Lawyers Taking Notice of Emerging Nil Practice Niche


In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s pivotal decision in National Collegiate Athletic Association v. Alston, the legal field has witnessed a significant transformation in the landscape of college athletics. The unanimous ruling in June 2021 upheld the violation of NCAA rules restricting education-related compensation, paving the way for college athletes to receive compensation for the use of their name, image, and likeness (NIL).

This article explores how attorneys have swiftly adapted to this evolving niche, offering insights into the unique legal challenges and opportunities presented by college athletes’ NIL rights.

NIL Compliance and Contract Expertise

As the NIL arena burgeons into a billion-dollar industry, attorneys have recognized the need to excel in two distinct areas. First, they must be adept contract attorneys, guiding student-athletes in negotiating agreements with sponsors and partners. These contracts involve nuanced provisions, including licensing, exclusivity clauses, force majeure stipulations, and defining the scope of work. Second, lawyers must possess an in-depth understanding of NIL compliance, as each educational institution maintains its own policies. Some schools prohibit students from endorsing specific products or require reporting of NIL contracts, necessitating compliance expertise.

Seeking Uniformity and Regulation

In response to the NCAA’s interim NIL policy, attorneys and lawmakers are addressing the need for comprehensive regulations. Current disparities among individual schools, conferences, and states raise concerns regarding consistency in NIL rules. While numerous bills have been proposed, legislative action has been slow, with initiatives pushing for national standards. The proposed legislation includes requirements for disclosing NIL contracts, agent registration, and academic eligibility regulations. The lack of uniformity across states poses challenges for collegiate conferences and NCAA enforcement.

A Patchwork of Regulations

More than 30 states have enacted their own laws, each with its unique provisions and safeguards. For instance, South Carolina’s legislation aims to protect student-athletes financially, while North Carolina emphasises addressing racial inequity in collegiate sports. In Massachusetts and Rhode Island, efforts to pass NIL legislation have yet to yield results, highlighting the complexities and differences in state-level approaches.

Navigating Complex Structures

Many deals are structured through collectives or third-party entities formed by schools’ supporters. These organisations create opportunities for student-athletes to collaborate with various brands. Attorneys specialising in law often focus on entity formation, compliance, and training for athletic department staff and coaches.¬†

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