From Immigration Attorney to Hockey Agent (and Back Again)

July 16, 2011

by Ken Robinson, Attorney and ImmigRanter at Slowik & Robinson, LLC

It is true, I am an identical twin (the photograph attached to this blog posting is indeed yours truly!). Not surprisingly, I grew up with this urge to try to distinguish myself from somebody who many thought looked exactly like me. In so doing, I was drawn to all things foreign:  exchange students, travel, film, ideas, languages, you name it! At the start of my law school career, I thought I wanted to work in "international law," although, truth be told, I didn't really know what that meant. What I discovered was that international law was maritime law (water rights, rules governing employees working on ships and the shipment of goods on maritime vessels), transportation (tariffs, taxes, bills of lading), laws governing actions of nations in the world community, and finance -- and, most of this seemed really dull to me.

I wanted something more personal and more meaningful that still had a component of international law. If only I could represent individuals (investors, businessmen and women, skilled professional workers, entertainers, artists, athletes...) as well as work with businesses large and small (hospitals, universities, not-for-profits, government agencies, churches, and NGOs, etc.) while exposing myself to foreign concepts, ideas, places, and languages... But how could I do this?

Here is my story.  I first became aware of a distinct body of law known as "immigration law" between my first and second year of law school. After my first year at The Ohio State University (Moritz) College of Law, I had the chance to go to Europe (Strasbourg, France) and clerk at the European Court of Human Rights. While I was there, the Court heard a case that involved the forced displacement of the Armenian population from Turkey in the early 1900s. Armenians were petitioning the Turkish government for their right to their ancestral lands and for reparations. A number of questions came to mind:  How is it one gets to live in a given place? Where does this "right" come from?  Is it as simple as a fortunate birthplace - this soil as opposed to that soil?  What principles of law govern? What motivates business and people to cross borders? Who regulates such movement? Who are the political or financial stakeholders involved in the movement of people? And so on...

I came to the conclusion that immigration law was a body of law that began to address some of these questions and actually spoke to my interests.

I've had a lot of great and satisfying experiences as an immigration lawyer. I have also enjoyed representing family-owned and closely-held businesses in various business-related matters.  In combination, these areas of law have pushed me on a career path that I could not have imagined for myself when I became a lawyer in 1998. During my career, I have enjoyed working with investors, entrepreneurs, businesses, universities, healthcare systems, churches -- but I have always had a soft spot in my heart for athletes, entertainers and artists.

In particular, our firm has worked with professional sports franchises in the past. A few years ago, I began working on some immigration issues for a hockey team here in Columbus, Ohio (And, yes, we do have professional hockey in Ohio!) and through that relationship, I began working directly with a few hockey players, in both Europe and the United States. Hockey players are a very loyal bunch of guys.  You do right by one, and they tell their friends and teammates. Before I knew it, I could put on the ice a complete team comprised of only my client-players. At first, I was working on immigration-related issues, but my relationship with one player grew to where I was handling all kinds of issues for him. One day, he looked at me and stated that I was doing the work that he wanted his agent to be performing. The next thing I knew, I was an immigration attorney-sports agent!

I became a certified NHLPA Players Representative (agent). Immigration law and sports agent?  I know, right!?!  Well with approximately 90% of the NHL players being foreign born, one might ask why didn't someone think of this sooner? Of course, a smart person knows one's limitations. I hooked up with two of the best agents on the planet - George Bazos and Jordan Neumann of Edge Sports Management out of New York.

So, from the European Court of Human Rights to the Stanley Cup and all points in between, this is my story (or part of it anyway). I have found my story isn't unlike an immigrant's story: A mix of opportunity, promise, luck and hard work.  It is the journey, not the destination which intrigues. Although, my firm's work helps make that destination possible.

-Ken

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