Off the Ice: Red Wings attorney shares career insights with law students

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Michigan State University College of Law’s Sports & Entertainment Law Society recently welcomed alumnus Robert Carr to campus to speak about his career. Carr serves as the senior vice president of Operations and Legal Affairs for Olympia Entertainment, as well as general counsel and alternate governor for the Detroit Red Wings.

He started out in the legal field as a law clerk for a U.S. District Court judge before taking a position as an associate at Dickinson Wright, where he eventually became partner. During his time at the firm, Carr brought on the Ilitch Family as a client. The famous family of entrepreneurs is best known for their ownership of the Detroit Red Wings, the Detroit Tigers, and Little Caesars Pizza, among other organizations.

Carr explained that a conflict of interest at his firm made it impossible for him to continue representing the Ilitch family. Carr eventually left the firm and took a position with the Ilitch family as
general counsel. He has since built a career spanning more than 20 years.

“It was an opportunity that presented itself and I credit that to being in the right place at the right time. I was brought on in 1997 as general counsel for their entertainment company and then about six months later, Mr. Ilitch appointed me general counsel of the Detroit Red Wings – so it was a dual role – and then a short time after that I started working with the Detroit Tigers,” Carr said. “It kind of evolved from there.”

His job covers everything from intellectual property to risk management, though contracts are a big part of the work. With work involving athletes as well as musicians, Carr has met quite a few celebrities during his career. He said meeting Elton John and being his stand-in chauffeur for a night is one of his favorite encounters.

After more than 20 years, Carr admitted that the bonus perks of attending shows and meeting the athletes have become part of the job, but he often has moments that remind him why he still loves what he does. On the morning of his speaking event at MSU Law, Carr gave a tour of the Fox Theatre to a couple visiting Detroit from Australia.

“That reminded me that one of the benefits of my job is to see the joy that I can bring to people when they see something that the public doesn’t normally get to see,” he said. “I get the most joy in taking young kids, under-privileged kids, in particular, that don’t have access to sporting events. Seeing their eyes light up and the bright smiles when we can take them behind the scenes and let them touch the ice or go on the baseball field – that’s the neatest part of my job currently.”

Carr advised students to use their time in law school to learn and grow, and emphasized that getting a law degree isn’t always a fixed path to life in a firm, as he has demonstrated with his own career.

“Broaden your horizon and take a good breadth of classes that make you a better person and a better communicator. I think everything else takes care of itself and I guarantee you’ll find your way along,” Carr said. “Some of you may not want to be lawyers, but a law degree is a hell of a thing to have. It’s a powerful tool. It’s a nice couple of initials after your name, whether you want to go into business or you want to do something else.”
 

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