Doing Law Differently, In the Best Interest of Sport

When I won my first case as a lawyer, I remember proudly announcing it to my then Director General. He immediately shot back with a question that would forever change my approach to law.

He asked: “Was justice done?”

Since I was expecting at least some form of congratulations, I looked at him with a bit of surprise, unable to respond.

He then asked me: “Did you achieve the right outcome?”

Something clicked. At that moment, I realized that law wasn’t about winning or losing, but about achieving the right outcome for all of the parties involved in any given case. This – and not winning or losing – was justice. It was a pivotal moment in my career and it had a profound influence on how I approached the law thereafter.

There’s always a winner in sport, and while that is also true when it comes to most forms of sport disputes, it really should not matter who wins or loses, as long as justice is served. To consider otherwise is to settle for mediocrity. The Canadian sport sector deserves better.

As a former national team athlete, it should come as no surprise that I want to see Canadian sport succeed all the way from the grassroots level to the Olympic and Paralympic Games. But Canadian sport will not succeed if we – that is, those of us working in the Canadian sport system – are not ensuring that justice prevails.

This means that all decision-makers consider the implications of their decisions on everyone involved and that, to the extent possible, they strive for alignment. If we adopt this approach – even if it means putting individual interests aside – the Canadian sport system will have one less hurdle to overcome on its path to continued success.

But in order to succeed, sport organizations also need to ensure that their policies are up to date, so that they and their stakeholders can focus their time on maximizing podium performances, rather than managing conflict and putting out fires.   To achieve this, I believe that organizations need to align their policies, procedures and decisions with their values. In so doing, they will increase the likelihood of focusing on what really matters.

I am honoured to have joined the Sport Law & Strategy Group as an Associate and feel it is a privilege to be supporting the Canadian sport system in this capacity. Feel free to reach out to me at ajk@sportlaw.ca to discuss how I can help resolve issues, review contracts, or explore strategic options.

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