Sept. 4, 2014

Law student with a passion for sports scores big in New York

Q&A with Spencer Hoffman, who spent his summer working for the NHL
Second-year law student Spencer Hoffman spent his summer working for the NHL in New York City.

Second-year law student Spencer Hoffman spent his summer working for the NHL in New York City.

Even during his undergraduate studies in political science at Western University, Spencer Hoffman liked to get involved. He was the vice-president for one of the largest North American chapters of the AEPi fraternity, participated in a political advocacy think tank, and played on many different hockey teams. But his first experience with contract law and the legal aspects of the sports industry began with a softball league he bought (with two of his friends), grew and later sold. This passion for community involvement, sports and the law led to Hoffman's summer job working for the National Hockey League in New York City.

Q: Tell us about your job with the NHL.

A: I am working for the NHL as their legal summer associate. The NHL’s Legal Group acts for the League itself in its capacity as a business entity as well as for all 30 of the league’s member clubs. In addition, there are many “hockey specific” issues pertaining to the on-ice product that arise such as CBA (collective bargaining agreement) compliance, free agency, trades and grievances. I have worked on issues ranging from transactions, finance, corporate governance, litigation, arbitration, immigration, labour, negotiations and more. It has been a great mix of larger, long-term work as well as issues with very short turnaround times.

I am also very lucky that the lawyers that I work with took a keen interest in teaching me and exposing me to situations that one would not see as a young associate at a firm. I have attended many high-level meetings, discussions and negotiations, which have taught me a lot about the nuances of practising law.

Q: How did you get this job?

A: I cold called! It took a lot of work, but eventually I found the right people and sent an email with my resume, and next thing you know they were inviting me to New York for an interview.  

Q: Have you met Gary Bettman? What is he like in real life?

A: I have. Gary is extremely nice and funny but he’s also one of the smartest people that I have met. Gary and Bill Daly (the deputy commissioner) are both lawyers by trade and so they sit right by the general counsel and associate general counsels — they are all my bosses … I have a lot of them.

Q: What area of the law are you most interested in?

A: I definitely want to practice law in a traditional setting. Given that my father and sister are both lawyers, the traditional practice is something that has always appealed to me. But 15 to 20 years down the road, who knows?

I have learned at the NHL that sports law has some very unique elements, but ultimately it is still corporate law. I find M&A (mergers and acquisitions) and securities very exciting but I also find other types of law interesting as well. I love transaction work but I also enjoy litigation. At this point I am like the nerdy version of a kid in a candy store in the sense that I have been fortunate to have been exposed to so many subsets of legal practice. I am looking forward to seeing what opportunities arise.

Q: Tell us about the charity work you were doing before heading to New York, and the fundraising milestone you reached.

A: During my undergrad, I co-founded with three of my friends a co-ed charity sports tournament called The Intercamp Classic, which raises money to send underprivileged children to summer camp. In our first year we had 28 male softball teams and raised around $38,000, which was later matched with a donation from Tony Blair, the former prime minister of the United Kingdom. I have his note to me framed above my desk as a reminder of what hard work and creativity can do. Since then, we have grown to become a co-ed softball, flag football and handball tournament with more than 90 teams, 100 volunteers and 2,000 attendees.

We celebrated our fifth anniversary this past May, and have raised $600,000 over the past five years, surpassing our five-year goal of half a million dollars.

Growing up, I spent 13 summers at Camp Manitou where I not only learned a lot about myself but also forged some of the closest friendships that I have. To be able to give other children the same opportunity is very special. Running the Intercamp Classic has also afforded me the opportunity to connect with many great corporate and private partners who have supported the event. In 2012, as a result of the success of the event, my co-founders and I were invited to meet with the Governor General of Canada to discuss youth involvement in philanthropic efforts.

Q: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

A: One of the best pieces of advice that I received came last summer from my mentor when I worked for BMO Capital Markets as their legal summer student. The advice was, “Before you send an email, picture it on the front page of the newspaper.” That advice has served me well at BMO and now at the NHL.