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As a corporate and finance attorney at Phoenix-based Snell & Wilmer, Travis Leach occasionally represents sports industry figures — often with their side businesses or other ventures. Those industry connections were the genesis for Snell & Wilmer’s newest subsidiary: a sports agency called Athlete Management Professionals LLC. Major law firms often represent professional athletes, but it’s unusual for a firm to open its own stand-alone sports agency, said Leach, who is running the venture with the help of five other Snell attorneys. “It’s really not common for firms to do this,” Leach said. “It’s very difficult to break into the sports agency industry, and a lot of firms don’t want to devote a lot of resources to it. Snell is a very entrepreneurial firm, and we wanted to capitalize on the some of the opportunities out there.” Athlete Management Professionals is a full-service agency handling everything from contract negotiations to marketing and endorsements, although some clients use the agency only for endorsement deals. The firm has about 10 clients, Leach said, including Joey Porter, a linebacker with the Miami Dolphins; Eddie Gamboa, a pitching prospect with the Baltimore Orioles; and Zach Sunderland, who last year briefly became the youngest person to sail around the world alone (he was 17). Snell & Wilmer considered adding a sports management practice within the law firm, but eventually decided that it made better sense to establish a separate sports management agency — in part to ensure that the firm wouldn’t run afoul of the ethics rules governing legal marketing, Leach said. The close relationship between the firm and the agency will benefit both entities, since the agency can refer clients to Snell attorneys for matters like estate planning, intellectual property concerns, litigation and nonprofit foundations, he said. Phoenix is an ideal location for the new agency, Leach said, because it is home to professional football, baseball, basketball and hockey teams, not to mention numerous baseball spring training programs. Building a sports agency isn’t easy, he said. “It’s an industry that’s very contract- and relationship-based. It’s very insular, and breaking in is difficult even with the relationships I’ve established. You still have to go out and pitch clients. It’s a lot of hard work, but I enjoy it.” Leach plans to split his time between his finance practice and Athlete Management Professionals.

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