April 26, 2021

Pick Up the Ball and Run With It

Some might say Jill McBride Baxter was born to be a sports agent and a leader in sports law. Her dad was a Hall of Fame football coach, so she was raised on athletic fields and developed a love of the game long before she entered law school. Now, nearly 25 years later, she has a thriving sports law practice and represents professional players, coaches, media, and college administrators.

An aggressive negotiator with an adventurous spirit and problem-solving nature, Jill has grown a thriving business mainly through referrals and by learning from influencers outside her industry. 

Listen as Jill describes how her practice has grown and evolved.


Guest Insights

  • Jill’s early interest in the law. [1:37]
  • Getting started in sports law. [3:36]
  • Preference for representing players coming out of college. [6:44]
  • Sports agent turnover. [8:37]
  • Values must align for long-term representation. [8:49]
  • Evaluating potential clients. [10:07]
  • Branching out to other sports. [13:16]
  • Representing a UFC fighter. [14:00]
  • Marketing takes up most of a sports agent’s time. [17:27]
  • Sports agent vs. sports lawyer. [18:53]
  • Unique endorsement deals. [19:57]
  • Growing a sports law practice. [25:03]
  • Evolving a practice: adventurous spirit and problem solving. [26:50]
  • Offering online courses. [28:35]
  • Protection, advocacy and trust is her brand. [30:52]
  • Being a woman in the sports agent industry. [32:03]

 

Links From the Episode

Transcript

John Reed: [00:00:00] I once interviewed for a job where the owner of the company asked me what my dad did for a living, and if he talked about his work at the dinner table. The guy's theory was that the more I knew about my father's work, the more likely I would excel in a similar job. And there's a certain logic to that.

[00:00:18] The family we're born into and the environments in which we grow up can play a huge part in the careers that we pursue. A lot of people have channeled their good genes and upbringing into lucrative and fulfilling careers. When you think about it, destiny can be pretty cool. Just as you start in one direction, fate and good fortune call an audible and change the play.

[00:00:40] But fate and genes and upbringing and life experiences, they only go so far, especially if you want to win at the game of law. I'm John Reed. And this is Sticky Lawyers, a podcast featuring conversations with attorneys who differentiate themselves through the relationships they cultivate with clients and influencers and the unique nature of their law practices.

[00:01:01] Today, we're speaking with Jill Baxter McBride. Jill Baxter McBride is a leading sports agent and attorney who has done some remarkable things in the business of law. Her dad is a hall of fame football coach, so she grew up in the bleachers and on the turf. And she's married to an accomplished college coach, but what she's achieved through fate or otherwise is all her own.

[00:01:25] We're delighted to have Jill join us today. Welcome to the program. So, Jill, I just described a bit of your backstory, but let's get some more details because your stories are so interesting. Did you always want to be a lawyer? 

Jill Baxter: [00:01:37] I actually did. When I was in like eighth grade, I decided I was going to law school.

Yes. I was very focused on that. And I did just go four years of undergrad, three years of law school, 24 years old and graduating from law school. So yes, I was very focused. 

John Reed: [00:01:55] and of course this begs the question. Did you always want to be a sports law attorney?

Jill Baxter: [00:02:01] Well, I had always been around sports and I did like the idea of sports a lot. But when I was in law school, honestly, there weren't that many sports agents out there. There's a lot more now than there was then. So, I was president of the Sports Law Forum at my law school, and president of the Women's Caucus. So, I also just wanted to change the world too, right?

John Reed: [00:02:27] Yeah. And we're going to talk about serendipity here in a minute, but what area of practice did you intend to go into after law school? If not sports law?

Jill Baxter: [00:02:36] Well, I had worked for the public defender's office in the summer. I like the idea of criminal law and actually was a DA for a while, too.

[00:02:47] And I taught law, so I always did two or three things. So, I mean, I just knew that I wanted to do something to make a change in society. And you know, it's funny because when you go to law school, a lot happens along the way. I worked at the community legal services and helped people that didn't have any money.

[00:03:10] I did that for two years while I was in law school, so I was always trying to do something to help people who needed the help, really honestly -- from a legal perspective. So, I was always trying to do something that would make change. I still feel that way. 

John Reed: [00:03:28] Yeah. And I'm sure you're going to tell us how you're still doing that with your clients, but what was the spark? What changed the direction for you? 

Jill Baxter: [00:03:36] It didn't necessarily change, but what happened was in my second year of law school, my dad called me and said, “Hey, Gary's getting a contract with the Rams. He needs help. He needs somebody to represent him.” I'm like, “Okay, well, I don't do that, but I can find out what needs to be done.”

[00:03:53] I had just had Leigh Steinberg come speak at my law school. So, I called Leigh's office and I just said, “Hey, how do I represent players in the NFL?” And they said, “Well, you just have to get registered with the NFLPA and pay the money.” Of course, I was in law school. I didn't have any money, but I called the union and figured it out.

[00:04:12] Paid the money and you had to go to a meeting. That was it. And then I signed a player. That was it. That's really what happened back then; there was only players being represented. Now coaches are represented, media, everybody's represented. So, you know, the industry is completely changed. Even back then a lot of players did not have representation. 

John Reed: [00:04:33] So, what I'm not hearing from you is any sort of hesitation or reluctance or --dare I say it—fear. Gary came to you through your dad. Here's this contract, review it, sign up, go to the meeting, and you're off to the races. 

Jill Baxter: [00:04:47] Well, I mean, to be honest with you, a lot of the NFL stuff has to do with, I ended up negotiating the deal with the offensive line coach and Dick Corey, who was a scout back then. It's completely different now. You're dealing with the GM now. Back then, I was talking to the offensive line coach, Hudson Houck-- old time. You know, he was the Ram's offensive line coach. Like Gary, I talked to Hudson, I talked to Dick Corey all the time. I took extensive notes on everything.

 [00:05:14] I still have the file. Because I wrote down everything that happened, otherwise I wouldn't remember it all right. But that particular situation, I was working at the community legal services on campus at the time. And so, I really knew how to set up a file and how to keep track of everything that was going on. And I took extensive notes on everything I did. 

John Reed: [00:05:34] I know, Jill, and I get it. And I guess what's so shocking to me is, there are second-year law students who can't find the bathroom. The thought of them doing what you did at that point in time, stepping up, having these conversations, having a client, and truly representing that client at that stage. Your level of confidence is unbelievable to me. It's just startling. 

Jill Baxter: [00:05:59] Oh yeah. I have probably since the day I was born been afraid of nothing. I will tell you; I have great parents. I have great parents. I never realized there were any barriers in the world. So, I got to law school and started reading cases and wow. There's discrimination. Are you kidding? I mean, I just didn't ever experience that in my house. Everybody did whatever -- if you want to do something, go do it. I mean, I don't know. That's how I grew up. 

John Reed: [00:06:24] We hear so many stories of athletes going off the rails. Financial mismanagement. Trust in the wrong people. At what point in your clients’ careers are they coming to you? Are these college kids looking to get into league? Are you representing more veteran players? 

Jill Baxter: [00:06:44] Most of the players come to me. I like to represent players right when they're getting out of college and they're going to be in the draft because then you can start with them from the beginning and then follow them all the way through their life.

[00:06:55] Right? And I think I have two players in particular; they both played for eight years. I had them from the beginning all the way to the end. I think you can do a better job of guiding. If you could start from the beginning, then they make it. You can talk to them about, okay, this is the next step because everybody thinks, “Oh, you’ve got to have a financial advisor.”

[00:07:13] No, not really. Not yet. Wait till you make it. Then, save your money. Then, you know what I'm saying? It's step by step by step, depending on their situation; everybody's different. Both of these clients had very serious relationships in college -- people that they ended up marrying. They had spouses that worked, they saved their money. But each step requires another bit of advice, and also them getting injured while they're playing.

[00:07:42] That's a really huge thing, you know, both of them. Almost every one of my clients has had an injury. So, when they get injured, you’ve got to protect them under the CBA. And I educated from the beginning: if you ever get hurt, you call me first. 

John Reed: [00:07:55] That's the Collective Bargaining Agreement. 

Jill Baxter: [00:07:57] Yeah. Because you can get a second opinion. You need to understand all that.

[00:08:02] Believe me, that's really, really important. So, I think what I want is clients that are just getting out of college and going to be in the draft. That's really my target for that group. Now, of course, I told you, I have a ton of coaches too, and media, and athletic directors. I don't just have NFL players. 

John Reed: [00:08:22] Yeah, I know it's probably the football player/persona stereotype that I'm particularly fascinated with right now. You know so much about your clients. First off, you mentioned two clients that you represented for eight years. Is that unusual? Is there more turnover for players and their representation? 

Jill Baxter: [00:08:37] Yeah. A lot of players change agents. I don't think that's a good idea unless they're not doing their job. But a lot of times players, if they don't make it, they'd blame the agent, when it doesn't have anything to do with the agent.

[00:08:49] I mean, I can't go out there and play for him. And that's why I told you my brand: protection, advocacy trust. I really try to figure out whether or not their values align with my values, because then you will have a long-term relationship. There are still situations where if they get cut and they're down in the dumps and they don't want to take responsibility for their performance, they tend to blame somebody else. But you’ve got to go through that. It's not easy, but you’ve got to get them through that.

John Reed: [00:09:29] So, this college kid’s coming to you. Who's hiring whom?

Jill Baxter: [00:09:33] Hey, there they're hiring me to be on their team.

John Reed: [00:09:36] I guess what I'm saying is, you seem to have a formula for what works in your relationship with your clients. Let's face it. They're at formative ages, at least professionally when they come to you. And I'm wondering if you have some sort of --beyond a smell test-- if you have a set of standards that you look for in a client? You were talking about their values having to line up with yours.

[00:09:57] You can see the trajectory for their career better than they can. So, that's why I say I'm wondering, who's hiring whom? Yes, formally, legally they're hiring you, but what are you doing to evaluate them as a potential client? 

Jill Baxter: [00:10:07] Well first, you’ve got to evaluate them whether they have the talent. And then there is something about certain players and it's whether or not they have heart and tenacity. Because I think the difference between the players who make it and make it for a long time, it's that one factor. And it's something you can't really necessarily see on a football field, but you sort of can because when it's fourth and one and you're down by three, I want to know the person who still has the energy to make the great play. Okay? And it's just an instinctive thing about certain people's personalities that they just keep going.

[00:10:49] You know, when things get tough, they actually do better. And I think to be successful in the NFL, that you have to have that personality type for a long time. You might make it on your talent for a year, but that second hump where, you know, if you're a receiver and you have a bad play and the next play is a great play, you don't go down in the dumps.

[00:11:11] That's a great player. Resilience cashes it in. When he has a bad play and whines? No. So, I am looking for that little extra personality type in a player. And you can find it out by talking to their coach, by talking to their strength coach, by watching them play.

[00:11:34] But those are questions that you start to ask the people around them. Doing your research that way. Now, fortunately, because I'm around football so much, I can even ask some scouts that question. And if you know the player, you put it out pretty quick. If you ask them a few questions, “Hey, what happened? What do you do when this happens?” And if they say, “You know, I go in the tank.” I mean, that's not good for a football player. It's really not. It doesn't bode well long term. 

John Reed: [00:12:05] How involved are the families in those initial meetings and those initial decisions for the athlete to hire you? 

Jill Baxter: [00:12:11] I'm thinking of my clients. A lot of them have had serious relationships. So, a lot of times I am talking to the girlfriend or wife, and I think that is really important. My UFC fighter, his family was very involved. His dad in particular. So, I talked to his dad all the time, but with most of my NFL players, the relationship is with the player.

[00:12:33] I have not had that many players where the parents were calling me all the time. Honestly, now maybe that's because that's the boundary I set. I don't know but I'm just thinking back. I would be friends or friendly with their parents like if I go to the game because a lot of times parents would be at the game too. And I think that just depends.

John Reed: [00:12:57] So, let's go back. At what point do you get into other types of clients besides football players? You mentioned you've got all these different sports in which you're involved with clients when they're involved in different sports and then media announcers, commentators, etc., things like that. How did that happen? 

Jill Baxter: [00:13:16] Well, all of it happened through referrals. And I would say, like my UFC fighter that I ended up with --his brother had played for my dad and coached for my dad. I was home at my parents. I think it was Thanksgiving or Christmas, one of the two, and his brother was there. He had some bad management.

[00:13:36] He had won the UFC show. He had won the contract, gotten in with bad people. He came over and asked me, “Well, how can I get out of this contract with the manager?” So, I read the contract. I said, “We'll do this, this and this.” They got out of the contract. And then they said, “Well, we want you to represent us.”

[00:13:51] And I was like, “I don't do that.” But then I said okay, and I did. 

John Reed: [00:13:57] Second year of law school, all over again.

Jill Baxter: [00:14:00] Yeah, it is the same scenario. And that was, gosh, I don't know how many years Kendall was in the UFC. But we travelled. Like I said, I travelled all over the world with him. Lots of stuff happened. His was endorsements and contracts, and there was a lot to that. Representing fighters is -- there's a lot to that.

[00:14:17] Because you have to travel to the fight. And so, wherever he was going, which was all over the world, come to find out because the UFC started to do a lot of fights abroad. 

John Reed: [00:14:30] Where's the farthest you've traveled with Kendall?

Jill Baxter: [00:14:32] Well, we went to Abu Dhabi. That was interesting. And you had to really be careful about what you were doing.

[00:14:39] My husband was afraid that I was going to get arrested, and I said, “No, I won't get arrested.” But I was careful because they have different rules there. A lot of people there were in burkas and my husband said, “You're going to have to wear a burka.“ No, I didn't have to wear a burka.

[00:14:55] I'm not that religion, but it was really fun. I think one of the fun stories about that trip was Kendall's trainer. Kendall fought and then the next day we went to Dubai. So, Kendall was on the plane to go back, but his trainer was still with me and another person that was traveling with me.

[00:15:15] We went by the mall in Dubai. Well, come to find out, they’ve got indoor skiing. So, we were like, “Hey, let's go skiing!” I mean, you actually walk in, you put on the ski outfit and they have an indoor ski thing in the mall, which is bizarre. Come to find out his trainer had never snow skied. And so, we skied. It was super fun, actually.

[00:15:36] We had to teach Mike how to ski. So, that was fun. There were lots of situations with the UFC fighting. That was certainly interesting. And a lot of my stories that are funny come from representing a UFC fighter. Because it's crazy. 

John Reed: [00:16:53] We're back, and I'm speaking with Jill Baxter McBride. Now, sports law. I'm intrigued by the definition of sports law or what it entails. Obviously, contracts. Obviously, intellectual property. You could really push the envelope and say, well, it's also managing the affairs of the client relative to estate planning and property holdings and things like that in that universe of sports law. What is it that you tend to focus on?

[00:17:23] Or maybe I should say it a different way. What takes up most of your time? 

Jill Baxter: [00:17:27] Marketing. Marketing them to the team or marketing them to a product. Because you want the product to endorse the client. And then I think the next part is contract negotiation. And contract negotiations might take not that much time.

[00:17:44] Sometimes I shouldn't say that. When I've negotiated deals with universities, sometimes those can take some time because you're dealing with the general counsel and there's a lot of red tape. But with the players, the contracts you can get done pretty quickly. Then you're protecting them under the CBA, marketing, protecting them under the collective bargaining agreement. With fighters you've got to go to the fight. You've got to, again, work with the different sponsors that want to be on their shorts. You’ve got to work with the UFC to make sure that it's not conflicting with any sponsors they have. And you’ve got to negotiate the fight deals, and then just spending time talking to them and how are you doing? What's going on?

[00:18:32] You know? So, it's just kind of a combination job. Now, when I represented somebody against the NCAA, of course, that was more legal. Right? I had to follow what the rule was, what he was being accused of, and have to represent him in an appellate situation with the NCAA. So, it depends, but a lot of it isn't illegal. That's what I'm trying to tell you, basically. 

John Reed: [00:18:53] I think you've pointed out the difference between sports lawyer and sports agent. I mean, you weren't engaged in the unauthorized practice of law, your second year of law school, because you were doing a different type of representation. And so, these marketing activities where you're essentially pitching or shopping or promoting your client to the club, the team, whoever --that's your agent role. And then there's the legal role that goes along with it.

Jill Baxter: [00:19:19] Yeah. In fact, back then the NFL didn't even require, I don't even know if they required you to have an undergraduate degree. Now, you have to have at least a minimum of a master's degree. But no, to get certified. Yes, there were some qualifications, but I don't even think you had to have a degree. I don't remember now (it was too long ago), but you had to be registered with the union.

[00:19:38] That was the rule. Now you have to be registered with states and compliance departments and everything else, but it's become more regulated as the years have gone on. 

John Reed: [00:19:48] What is the most “unique” (for lack of a better word) endorsement or type of endorsement deal that you've worked out for a client?

Jill Baxter: [00:19:57] You know, one of the deals that was interesting was the deal I did with TapouT for Kendall. It was foggy where I was living and I couldn't get on the plane, but I had to be at the TapouT facility by a certain time. I was within driving distance, like six hours or something. So, I got in my  car and I drove down there to TapouT. Well, TapouT --and if I could describe the pictures, I mean, it was like walking into a Halloween set. The whole thing was set up like Halloween. You walked in, they had TapouT shirts, but they had a really interesting office. And so, I negotiated a really good deal for Kendall. I made sure I got a wet signature.

[00:20:40] I'm an attorney. And then TapouT sells to another company. Do you know that I was the only person that got a wet signature, and that new company was trying to get out of the deal because it was a good deal? He was getting a huge payout off of any shirt that was sold. He was getting half the money. And I remember doing the deal going, “How in the heck is this company affording us to get half of the profits on the shirt?” It doesn't make sense because a shirt is only worth so much money as far as cost of goods sold, but he had a good deal, and he was getting good money from every shirt that he sold --every walkout shirt. 

[00:21:13] And so, that was kind of an interesting deal and I remember the guy going, “I can't believe you drove here.” I said, “Well, I need to get the deal done.” I mean, and I have a meeting with the owner, so I'm going to make sure that it gets done. So, it was a good deal for my client. That's all --in the end, you got to get it done, right? 

John Reed: [00:21:33] Yep. So, t-shirts and shorts and product placements, all this is the new realm of the professional athletes.

Jill Baxter: [00:21:41] Well, that is for fighters. When it comes to NFL players, it's a lot more regulated because the NFL and the teams each have specific deals with pretty big players. Like, you know, Nike, but then what you do is you try to get a deal for your client through --and usually it's Nike because Nike is the one who sponsors the league.

[00:22:03] Because if you have to go with another brand, like Under Armour, there's going to be some restrictions on that. So, then I know the guys from Nike, they're good guys. And, if I have a client that I think they will be interested in, I will talk to Nike and get them a Nike deal. But it’s just how much leverage a client has in the market is dependable on their position.

[00:22:28] Do they handle the ball? Are they a starter? Because the people that get the most endorsements, at least NFL players, are quarterbacks, wide outs, offense. Try to get the right tackle -- a little more difficult. They want somebody who's scoring points, maybe a running back.

John Reed: [00:22:49] Have you represented any colleges and universities and their deals with the apparel manufacturers? The equipment manufacturers? 

Jill Baxter: [00:23:00] No, I have not represented them. In an athletics department, they'll have somebody do that.

[00:23:10] Whoever the athletics director is, or whoever’s the COO of the department will be negotiating those deals with a Nike or an Under Armour, and they have general counsel at universities. 

John Reed: [00:23:25] I was curious because my son's at the University of Cincinnati and as he tells me, Under Armour just prematurely ended their contract and apparently Air Jordan's coming in.

Jill Baxter: [00:23:37] What happened was, I think they're shifting their focus. I think they're going to more one-on-one deals and they could show that the marketing that was being done at a university, obviously, wasn't necessarily reflecting what they were getting in return. I don't know. I think they changed the focus. I think the owner of Under Armour actually played for my husband at Maryland.

[00:24:01] I think Kevin went public with that company and then he has a board and there's different people. He's very involved, but he's not the CEO anymore. I think he's on the board and overseeing things. So, I think they did a shift; I think Under Armour’s done a shift for sure and going to one-on-one clients as opposed to spending millions and millions with a university. I think they just changed their business focus because they did it with UCLA. They did it with Cincinnati. They did it with a bunch of teams. I'm actually familiar with that deal.

John Reed: [00:24:46] Okay. Well, good. I'll tell my son I know the inside scoop and then I won't tell him. So, if you would, Jill, tell me from the early days on how have you built your practice or how has your practice built itself maybe? I'm curious to know how it's grown. 

Jill Baxter: [00:25:03] Well, I have been fortunate that I have had a lot of referrals.

[00:25:07] I mean I'd say 90 percent of my business is referrals, but I also look at influencers outside of my industry to see what they're doing. I saw that people in other industries were doing podcasting, creating online courses. But the other thing I saw was that in my industry, people were representing coaches with a percentage rather than a flat fee. I decided to follow what doctors were doing and decided to charge a flat fee for the year because that worked out a lot better for my clients. So, with coaches, I do a flat fee for the year and that's worked out a lot better. 

[00:25:47] And then, like I said, I follow other people, social media, podcasting. I have a YouTube channel and provide information. I have a Facebook page. I saw that's what people are doing in other industries. 

John Reed: [00:26:06] Well, what I find so interesting is, and I'm going to go back to the word that I used early on, is you're fearless. It's one thing to say you're innovative and you certainly are.

[00:26:15] And I want to talk about that a little bit further, but you have not been afraid to take on something new, a new type of matter and do it. You've not been afraid to hop onto the social media bandwagon and make it your own. And you've not been afraid to move outside of one lane (i.e., football) and move into basketball and coaches and UFC fighters and media.

[00:26:39] And so again, I’m kind of in awe of how you've been able to not necessarily reinvent yourself. I think you've been the same, but you've augmented and evolved your practice over the course of your career. 

Jill Baxter: [00:26:50] Yeah. I mean, I by nature have an adventurous spirit. And I think also problem solving is something I think I'm good at.  So, if somebody has a problem, I usually can do a little research and figure out how to solve it. As long as it's something I'm passionate about, that I like. So, I love sports. I like solving problems. I have a legal background. I get that industry. But I also listen when people start to say, “Geez, that seems like a lot of money that I'm going to have to pay.”

[00:27:26] If you take a percentage of my car, I listen and I say, “You know what? You're probably right.” And I could represent a lot more people if I would just do a flat fee. Cause then how much money they make takes the whole thing off the table. 

John Reed: [00:27:37] That seems to be unusual amongst your competitors. They're still going at the percentages. 

Jill Baxter: [00:27:43] Yeah, they are because they haven't figured it out yet. I don't know. Like I said, I followed the doctors, the concierge doctors. That's what they're doing. And I happen to have a friend whose husband started the concierge doctors thing. So, I said, “Tell me about that model.” She was telling me about it, and I was like, “Wow, that makes sense.”

[00:27:59] We can do this in the agent world. 

John Reed: [00:28:04] I'm particularly impressed with how you've innovated your practice. You're thinking about your pricing structure differently for different clients when you can --flat rates like a concierge doctor-- embracing social media, embracing different ways to promote yourself.

[00:28:17] Tell us a little bit about how you've packaged your practice. And what I mean by that is you've created online courses and programs that essentially counsel people for you without you necessarily having to hold their hands or teach them or be with them the entire way. I'm really intrigued by this.

Jill Baxter: [00:28:35] Well, again, I'm into solving problems. Let's say I get five emails a day from a player that wants me to represent him, which is not unusual especially right now, but they've been out for a couple of years. Well, I don't want to represent somebody who's been out for a couple of years. The chances of them making it are really slim, but I do have Virtual Sports Agent Academy that they can buy, and I can tell them exactly what they need to do.

[00:29:03] And then the NFL will tell them whether or not they're good enough or not. So, I just tell them, this is exactly how you do it. Here's an online course for that. 

[00:29:13] Number two question I get emails on: I want to be a sports agent. Everybody wants to be a sports agent. Okay. I didn't have a mentor, but I was pretty good at figuring out who to call if I had a question.

[00:29:28] So, I thought, well, I'm going to create Sports Agent Academy. And then I will also jump on calls with them if they need help and teach them how to do it. Because I have a process, follow my process and start doing this, this, and this and you can have a successful business. And I call them right away once they sign up for Sports Agent Academy. I call them right away and I find out where they are on the process. And I say, okay, go to this module and start here. And if you're going to do basketball, I am talking about NFL players here, but just apply the same process to basketball players. It's the same. Apply the same thing to baseball players, or e-sports is really big now.

[00:30:12] I'm really encouraging people to do e-sports; you know, the gamers. That's the whole thing. They're on Twitch. They've got the sponsors. They're getting tips. I mean, there's tournaments everywhere. I'm encouraging them to go into the e-sports. So, I create things that solve problems.

[00:30:28] Now with my coaches, I have a coaches’ consulting package. Once they do join that, they decided for me to represent them for the year. They automatically go into my online video where I introduce them. They get a PDF, they get a workbook, they fill out the PDF, we then have a one-on-one call. And that takes about three or four weeks just to get to know who they are, what they represent, why they do what they do. Like I said, my brand is protection, advocacy, and trust. That's what I'm about. It's an Irish logo. And if you look at the Irish logo, it's got the shape of footballs in it. I treat my clients like a family, and circles kind of represents family.

[00:31:07] My logo represents really who I am, who I am to my core. And I try to do the same thing with my coaching clients. And even my football clients. They're not always as ready for it as my coaching clients are. And we set up a plan. But again, I have it all in the back end, so it's more automated.

[00:31:25] So, I don't have to send everybody an individual email; I already have it all done. And every time I get a client, they're onboarded into that process. I think it's just allowed me to help more people quicker. Because I can't spend all day on the phone telling someone how to be a sports agent. I mean, I've been here for 32 years. It's too many things. 

John Reed: [00:31:46] You know, the one thing throughout our discussion that you haven't talked about is any sort of obstacles you encountered as a woman in this business. I have to imagine there is an old boy network of sorts. Are there obstacles? Is it just because you said ”To to hell with that, I'm going to blow through them,” in the beginning?

Jill Baxter: [00:32:03] I didn't even think about it. My dad called me. Gary needed help. I didn't realize at the time that there really weren't any women in it. I mean, when I did walk into the meeting, I realized I was the only woman, but I didn't think about it too much back then. Recently it's become a bigger issue, but I never had any trouble with the guys.

[00:32:24] The guys always treated me great. They respected the work that I did. If I had what they needed, they didn't care. You know what I mean, though? It's like, do you understand what you're doing? Yes, I do. Some of them I had known for a while because I'm a coach's kid and the coach's wife. So, I would have maybe met them at practice, at least with NFL personnel.

[00:32:50] No, I never felt like, I felt like the guys treated me actually pretty well. I go and I would go to the Combine and I go to the Senior Bowl, go to the AFCA convention. But you've got to know that also some people have been on the staff with us, so I know their wives. I know their kids. Like let's say my husband and I are working somewhere and then somebody moves up into the NFL and then you see him at the Combine.

[00:33:16] You see what I mean? So, these were friends, too, or they played for my dad or they played for my husband, whatever. You know, sports is a lifestyle. Being a sports agent or being a coach, anything, it's a lifestyle. It's not a job. It's a lifestyle. I live that life. It's a seven day a week lifestyle. Do you see how that's a little different?

John Reed: [00:33:36] Oh, sure. You know, one thing that I encounter in my work, working with lawyers and attorneys doing business development and marketing consulting, is coming in with the Esq, after my name. It cuts through all of the small talk. There's no questioning that I understand the practice of law. So, it's a nice way to begin the relationship.

 [00:33:59] And so it strikes me that for you, you've been in the world of, and the life of, sports as you describe it. And so, you don't have to convince anybody that you know what you know. You don't have to convince anybody that you understand their situation because they automatically do. So, if anything, your advantage is not being male or female, your advantage is having grown up and now being married to it and being so immersed in it.

[00:34:26] Those are your bone fides. That's your credibility. 

Jill Baxter: [00:34:29] Yeah. And that's helpful. That's very helpful because losing a game is painful for a player, for a coach, for their family. And I get that and it's hard to be at the top. I have represented one athletic director for almost 20 –gosh-- 25 years, maybe. Long time.

[00:34:50] And she is one of the best, most powerful athletic directors, I think in the country. And she's at Penn State now, but yeah. It's hard to be the person at the top making the decisions too. And sometimes she has stuff. “What do you think?” She'll be getting my legal advice, obviously. And negotiating her deals. 

[00:35:11] But you know, it's hard to be the boss. It's hard to be an assistant coach under the boss. It's hard when you lose a game. It's hard when somebody gets fired. It's hard when a player gets cut. It's hard when a player doesn't get to start --on their families on them. I mean, there's so much to it. And I think I do feel for all of those people in all of those situations. 

John Reed: [00:35:35] Not only do you feel that, you felt it. You've either been next to it, been married to it; you've been there. So, it's not artifice.

Jill Baxter: [00:35:43] We've been hired, fired, had bad plays, had great plays. And you're only as good as your last point in your last win. I mean, it's brutal. I think that helps me in my representation of my clients.

John Reed: [00:35:57] Do you consider yourself to be a  trailblazer in what you to do? 

Jill Baxter: [00:36:01] I don't know. Maybe. I just don't know what everybody else does. I don't really, you know what I'm saying? I don't know how everybody else does their job. I know how I do my job. I'm not in other people's offices. I don't know what they do. So, I don't know. Do you think I am? 

John Reed: [00:36:20] I do. But, and I mean this in the nicest way, you're oblivious to the things that don't matter, which is a gift, right? You haven't noticed, you haven't felt, you haven't been in situations of just overt, oppressive gender discrimination, right?

[00:36:40] You had the confidence and the wherewithal as a second year law student to say, I'm going to do this. You are not afraid to tell the million dollar draft pick, “For the love of God. Don't go to that party. Don't have that party. Don't buy your brother a car.” Right? So, when you say, I don't know how other people do their jobs, I just do mine. Maybe you're an accidental trail blazer. You didn't set out to crush any stereotypes or break any glass ceilings, but you're doing it. 

Jill Baxter: [00:37:11] Yeah, well, I mean, I have my own business, right? I work for myself. I didn't work for other people-- notice that. Nope, didn't do that. But you know, I married a coach and we started having children and it made a lot more sense to me to have my own business so that I can go to their games and do their stuff.

[00:37:27] And support everybody in their stuff. And they support me in my stuff. I also have great parents. I have a great spouse. My husband would be like, “Where are you again?” I said, “I told you I'm going to Dubai. I'm going to Abu Dhabi.” “How long are you going to be there?” Okay. I think the kids were in high school then. 

John Reed: [00:37:48] I thought you said goodbye, not Dubai.

Jill Baxter: [00:37:52] Half the time, he didn't know where I was. But you know, he was busy with his stuff. Where are you again? He's way more domestic than me. He’s such a great cook and he wanted to pack the kids' lunches. I'm in charge of the money. He likes domestic stuff. 

[00:38:12] I have great parents. Great dad, great mom. I have a great husband. I have good kids. The kids turned out great. You know, there's luck there. I've been lucky. 

John Reed: [00:38:26] Jill, it's interesting. I use the term trusted advisor a lot. It's a little cliche, but it seems to work.

[00:38:32] It's this idea that you're so entrenched, so memorable, so sticky with clients, with your community, whatever else, that you rise to the highest levels. You have that trust of people you work with. What's interesting is you're not a friend. You're not a mom to your clients. But you are their trusted advisor. And it's a horrible phrase, but I like it. Like it or not, you're a sticky lawyer. You are definitely a sticky lawyer. 

Jill Baxter: [00:39:00] I appreciate that. 

John Reed: [00:39:02] Jill, I've learned so much and it's clear how you have carved out such a successful niche for yourself. You've written a book. Tell us the name of the book. 

Jill Baxter: [00:39:10] My book is called Born to Be a Sports Agent

John Reed: [00:39:13] Fantastic. You've got a podcast. Name of the podcast?

Jill Baxter: [00:39:16] Representation Without Taxation. 

John Reed: [00:39:18] Jill, thank you so much. 

Jill Baxter: [00:39:19] All right, bye. 

John Reed: [00:39:20] Take care. And thank you for listening. To hear this episode again, or download other Sticky Lawyers episodes, visit StickyLawyers.com. There you'll be able to view episode transcripts, behind-the-scenes notes, and recommend a standout lawyer you know who might be a future guest.

[00:39:39] And please don't forget to subscribe to this podcast. Everyone at Rain BDM who works so hard to produce this podcast would greatly appreciate it. Until next time, I'm John Reed and you've been listening to Sticky Lawyers.

Jill McBride Baxter

Sports Law Attorney

Some might say Jill McBride Baxter was born to be a sports agent and a leader in sports law. Her dad was a Hall of Fame football coach, so she was raised on athletic fields and developed a love of the game long before she entered law school. Now, nearly 25 years later, she has a thriving sports law practice and represents professional players, coaches, media, and college administrators.

An aggressive negotiator with an adventurous spirit and problem-solving nature, Jill has grown a thriving business mainly through referrals and by learning from influencers outside her industry.