happy to join and thrilled to answer questions. I have very free reign to pick and choose article topics as well as when/if I write. By and large, I can come up with any concept, flesh it out, and click publish. Then, it appears on Forbes, Inc. or Sports Agent Blog. At first, Forbes wanted to review articles prior to publication. That is no longer the case. Editors will, from time to time, provide suggested topics. For instance, my editor at Forbes asked earlier today if I would be interested in covering the new US Women's National Soccer Team lawsuit over wage discrimination (See: http://www.si.com/planet-futbol/...). I haven't gotten around to it just yet. Finally, good PR pitches help. But I get around 100 different pitches per day, so it is difficult to stand out.
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Community and Marketing, Product Hunt
@darrenheitner @troy_ruediger does anything stand out for your as a good pitch? For example, would you be able to offer any advice on how best to pitch a story to you, or another blogger and journalist?
Troy Ruediger@troy_ruediger · Helping shape the future of sports!
@darrenheitner awesome insight, thank you! Thats pretty cool you have free reign with Forbes. I saw the news about the woman's team earlier today. I thought that might be something you would normally cover.
Darren Heitner@darrenheitner · Founder, Heitner Legal
@ems_hodge @troy_ruediger I despise a boilerplate press release. I don't like to be BCC'd. If you spell my name wrong, you're out. I don't want a cut and paste copy. I want you to talk to me. Opening email doesn't have to be long. If I don't know you, tell me who you are. If we've talked, say what's up and then succinctly tell me what you've got for me and why I should care, knowing what my particular beat is all about.
Darren Heitner@darrenheitner · Founder, Heitner Legal
@troy_ruediger Just been busy this morning writing about Greg Norman's company, handling a boat load of legal work and eating a gigantic sub for lunch.
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Community and Marketing, Product Hunt
Hi Darren, thanks for joining us today. What is the most surprising case or story you've been a part of that you can tell us about?
Darren Heitner@darrenheitner · Founder, Heitner Legal
@ems_hodge I represented an individual (the name will not be revealed) who was videotaped by a man while engaging in sexual intercourse with that man. The man thereafter posted the content on pornography websites using her information. To make matters worse, the man was a psychologist. Needless to say, the idea that someone would do such a thing shocked me. Thankfully, we settled and my client received some relief -- yet nothing can make up for such a disgusting act.
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Community and Marketing, Product Hunt
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
Hey Darren! What's the biggest misconception people have about esports?
Darren Heitner@darrenheitner · Founder, Heitner Legal
@eriktorenberg The biggest misconception is that you can have success in the business of eSports without actually listening to the participants and spectators therein. These are people who don't care to "sell out." They are about authenticity. They don't care about cable television. Twitch is quite alright to them. It's a challenge for most people over 30 years of age to understand all of this. Don't tell the eSports community what they want. Listen to them, figure out what they want/need, and provide that. Doesn't sound too hard, does it?
Jason Garcia@jasongarcia911
@darrenheitner @eriktorenberg Tying in the last two questions... The NCAA's argument against DFS is that they don't want their "student-athletes" to be corruptible. Doesn't that also apply to eSports players? What's to stop a 20-year-old kid from throwing a game for a big payday under the table?
Darren Heitner@darrenheitner · Founder, Heitner Legal
@jasongarcia911 @eriktorenberg incidents that occur under the table are entirely impossible to control across the board. This is true for any industry and/or activity. You control what you can. I think that's what the NCAA is doing here. Now, if the NCAA becomes aware of a student-athlete earning money through improper means via eSports, then we could see a scandal in that space.
Jake Crump@jakecrump · Community Team with Product Hunt
What does a typical day look like for you?
Darren Heitner@darrenheitner · Founder, Heitner Legal
@jakecrump I have 2 types of typical days: those that I'm at home base in Fort Lauderdale, FL and those in which I'm on the road (which is frequent). When I'm home, I do the following: - I wake up and take my puppy out for a walk. - Take my pre-workout from EVLNutrition.com (client plug) and go lift at the gym. - Come back, eat breakfast and tackle whatever emails I didn't address while at the gym (I'm always on my phone). - A lot of transactional work for HeitnerLegal.com, a lot of litigation work, etc. This takes up the bulk of my day. - At any point of the day, I may be inspired to write an article. Thankfully, it takes very little out of my day. - At close of work, I'll try to get some cardio in. - Breaking Bad marathons. It's a joy to work from home. I'm usually in shorts and a t-shirt (currently true) and have no commute. Traveling days are traveling days. We know what they're like. Grueling. But I've been able to explore much of the world, and I love it. Off to Houston tomorrow for the Final Four.
Jason Garcia@jasongarcia911
@darrenheitner @jakecrump Favorite restaurant in FTL? Chima for me!
Darren Heitner@darrenheitner · Founder, Heitner Legal
@jasongarcia911 @jakecrump I'll just shout out where I went to lunch today - LaSpadas.
Jake Crump@jakecrump · Community Team with Product Hunt
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Darren Heitner@darrenheitner · Founder, Heitner Legal
@jakecrump still in Fort Lauderdale, hopefully in a nice house on the water, married, kids, still wearing t-shirts and shorts on a daily basis. And absolutely killing it for my clients. Sounds like today, but without the wife and kids. Give me some time on that.
Fanamana@fanamana · Fanamana
Darren, looking forward to seeing you at GiGse next month. Saw your article on Flowplay yesterday. With all of the issues with fundraising and government regulations, do you think it's sustainable for smaller DFS companies to go the Freemium route? DailyMVP's foray into that approach obviously didn't last long, and they had Tom Brady and Steve Nash doing spots for them!
Darren Heitner@darrenheitner · Founder, Heitner Legal
@fanamana I have long believed that there is a way to make a lot of money with a no-entry DFS platform. However, my idea is to offer small prizes, not virtual currency. Make all your money from advertising revenue and pivot into new areas with the massive user base you receive. You'll need some funding to absorb your early loses in prizes handed out as well as marketing, but I see some gold at the end of the rainbow.
Desmond@desmonddantzler · Working on Fanbox.
Hey Darren, thanks for answering questions today. With recent legislation passed in states like VA, NY, & Indiana, it appears the landscape of DFS in the US is may be headed towards a duopoly. What is your hypothesis on the cause bills are being passed with such high fees? (e.g. DK/FD lobbying or legislators wanting a piece) Also, do you expect DFS legality issues to begin affecting the season-long market?
Darren Heitner@darrenheitner · Founder, Heitner Legal
@desmonddantzler I truly believe that the legislators responsible for the drafting and passing of legislation to date have been led to believe that FanDuel, DraftKings and maybe a Yahoo would foot the bill and that they need at least $100k per year to enforce strong regulations. The problem is that many smaller entities that would gladly pay a reasonable fee are now cut out of the equation. The Fantasy Sports Trade Association has apparently done a deplorable job in educating legislators to date. I would look to the Association, a large lobbyist, to change its ways. But then again, it is largely fueled by DraftKings and FanDuel -- companies quite OK with the large fees and limitation of competition. I think we already see DFS legality issues affecting season-long with the enactment of a new law in Virginia, which does not seem to distinguish between DFS and season-long games. My understanding is that season-long will also have to pay the fee (unless the law has been or will be clarified).