How long has Loeb & Loeb been around?
Socolow: Loeb & Loeb has been around for 110 years. Our law firm actually helped start the movie industry in Hollywood over a century ago. Since that time, we’ve maintained a presence as a premier entertainment law firm and expanded beyond that into many areas, including intellectual property, sports technology and other areas that really make our involvement with SFIA a natural fit.
How big is the firm?
Socolow: We have just over 400 lawyers in 8 offices, 6 in the U.S. and 2 in China.
When did you join the firm?
Socolow: I joined in 1995. Since then, we’ve seen a lot of growth and expansion of our offices and expansion of services areas. It’s been a tremendous time to be at the firm. We’ve leveraged our entertainment depth to develop these other leading practices, including in sports, where I’ve had a chance to practice over the last 15 years. It’s been a great experience for me. I’ve been very fortunate to help great clients with really interesting legal matters.
What are your areas of expertise?
Socolow: I focus generally on the sports area, and that means doing a lot of work with athletes, teams, leagues, sports organizations, and media and technology companies. My work generally focuses on intellectual property projects, which can include matters like a naming rights deal for a stadium, a media rights deal for the distribution of an event, or a technology license deal involving the use of data.
What inspired you to start a career in law?
Socolow: I think it was a combination of having an intellectual interest in the law and being able to combine that with my passion for sports in a way that I could help clients that had legal needs.
How do you see your services and expertise benefitting SFIA member companies?
Socolow: We do a lot of work with brands in the retail space and in the sports industry generally. So, I think we bring a high degree of knowledge of the law and business environment to clients who operate at the intersection of sports and fitness. Because of our business and legal depth, I think we’re able to add value beyond just knowing the legal aspects of a transaction.
Aside from sports, which industries do you work most closely with?
Socolow: Entertainment, media and retail. They all fit together and whether it’s retail clients or sports clients, they all have similar issues: they’re all trying to grow their brand, protect their brand, find different ways to monetize their brand. And in sports and retail, in particular, there are so many iconic brands that are trying to find a way to grow beyond just their core businesses and try to reach different consumers. It’s very competitive in the space — we see a lot of transformation of companies that occupied niche areas in those industries becoming more of a lifestyle brand or wellness brand that can reach the general population.
Can you speak to the specific issues that sports companies are facing trying to grow their brand and protect their brand that you’re able to help them with?
Socolow: Sports organizations are trying to enhance fan engagement across the spectrum and connect with their fans in meaningful ways, just like retail companies are doing. Technology plays a key role in those initiatives, and creates many legal issues, in license agreements, data privacy and security, and intellectual property protection, and other areas. We’re really at the center of helping companies figure out how to develop and implement their strategies in a way that they are best protected from a legal perspective.
What is one thing you want the audience to know about you and/or your firm?
Socolow: We are experienced in working with retail brands and sports companies from the start-up stage through exit scenarios. We understand those industries really well, so we’re able to add value beyond providing the legal advice on a deal. I think that’s probably where we’re used best, as a trusted advisor to our clients based on our substantive legal knowledge and our understanding of the relevant markets and industries, and really help them achieve their business goals.
Are you planning to work with any new industries or markets, that say, maybe didn’t even exist 5–10 years ago?
Socolow: One area that we see tremendous growth in that didn’t exist, or certainly in the way it does now 5 years ago, is esports. We are doing a tremendous amount in esports, representing team owners, esports players, brands that are getting involved in that industry and content creators. We’re also extremely busy in the gaming space, which is also growing tremendously. Whether it’s teams or leagues that have an interest in partnering with gaming companies or the technology platforms that they’re using, there are many growth opportunities in the gaming area and many legal issues that come up along the way. We are staying very close to both of these areas, so we are well-positioned to help across the landscape of legal needs implicated in each of these markets.
Can you give any more detail on the legal implications that tend to be more prevalent in the esports/gaming world than in the traditional sports market?
Socolow: In both areas, there has to be an understanding of how the technology is used and what legal issues that creates in terms, for example, of data security, data privacy, collection of data, and use of data. These are the issues at the forefront of a lot of the initiatives that our clients are making in those areas. It’s an area of tremendous opportunity for these companies, but also one that poses significant risks to the business. They really have to be aware of what the legal issues are, and, in many cases, design their products and systems around those legal issues to make sure they comply with both U.S. law and foreign data security and privacy law. Those legal systems are changing all the time, and there’s still uncertainty around what regulation and enforcement looks like. It takes a concerted effort to comply with different privacy laws around the world, and our team of privacy attorneys excels in helping clients with compliance issues.
How do you compare the growth of the esports/gaming market to the growth of the traditional sports market in the next 10–15 years, regarding size?
Socolow: There’s still going to be tremendous growth in both areas. We’ve definitely seen it in esports, which has massive amounts of participation, and is just starting to see the influx of sponsorship dollars and merchandising revenues. I think that will continue, but like many industries that are growing, there are going to be ups and downs, and there are probably going to be some industry changes as companies get a handle on exactly how they need to operate to be profitable. In gaming, I think we’re just starting to see a tidal wave of involvement of many in that space, including by technology providers, gaming companies, professional leagues and sponsors. They want to get in, they want to get in early, they want to become market leaders, as the U.S. market for gaming grows, which we expect to continue as we see more and more states pass enabling legislation. As the industry continues to grow, we expect there will be more sponsorship dollars flowing in, increases in television revenue and further involvement of the major sports leagues. Like it already is in many other parts of the world, I think gaming is going to become even more engrained in the daily life of many U.S. sports fans and others than we’ve previously seen.
How do you see your practice/business changing within the next 5 years?
Socolow: My practice does seem to change every 5 years, so, I fully expect it to evolve significantly over the next 5 years. Hopefully it’s going to change in a way that I can continue to be involved at the forefront of issues involved in sports and continue to evolve with the clients I work with in the sports and fitness industry — as they adapt to the changes in the industry as well. So, I probably won’t be doing the same thing in 5 years that I’m doing now, but that will probably be a good thing.