Here’s a story from Saturday’s Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel about the relationship between the Foley & Lardner law firm and Major League Baseball:
Mary K. Braza, the head of the sports industry team at the Foley & Lardner law firm, has a nice view of Milwaukee and Lake Michigan from her office at the U.S. Bank Center.
So does Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, who maintains an office on a different floor in the same building on E. Wisconsin Ave.
That as much as anything explains the strong relationship Major League Baseball has with Milwaukee’s best known law firm.
Braza heads a team of approximately 36 lawyers at the prestigious firm. And while Foley serves a variety of clients in the sports world, it is the firm’s long and strong connection to Major League Baseball where it is best known in sports law circles.
Chambers USA, which ranks law firms in various categories, has given Foley a solid ranking. According to Chambers, “the team’s reputation has been forged through its dedication to providing a ‘solid all-around service.’ ”
Foley does everything for baseball, and I’m assuming it’s a pretty good client for Ms. Braza to have. This interested me, though:
Foley was, in fact, a key player in the Mitchell Report, baseball’s defining document on the use of performance-enhancing substances. The report, produced by former Sen. George Mitchell and which came out a year ago, was Selig’s effort to lay out the problems of baseball and performance-enhancing substances.
It was a significant project for baseball and Foley & Lardner.
“We were baseball’s lawyers,” Braza said. “We weren’t independent investigators. That was Mitchell and the lawyers he worked with. We were instructed to be facilitators for Mitchell. We were the liaison between Mitchell’s people and the league office, making sure people were producing information for them, setting up interviews and making sure that was happening across the board with respect to the other clubs,” she said.
That’s funny. My copy of the Mitchell Report says “DLA Piper” on the front page, which is George Mitchell’s law firm. You’d think that they’d at least get a proper-name shoutout here. You’d also think that, given how political and superficial a document the Mitchell Report truly was, people would be running away from it as opposed to trying to take credit. Unless of course the pitch is “Hire us! We’ll whitewash your business’ problems so thoroughly that people will forget they ever happened!” You laugh, but there’s a lot of money in that line of work.
That aside, this reads like a sales brochure for Foley. Or for any other large firm, really. My experience working for such places tells me, however, that whenever lawyers talk to you about how they’ll “think proactively” for you and serve as “facilitators” it really means that they’ll continue billing you at a healthy clip when there aren’t any deals on the table and there isn’t much pending litigation. Personally speaking? I’d rather hire smart salaried people in-house to, in Braza’s words, “think about the next thing I have coming down the road” and have my expensive, outside, hourly lawyers on stand-by for bigger problems.
It’s always a buyer’s market for legal services as long as you at least try to approach it as such. The days where you can just hire the biggest firm in town and delegate all of your thinking to them like Major League Baseball seems to have done with Foley is a thing of the past.