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Alumni Profile: Tandy O’Donoghue

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Alumni Profile: Tandy O’Donoghue

WWE Sportslaw
From Left to Right: Woody Johnson (Owner, NY Jets), WWE Superstar Triple H, John Mara (President, NY Giants) Following a press conference announcing that WrestleMania XXIX will take place at MetLife Stadium.
Biography:

Tandy O'Donoghue graduated magna cum laude from Tulane University Law School in 1997 with a certificate of specialization in Sports Law, and obtained her BS in Industrial and Labor Relations from Cornell University in 1994.  She is currently the Senior Vice President of Operations & New Business Development for WWE, Inc. (World Wrestling Entertainment), where she supports various strategic initiatives for the company.  This includes WWE's content distribution efforts, such as its "original content" partnership with YouTube that launched in February 2012, as well as WWE's interest in potentially launching a television network.

Prior to WWE, Tandy worked for the USTA (United States Tennis Association) for five years, most recently as Managing Director, Business Affairs, Professional Tennis.  In that capacity, she was responsible for negotiating and managing many of the television, sponsorship and other commercial relationships for the US Open, the world's largest annually attended sporting event.  Prior to the USTA, O'Donoghue spent three years at the WTA Tour in roles of increasing responsibility, most recently as Chief Legal Officer and Head of Television. 
Tandy began her career as an associate in Proskauer Rose LLP's litigation department in 1997. While at Proskauer, she worked with a number of clients in the sports industry, including Major League Soccer, the NHL, the NBA and the ATP World Tour. 

A native of Connecticut, Tandy currently resides in Darien, a short drive from WWE's Stamford, Connecticut headquarters.

Education:
J.D., Tulane University School of Law, '97, magna cum laude
Certificate of Specialization in Sports Law
Order of the Coif
B.S., Industrial & Labor Relations, Cornell University '94

Questions and Answers:

What was your favorite non-sports law class and professor at Tulane? And why?

If you told me before my first day as a 1L that my answer would be "Civil Procedure with Professor Friedman", I would have thought you were crazy, but looking back, that was indeed my favorite non-sports class.  Professor Friedman had quite a reputation for running a very tough class, and going in, I was petrified.  He didn't disappoint (and I mean that in a good way).  Sure, he was demanding (and rightly so) - but he really taught our class how to think critically through every single issue from its core.  Even though I no longer serve in a legal role, that's a skill I continue to use in my career every day:  taking an opportunity (or a problem), breaking it down into discrete elements, thinking through each element and developing a strategy to address each element (and the opportunity as a whole) in the most effective order.  Friedman, Pennoyer & Neff, LLP - the "must hire" firm for 1Ls.     

I also have to mention Trial Advocacy and Jim Cobb.  Great experience, great learning environment, and fantastic interaction with practicing attorneys and judges.  And Jim Cobb?  A quintessential New Orleans character.  Enough said.

What was your favorite thing to do in New Orleans?

Besides eat?  Probably walking my dog in Audubon Park, right around the middle of spring semester - when the weather was perfect and the days were getting longer.  That, to me, is the magic of New Orleans - it's the only place I know that takes the mundane and makes it spectacular. 

What's your fondest law school memory?

There are many…but one that I recall vividly was a phone call I got in late July after my first year.  It was the Managing Editor of the Law Review letting me know that I had graded on.  That was a big deal to me - I worked very hard to make Law Review and remain grateful for that experience.  From the time I was an upperclassman in college, I had Proskauer Rose in my sights and I wanted to give myself the best possible chance to work there.  Law Review was a piece of that puzzle.

Why did you choose Tulane?

I chose Tulane because it was the only law school at the time that offered a true sports law program.  I know that other law schools have developed sports law programs since then, but I continue to believe that Tulane's program offers the most comprehensive and nationally respected leadership and curriculum.  Once I decided to attend Tulane, I never looked back, and I would proudly make the same decision today.

Describe your career path:

I had the good fortune of starting my career at Proskauer Rose LLP, where I was trained by incredibly smart, talented, and savvy lawyers who took a real interest in developing new hires.  I was also lucky to be a litigator during an active period of sports litigation, and had the benefit of working on some cutting-edge cases for Proskauer's sports clients, including Major League Soccer.  I had my sights set on Proskauer from very early on, given the firm's reputation in the sports law field, but I think it's important to note that it wasn't just the work or the clients that drew me to Proskauer - it was also the culture, a sense that I could really be myself there, a sense that my personality (sometimes described as…animated) would be embraced.  And it was. 

That start at Proskauer gave me the confidence to throw my hat in the ring during my fourth year when I learned that the WTA Tour (the women's professional tennis tour) was looking for a new general counsel.  I went through the interview process and lucked my way into the job (the organization ran on a tight budget, and since I was willing to take a big pay cut, I think my price was right!).  My time at the WTA Tour was fantastic - for a junior lawyer, I think few opportunities rival that of working at a smaller organization with broad reach.  The legal department consisted of…me.  So, I worked on everything from television rights deals, to player discipline issues, to the anti-doping policy, to corporate governance, to prize money negotiations with tournament owners.  The three years I spent at the WTA Tour not only gave me tremendous hands-on experience, but it also helped me get a real feel for the type of work I enjoyed (creative deal-making) and put me in a position to move on to a new role at the USTA supporting the US Open (one of the four Grand Slam tennis tournaments and the largest annually-attended sporting event in the world).

I spent five amazing years at the USTA and during that time, I formally shifted from a legal role to a business affairs role.  That's the path I wanted to take - but it isn't for every lawyer and shouldn't be.  I've had many colleagues over the years that prefer being on the legal, advisory, and risk-management side of the business as opposed to the deal-driven side of the business.  It's a matter of figuring out what you're more passionate about and what you'll enjoy doing.

At the USTA, I found myself leading various projects and deals that required a lot of collaboration and coordination across departments.  Developing those leadership skills helped me take on various strategic planning assignments and what are best described as "chief of staff" responsibilities for the CEO, including handling industry communications and leading the USTA's relationship with NYC's City Hall (the USTA is party to a long-term lease with the City of New York for the home of the US Open - the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center).

All of the interesting legal, business affairs, strategic planning, and "miscellaneous" experience I had at Proskauer, the WTA Tour, and the USTA turned out to be just the right mix of what WWE was looking for in filling a business development and operations role in early 2010 when I joined the company.

If you could give one piece of career advice to current students, what would it be?

Nothing rings truer to me than something I read in an interview with Nancy Dubuc, the President & General Manager of Lifetime and History Networks and one of the most powerful and successful people in the television industry.  She said "pick your boss, not the job."  I can't think of a single thing that has contributed more to my career than working for people who took an interest in my development and growth, challenged me, inspired me, and generally made me feel good about going to the office.  Over time, I've learned more about the kind of boss I work with best (the "click" factor), and more about the kind of boss I need to avoid (the "definitely don't click" factor).  I would encourage students to keep that in mind as they're starting out.

What do you think a law student's biggest misconception may be about practicing sports law?

High-profile handshaking by day and courtside seats by night.  If that's the reason you want to work in sports law, you may want to reconsider your options, or prepare to be disappointed. 

"© 2012 WWE.  All Rights Reserved."

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