Responding to new trade demands following a surprise Super Bowl run, the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals have hired the first in-house attorney in their 55-year history.
Emma Compton, who graduated from law school just two years ago, juggles everything from player contracts to stadium sponsorship deals in her new role.
For Compton, who grew up in Cincinnati and has attended Bengals games his entire life, his dream job comes from hard work and, like any good football player, being in the right place at the right time.
“I was a fan first and always had a passion for this team,” said Compton, who interned for the Bengals in college. “But to be able to mold two of my different passions into sports and law is awesome and a bit surreal.”
While August is often a month of vacation and a lighter workload for many in-house attorneys and their Big Law brethren, Compton is now in its busy season. The Bengals are sell naming rights at their 65,500-seat Paul Brown Stadium at Paycor HCM Inc., a human resources software company, and are currently in a preseason schedule ahead of a regular season opener scheduled for Sept. 11 against rival Pittsburgh Steelers.
Tiger for the first time
Compton was hired amid negotiations for the Paycor deal, which change the name of a stadium named after the late Bengals co-founder and father of the current owner and Harvard Law School graduate Mike Brown.
Last season’s unexpected run to Super Bowl LVI, which the AFC champ The Bengals lost 23-20 to the Los Angeles Rams, and a desire to secure new revenue streams led the club to add a dedicated in-house attorney, said W. Stuart Dornette, longtime franchise outside attorney and partner at Taft Stettinius & Hollister.
Compton said she was working closely with Dornette on several legal issues, including the 16-year agreement with Paycor that Sportico reported could generate annually between 8 and 12 million dollars for the team. She praised Dornette and Taft, who helped bring the team on board in 1967, for briefing her on her new job.
“It helps to have someone in-house to filter questions and respond quickly,” Compton said of her position with the club, which she started in May.
Bloomberg Law reported in February that the Bengals were one of the few NFL franchises without a dedicated in-house attorney. The team has had attorneys in non-legal positions. Brown’s family includes her daughter Katie Brown Blackburn and her husband Troy Blackburn, both former associates of Taft.
It was Troy Blackburn, who, with his wife, is part of the business of Bengal Managementwhich Compton says helped her break into the sports world.
While an undergraduate at the University of Cincinnati, Compton spent four years working for the Bengals as part of their game day team, first as an intern.
The added responsibility led her to go to school part-time. “I was happy that they trusted me to take on such an important role as a student,” Compton said.
She graduated in 2020 from the University of Dayton School of Law and landed an associate position at Keating Muething & Klekamp, a Cincinnati-based law firm with ties to other professional sports teams. from the city. Compton did game-day marketing while in college for FC Cincinnati, a Major League Soccer team that earlier this year hired a former Keating Muething attorney to head legal affairs.
Manipulated Compton corporate and real estate law at Keating Muething, where she honed her general skills in business law, training necessary to evolve internally in the sports space. She also went out of her way to work with other lawyers in the firm working for sports industry clients like FC Cincinnati.
“Sports is such a big niche that I felt like I needed to gain experience in other areas like IP, which I do a lot here,” Compton said. “Fixing yourself in one area of law when you’re so young doesn’t necessarily work for long-term career success.
For former associates like her looking to land a coveted legal job in the sports industry, Compton stressed the critical importance of networking — she has stayed in touch with Troy Blackburn. Compton was considering another opportunity when she approached Blackburn earlier this year for her opinion on the job.
“I came to Troy because I considered him a mentor, valued his advice and took it to heart – I felt like he had my best interests in mind,” Compton said.
Blackburn, however, also had the Bengals’ needs in mind. He told Compton the team was looking to hire someone, and soon the former intern was back with the Bengals.