J.J. Pristanski ’19 on His Summer Clerking for the NFL Management Council   

J.J. Pristanski ’19 learned of the NFL Management Council Law Clerk Program from a guest speaker in Professor Francis Shen's seminar. He immediately applied and ultimately snagged the prestigious clerkship. Pristanski, who spent his 1L summer in a clerkship with the NHL's San Jose Sharks, hopes to one day work in the sports law field. With the summer experiences he has had as a student at Minnesota Law, it is safe to say he has a leg up on the competition. He recently answered some questions about his current clerkship.      

What is the NFL Management Council Law Clerk Program?

The NFL Management Council is a division of the NFL’s legal department. It negotiates and advises NFL clubs regarding the NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement, and represents clubs in grievance arbitrations against the NFL Players Association. The NFL Management Council Law Clerk Program gives law students in their second or third year the opportunity to assist NFL Management Council attorneys with various labor relations matters.

How did you procure your summer clerkship?

I was lucky enough to meet Brook Gardiner, vice president of labor relations at the NFL, when he visited Professor Francis Shen’s innovative seminar Sports Concussions and the Law: Neuroscience and Liability. Mr. Gardiner spoke to our class about his role at the NFL and his experiences representing NFL clubs in injury-grievance arbitrations pursuant to Article 44 of the NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement. At the end of his presentation, Mr. Gardiner informed the class about the NFL Management Council Law Clerk Program. I submitted my application about 30 minutes later.

Please describe your experience.

Learning from some of the best sports and labor attorneys in the country has been a blast. I’m also very grateful to have had the opportunity to interact with some of the many great people who work in other departments at the NFL, including Commissioner Goodell, who was happy to share that he got his start at the NFL as an intern in 1982.

How does participating in the program connect to your career goals?

Not defying the Canadian stereotype, hockey was my religion growing up. My parents had me skating at age three, and, as a goalie, I’ve let in more goals than there are lakes in Minnesota. Once I came to the harsh realization that nobody was ever going to pay me a dime to play sports professionally, I figured the next best thing would be to work behind-the-scenes. Participating in the NFL Management Council Law Clerk Program has reassured me that this is the kind of work I want to do, and has taught me so much about sports law, labor relations, and the business of sports. I also owe a lot to John Tortora and Andrew Koehler at the San Jose Sharks for giving me the opportunity to learn from them last summer, and for preparing me for this experience at the NFL. 

Would you recommend the program to others?

In a heartbeat. The NFL Management Council is a great place for aspiring sports lawyers. The attorneys are extremely talented, and are eager to pass on their wisdom. I’m excited to go to work every day, and feel very fortunate to call the NFL Management Council my home for the summer.