By Wes Zirkle, Just Marketing International
Indianapolis prides itself as the “racing capital of the world.” Even as a young boy growing up in Northern Indiana, I knew that Indianapolis had something special because of the city’s indelible connection to motor racing. Much has been said about the importance of motor racing not only to Indianapolis, but also to Indiana (as was evidenced by a Purdue University study published in September 2012). But even as numerous industries in Indiana have benefited enormously from motorsports, for many years the benefit to the legal community of Indiana was less certain.
Doubtless, as there are many Indiana-based businesses who supply and support motorsports, those businesses likely have Indiana-based attorneys to provide counsel. But where do those attorneys go for counsel, networking and education?
That was the question I asked seven years ago in Boston.
Boston? Yes, Boston. I know, Boston is to motorsports as Orlando is to shovels. But the story is nice and one I reflect on fondly.
I was in Boston to attend the 33rd Annual Sports Lawyers Association conference. It’s a tremendous conference and, really, the only conference to attend for lawyers whose practices touch sports law. After a day of learning about typical stick-and-ball issues (labor, agency, arbitration, etc.), I struck up a conversation with three lawyers during a break in the agenda. I remember it clearly. In front of me was Stoke Caldwell and Brooke Beyer from Charlotte, and Mark Richards from Indianapolis was on my right. All of us have heavy motorsports practices. During that conversation, I commented (okay, I complained) that motorsports is a “sport” but had no real representation at this national sports law conference. To which Stoke replied, “well, let’s just start a motorsports law conference.”
So, we did. We enlisted the help of another Charlotte-based attorney, William Bray, who had just organized a day-long motorsports CLE in Greensboro, North Carolina. The concept was simple: Between Indianapolis and Charlotte was a wealth of knowledge on the topic of motorsports law and the five of us would reach out to every attorney we knew who practices in motorsports and invite them to participate in a day-and-a-half session of education and networking. TRAC was born.
The Racing Attorney Conference (TRAC) was first held in April of 2008 at the infield media center of what was then Lowes Motor Speedway in Charlotte. We had hoped to attract 50 attorneys. Over 100 attended and we had to set up extra chairs. Attendee comments after the conference were terrific despite first-day speakers having to yell over the sound of stock cars doing laps around us. The next year we held TRAC in the media center of Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Again, nearly 100 attorneys attended. We had something. The five of us then committed to organizing TRAC every April and host it on a rotational basis between Charlotte and Indianapolis.
Now in its sixth year, TRAC 2013 is being held on April 9-10 at the Conrad Hotel in Indianapolis (after two years of noisy media centers, the conference was moved to swanky hotels with proper acoustics and better coffee). Over the years, the conference has evolved from attracting just the attorneys in the host city to being the must-attend conference for attorneys nationally who have clients in the motorsports industry. This year we have commitments from attorneys in Los Angeles, Atlanta, Kansas City, Detroit, Chicago, Daytona Beach, New York, and Washington, D.C., including, of course, Indianapolis and Charlotte.
And the organizing committee has expanded beyond the original five founders and now includes Eric Anderson from Sears, Katherine Wallace from Alston & Bird, Lauri Eberhart from NASCAR Hall of Fame, Matt Efird from Robinson Bradshaw & Hinson, and this year’s local co-chairs Mark Owens from Barnes & Thornburg and Tiffany Hemmer from INDYCAR.
Over time, the topics have also evolved from introductory issues to compelling and timely topics that will be useful to attorneys at all levels of experience and many types of practices. This year, among other topics, TRAC will examine Sweepstakes and Promotions, Sponsorship, Insurance and Indemnity, Multi-state Taxation issues, and Social Media. The conference will also highlight a luncheon keynote address from Mayor Greg Ballard which will be followed by a panel discussing motorsports’ impact on state and local government.
I suppose I have penned this article not only as an open invitation to the Indiana legal community, but also to try and sell that TRAC has become what I had hoped it would be: a tangible benefit to the Indiana legal community directly derived from motorsports.
This is a unique opportunity for you to learn from and socialize with a body of attorneys who are, on a daily basis, shaping what is “motorsports law” in the United States and internationally. And, also, an opportunity to participate in that conversation.