Career Corner: Grad combines love of sports with law

Published: March 24th, 2014

Category: News

dannayhaydarBy Andrew Steadman (2L)

Danna Haydar’s (JD 09) love of sports has taken her all over North America — from Toronto to Tampa and many places in between.

Haydar, the general counsel for the Tampa Bay Lightning hockey team, has had sports in her blood from an early age.

“I very much knew I wanted to be in hockey or baseball,” Haydar said, adding that she had the good fortune to catch the Lightning at a time when the organization had an opening.

She was born and raised in Toronto, where hockey is an ever-present fact of life. She played softball at Winthrop University in South Carolina.

Haydar said she knew what her career goals were by the time she entered law school at the University of Florida – she would combine her love of sports with her aptitude for the law.

Haydar pursued summer positions in sports. She spent the summer after her 1L year working for the Hamilton Bulldogs, the Montreal Canadiens’ American Hockey League affiliate team.

After her second year of law school, Haydar worked for the Toronto sports agency that represented Stanley Cup-winning superstar Vinny Lecavalier, among other prominent athletes.

From there, Haydar knew she needed to move out of Florida to make the most of her opportunities.

“Not that I don’t love Gainesville,” Haydar said. “But it’s not the mecca for all things sports and entertainment.”

Haydar transferred to Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles as a visiting student in order to finish her J.D. from UF and get closer to the sports and entertainment opportunities she sought. She landed at Mandalay Sports Entertainment, which owns and manages a portfolio of minor league baseball teams across the country.

The job with the Lightning brought Haydar back to Florida. She said organization and efficiency are crucial to success at her job, considering the hectic schedule and variety of tasks she encounters on a daily basis.

Haydar handles legal duties for the Lightning, the Tampa Bay Storm arena football team, and the Tampa Bay Times Forum, the venue that hosts the two teams.

“You wear so many hats,” Haydar said. “When you’re in-house, you’re the be-all end-all.”

On any given day, Haydar will field discovery requests, handle sponsorship deals, read trade agreements or submit the paperwork to register a new trademark. Sometimes, all four at once. To-do lists, Haydar said, are the key to keeping track of all the deadlines and responsibilities.

Haydar said a well-rounded set of skills and legal background is essential to success in the general counsel office, since only the jack-of-all-trades will be able to competently deal with the array of legal issues that come with the running of successful professional sports franchise.