Sunday, March 4, 2007

The NCAA and Preventative Lawyering

Today's NY Times has an interesting article about colleges hiring law firms to investigate their athletic programs and ferret out irregularities and NCAA violations, presumably before the NCAA does.

Seems like a win-win--the NCAA is "certainly very busy" by their own admission, and potential for violations high--why not get ahead of the game (ooh, bad pun) and investigate yourself first? Violations can be corrected and bad actors weeded out, which benefits the program overall. Personally, I'm a fan of the proactive approach. Better that the entity takes responsibility for its employees and students and fixes its own problems in-house, instead of waiting for the NCAA to come around and slap wrists. I suppose there is an argument that only some schools can afford this type of action ($920k and $477k are two cost figures cited), but I think it's a matter of incentive. Schools that don't generate huge revenues from their athletic programs have less incentive to prevent NCAA sanctions, and are probably less likely to have a problem with violations, since their programs are smaller.

The article cites potential ethical violations because the lawyers heading the investigations are former NCAA officials. I don't really see a conflict--lawyers switch sides all the time, as long as they're not trading on work product or client secrets I don't see how this is a problem. In fact, it seems like an innovative way to control costs for the client while still making rain for the firm.

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