When athletes run into legal trouble, Paul Greene is ready to suit up and join the team.
Greene, a former TV sportscaster who began a second career as an attorney in 2007, recently opened his own Portland law firm specializing in the legal representation of athletes, agents, scouts and others involved in sports. It is the only firm of its kind in Maine.
“I call (the firm) Global Sports Advocates, because that’s what I want to do,” Greene said. The Falmouth resident is one of a handful of lawyers in the country who specialize in representing Olympic athletes. He has taken on cases involving accusations of doping, disputes over team selection methods, and athletes who believed they were wrongfully declared ineligible to participate, among others.
Greene also has represented swimming champion Michael Phelps in a case involving a “cyber squatter” in Minnesota who tried to profit illegally from registering a website that contained Phelps’ name.
Much of a sports lawyer’s expertise is demonstrated in closed-door negotiations and settlements that never become public knowledge. Such cases often revolve around disputes over athletic or endorsement contracts, Greene said.
“Some of my best work I can’t tell you about,” he said.
Greene, an avid long-distance runner, ran track at Brandeis University and later became a television sportscaster. He was sports director at Portland’s Fox affiliate station from 1996 to 2002 before taking a job with College Sports Television in New York.
Tired of the constant travel and lack of job security associated with being a sports broadcaster, Greene decided to attend law school in 2004. He graduated from the University of Maine School of Law in 2007.
He worked at a number of local law firms, including Verrill Dana LLP and Preti Flaherty Beliveau & Pachios LLP before opening his own firm in January.
As a law school student, Greene became interested in Olympics law while following a case involving sprinter Tim Montgomery.
Montgomery, a former 100-meter world record holder, was the first athlete to be found guilty of doping by the international Court of Arbitration for Sport without actually testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs.
In late 2005, the court stripped Montgomery of all his medals and race results going back to 2001.
Greene wrote an article about the case that was published in the Maine Law Review.
Still, doping cases are just a small segment of sports law, he said. A far greater percentage of cases involve contract disputes and allegations of infringement upon an athlete’s right to profit from his or her name and image.
“If you’re a professional athlete, your image is how you make money,” Greene said.
Two growing areas of sports law are disputes over compensation for college athletes, and lawsuits filed by those who suffer sports-related injuries, he said.
“Concussion litigation is an emerging issue, and I’m not sure where that’s going,” Greene said.
Sports law is part of an established field of entertainment law that long has attracted young attorneys and law students interested in combining their careers with a love of sports or desire to work with high-profile athletes, said Peter Pitegoff, dean of the University of Maine School of Law.
As professional and amateur sports have continued to expand as lucrative industries, so has the need for attorneys who specialize in handling legal disputes that arise among athletes, teams and regulatory bodies, he said.
“The field of sports law has grown substantially,” Pitegoff said.
Sports attorneys must become experts on the administrative rules of sports-related bodies such as the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the International Olympic Committee and the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
Having that expertise puts Greene, who occasionally teaches sports law classes at UMaine, in a good position to succeed, Pitegoff said.
“He is very entrepreneurial, and he definitely understands the sports world,” he said.
At this point, Greene said his law firm is a one-man operation, but he hopes to hire associates and expand the practice in the coming years.
Greene said teaching classes at the university has helped spark student interest in sports law, which could bolster his firm’s future growth.
“I’m getting a lot of requests for internships,” he said. “I think half the law school wants to work here.”
J. Craig Anderson can be contacted at 791-6390 or at: