America’s Two Favorite Pastimes

Where sports and business intersect, you'll find Adam Klein

Published in 2009 Illinois Super Lawyers — February 2009

Adam R. Klein seems to have the dream job of every sports junkie and Monday morning quarterback in this game-happy nation. The guy serves as outside counsel to the Chicago White Sox and Chicago Bulls, and as close adviser to their owner, Jerry Reinsdorf. He also represents the Oakland Athletics, the Chicago Fire and the San Jose Earthquakes.

But Klein, 37, a partner at Katten Muchin Rosenman in Chicago, whose main practice area is securities law, isn't overly impressed with himself. "Quite frankly," he says, "I think it's just a nice meeting of an industry and a practice.

"When I was in college, I made a decision to go to law school because I had heard it was a good analytical education and some of the characteristics of being a lawyer-whether it's using negotiating skills or writing skills-were ones that meshed well with [me]."

Klein grew up in upstate New York, in the Hudson Valley area, and followed the Mets, Giants, Rangers and Knicks. "I enjoyed sports a lot as a kid, I played sports, and I used to fall asleep at night listening to Marv Albert do the broadcasts on the radio of the Rangers and the Knicks. I watched a lot of games, and played a lot of games, but as far as knowing what I wanted to do [with] work and sports, it really is a happy coincidence.

"That said, within the first two weeks of when I came here, I went to the partner who does the sports, and had developed the practice, and was good friends with Reinsdorf. I mentioned that if he ever needed help to let me know. He gave me a speech: ‘Everybody wants to be a sports lawyer, and nobody knows what that means, and they're very sensitive about who works on it because it's very public,' etc.

"Well, within a week I got a player contract. Now that partner has semi-retired and I'm head of the practice. A bunch of it you might chalk up to luck, but I'm a firm believer that you create a lot of your own luck through persistence and good work."

Klein is a proud father of two sports-playing daughters. And it doesn't take much cajoling to get him to admit he's still a sports fan-of the White Sox and Mets, for sure. But when it comes to Knicks vs. Bulls, his Knicks ties die hard.

"I still have a bit of the kid in me, where you realize it's neat to interact with a limited, exclusive group of people-that being owners of professional sports franchises-and you're within the mix of knowing what's going on with them. It's very tangible. You go to the stadium, and if you've done the naming rights, you get to see it. You see U.S. Cellular. If you did the big AT&T deal, you see the interactive area within the stadium they have. If you did a player's contract, you see the player.

"These are big businesses," says Klein, who gets involved with significant player issues but no longer works with teams on players' contracts, "and it is a significant revenue source for franchises. They have large operating expenses with big player contracts and the like. So it's sports, but it's business. You just need to make sure you do it in a way that maintains a positive image for the fans."

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