SFIA Member Spotlight – Foley & Lardner LLP

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Wall discusses Foley & Lardner’s interesting role in the sports industry, and how the esports craze is going to impact sports as we know it.

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Michael Wall, Of Counsel

What is Foley & Lardner LLP?

Wall: Foley & Lardner is a large international law firm. We have over 900 lawyers in 19 offices across the United States, Europe and Asia who are practicing in a variety of areas and across industries that predominantly serve upper mid-market businesses.

When did you join Foley?

Wall: In the summer of 2017.

You have an interesting background, having worked first at law firms and then as a general counsel for a few high-profile sports businesses. Why return to law firm life at this point in your career?

Wall: I enjoyed my time in private practice early in my career and then was extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to serve as general counsel for the TD Garden and Boston Bruins for 13 years and for Performance Sports Group, the manufacturer of Bauer hockey, Easton baseball and Cascade/Maverik lacrosse equipment, for the last nine years.  Foley has one of the top sports practice groups in the country and I was attracted to it, as I thought it would offer the platform to allow me to continue my sports law practice from a different vantage point.  Having worked as general counsel for so many years within sports-related organizations, I can apply my inside perspective and knowledge to serve Foley’s existing sports clients and, hopefully, be of assistance to new clients–especially businesses that are professional sports franchises, sports and entertainment facilities or sports equipment and apparel companies.  Foley’s sports industry professionals have experience that is wide and deep and I’m grateful to have the chance to join this team

What kind of work does Foley & Lardner do in the sports industry?

Wall: Foley’s sports law industry practice group consists of more than 50 lawyers in offices all over the country who have formidable experience handling complex matters across the sector, including professional franchise acquisitions and sales, media rights deals, facility financing, construction, development and operations. We represent a wide variety of clients ranging from the governing bodies in sports (MLB, NBA, USGA, NCAA) to professional sports teams in the five major professional sports, including the Green Bay Packers, Jacksonville Jaquars, New York Jets, Los Angeles Football Club and Milwaukee Bucks. We also advise investors such as the Ricketts family in their purchase of the Chicago Cubs and a major investor in Derek Jeter’s group that recently acquired the Miami Marlins.

As the sports and fitness industry continues to evolve, it is more important than ever to have that deep understanding of sports and a wide range of experience and expertise to serve your clients.

How is the sports and fitness industry evolving?

Wall: We see growing interplay between our firm’s practice groups and sports in areas like technology, medical devices and healthcare.

For example, esports is one of the hottest areas right now. It is a form of competition involving multiplayer video gaming played for spectators.  The competition typically takes the form of team-based games played in leagues or tournaments, culminating in one final event. The sport’s growth has been explosive and is expected to continue.  Our firm is well-positioned to advise the stakeholders in esports, given our experience in media rights deals, sponsorship and advertising, league formation and governance, and team operations.

We also are doing really interesting work representing a client that has developed a medical device that is a potential solution for mitigating mild traumatic brain injuries in sports.

Tell me more about the device and its applications for our members?

Wall: This client has invented what may be a groundbreaking medical device in concussion mitigation. It is a lightweight collar-like device worn on the neck. The idea is that it applies just enough pressure – sort of like wearing a necktie – to maintain a small amount of blood in the cranial area. The increased blood retention can help prevent the “brain slosh” that occurs in a head impact and that medical science has shown to be the cause of brain injury. Once the device has obtained regulatory approval, it could have huge implications for sports safety.

Where do you see your field going in 5 years?

Wall: Legal professionals in the sports industry will be challenged to keep pace with monumental shifts that are occurring in the category at a highly accelerated pace. Fans are tapping into technological advances that are changing the ways they watch sporting events at home and in the venue and increasing demands on leagues and teams to accommodate these changes.  Outside the sports venue, many fans are cutting the cord and rendering obsolete the traditional sports broadcast model and the control that the leagues and teams enjoyed over their media rights for decades.  Meanwhile, inside the venue, teams are exploring the latest technologies—intelligent ticketing, virtual currencies, virtual reality, augmented reality—to continue to attract patrons.  As I mentioned before, esports is here to stay and will challenge the supremacy of traditional sports over a young, worldwide audience, and traditional sports stakeholders in the U.S. are contributing to globalization by expanding their international reach into Europe and Asia.  Reacting to these trends will require sports lawyers to be innovative in approach, international in scope and adaptive to accelerating change over the next five years and beyond.

SFIA Member Spotlight – Forest Preserve District of DuPage County

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DuPage, a historic nature preserve in Illinois, provides insight to the beauty, opportunities and challenges created by an organization dependent on its community and those devoted to keep it thriving and protected.

What is the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County?

The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County protects nearly 26,000 acres and manages more than 60 forest preserves, 600 acres of lakes, 47 miles of rivers and streams and 5 educational sites. Our forest preserves offer more than 145 miles of trails — which connect our community to neighborhoods and businesses across the county — for hiking, biking, horseback riding and cross-country skiing. The Forest Preserve District welcomes more than 4 million visitors each year to the preserves; our visitors reap the rewards of spending time in nature, enjoying recreational activities at their leisure and maximizing health-and-wellness offerings in the preserves. Our purpose is to provide opportunities for people to connect to nature here in DuPage.

What are some of the recreational and education experiences that you offer?

The Forest Preserve District offers a variety of recreational, educational and cultural experiences in DuPage forest preserves. Our centers offer programs on birding and watching wildlife, walking for fitness, fishing, cycling, paddling, photography and archery, to name a few. Some centers offer STEM programs for school children complemented by experiences in nature, and other centers offer day-long discovery days showcasing historic agricultural and farming practices, domestic arts and seasonal happenings, including maple syruping and corn harvesting.

Most programs are oriented for families, and some programs are offered to particular age groups, from toddlers to teens to older adults. Our programs offer a bit to satisfy most everyone’s interests.

Can you provide an overview of your volunteer programs?

Our volunteer program offers a variety of opportunities to assist our staff steward the preserves, monitor state-endangered and threatened plants and animals, rehabilitate wildlife, teach children about nature and patrol the forest preserves. Our dedicated corps of long-standing and one-day volunteers donate more than 64,000 hours each year! We also see corporate, Scout and school groups join us for restoration workdays, which are led by volunteer site stewards at many forest preserves.

What are your guiding principles? How do you incorporate them?

The Forest Preserve District’s Board of Commissioners, staff and volunteers believe in our organization’s guiding principles and strive to uphold these values not only in our stewardship of the environment but also in the everyday services we provide to DuPage County’s residents and our forest preserve fans. Our guiding principles define who we are and what we stand for as an organization, and every one of us is responsible for stewarding our land, natural resources and finances for perpetuity in DuPage County. We are also committed to creating sustainable landscapes that elevate the quality-of-life for those we serve. We strive to listen to our community to meet their needs and seek ways to partner with others to benefit DuPage County and its residents.

  • Stewardship
  • Sustainability
  • Community Engagement
  • Innovation
  • Empowerment
  • Diversity & Inclusion

How many visitors do you receive year-round?

More than 4 million visitors visit DuPage forest preserves annually.

How do you attract visitors?

We’re fortunate in that we have a more than 100-year history in DuPage County. Our history is reflected by the multiple generations who frequent our forest preserves, visit our education centers and participate in our programs year after year. Most visitors return, because they value the experiences our preserves and programs provide them. We see granddads teach their grandkids how to fish at preserve lakes, moms’ groups hike the trails with their tots, strollers in-tow and bird-loving enthusiasts join our bird walks to take in the great outdoors in like-minded company. There’s a lot to be said about our preserves being a part of everyday life, and our high-quality and fulfilling nature experiences keep visitors coming back and sharing those experiences with their families and friends.

Of course, we’ve always used traditional means (print media and collateral) to reach visitors about our offerings. But today we’re even more agile at meeting their needs on the digital landscape — whether it be by engaging with them on social channels, offering up a responsive web design, facilitating customer service through an app designed for preserve support, or providing program registration, facility reservations and permit purchases online 24/7.

What type of facilities do you have (fields, camping grounds, equestrian center, etc.)? Which one is the most popular?

The Forest Preserve District operates five centers — an equestrian center, an 1890s living-history farm, a wildlife rehabilitation and education center, an arts and cultural center, and a nature center. We’ve also just debuted The Preserve at Oak Meadows, a redesigned 18-hole golf course featuring woodland and prairie vistas and a re-meandered creek that offers improved stormwater-storage capacity and greater flood resistance to the surrounding community. Most of our forest preserves feature trails and picnic shelters, and some host special-use areas and services, including off-leash dog areas, model craft areas, family or youth group campgrounds, boat rentals and even winter activities like snow tubing or cross-country and snowshoe rentals.

Do you have any programs in the works?

The Forest Preserve District is always looking to improve the forest preserves’ offerings, amenities and services. Our master plan process will help us to reshape our future programs and strengthen those that already exist.

What are some overall trends you are seeing in forests and nature parks today?

Today, an ever-growing body of scientific research finds that nature is good for the body, mind and spirit; nature makes us healthier, sharper and happier! That’s why it’s imperative to continue to advance our cause to connect people to nature – whether they be homeowners in DuPage County, or family, friends or even business guests traveling from out-of-state to our local area.

What are some challenges you are seeing today?

The Forest Preserve District owns 12 percent of all land in DuPage County, and we’ve done our part to preserve this land, restore its natural resources and make it accessible to residents. However, not much land exists for purchase to connect green space across the county; our organizational focus has now shifted from one of acquisition to one of management and maintenance of the land and its resources in our possession. Another of our great challenges is perfecting a balance between the “natural” and “developed” states, or offering up pristine natural areas complete with healthy plant and animal communities with a right-sized mix of trails, picnic shelters, off-leash dog areas and manmade amenities (or hardscapes) for recreation purposes. Combatting nonnative and invasive plants and animals in the preserves is a constant, and our ecologists do a good job at prescribing habitat-management plans to maintain a healthy diversity of native species.

Where do you see the Forest Preserve District in five years?

We are in the process of reaching out to our community — including DuPage County residents, forest preserve fans, partner agencies, employees and volunteers — to help us create a master plan for the next five years. From their input, the Forest Preserve District will prioritize its conservation and preservation initiatives in the county. We’re looking at land acquisition, habitat restoration, development of new preserve areas and trails, maintenance of existing facilities and amenities, and even the preservation of historic buildings. We value our community’s input and believe such outreach best serves them and their needs. Stayed tuned, because there’s more to come!