One way to get real-life legal experience? A free trip to the Paris Olympics

LOS ANGELES — Once a year, law professor Moraima “Mo” Ivory usually brings celebrities like Steve Harvey, Ludacris and Rick Ross into her Georgia State University classroom for some entertainment legal talk. But this time, she’s taking her next lesson across the Atlantic Ocean, from Atlanta to the Paris Olympics.

Ivory and her law students will head to the Summer Games in late July for a weeklong, all-expenses-paid trip funded primarily by a Delta Airlines donation. The students in her Legal Life course will study the business and legal issues related to the Olympics.

“We normally have celebrities, but I wanted to move into the sports world,” said Ivory, the director of the school’s entertainment, sports and media law program, which she started in 2019. “I thought it would be interesting to study the Olympics as the focal point of the class and go through all the ramifications of the Games.”

During the semester, Ivory brought in guest speakers like the general counsel of the U.S. Olympic Committee, Olympian Edwin Moses and civil rights icon Andrew Young — Atlanta’s mayor during the 1996 Summer Olympics. Her students have learned about adhering to the laws of the host city, NBC’s exclusive U.S. broadcast contract, corporate governance, intellectual property ownership, security protocols and how the International Olympic Committee functions.

After touching down in Paris, Ivory and more than 30 students expect to explore the Olympic Village, visit Team USA House, attend the opening ceremony, check out Olympic sponsorship sites and spend time at a local law school. They’ll also embark on a scavenger hunt around Paris, seeking all trademarks the class studied throughout the semester.

“This is having sort of an immersive education,” said Hannah Nodar, 24, a second-year law student and Ivory’s graduate research assistant. Hoping to venture into sports and entertainment law, she’s looking forward to learning more about security regulations and sponsorship deals.

“I think it’s more practical, especially in a legal sense. I think it’s really cool to be able to go into an interview and describe what a licensing agreement is or what a record deal entails,” she continued. “You’re able to have a more authentic conversation. You understand what you’re talking about as opposed to just regurgitating stuff that’s coming out of a book.”

Nodar said she’s grateful to have a professor like Ivory, who wanted her students to hear directly from stars and veteran lawyers on negotiating the deals, contracts and legal concepts behind their brands. She started her course in 2019 with Ludacris as a featured speaker before bringing in Kandi Burress, Harvey and Ross. Others who have made appearances include DJ Drama and Steve Sadow, the lead attorney for former President Donald Trump in the Georgia election interference case.

In January, Ivory surprised the class with the Olympic trip in dramatic fashion. The professor passed out envelopes to the entire class, telling them only two envelopes contained tickets to the Games.

As Ivory’s students eagerly opened their envelopes, each gradually pulled out roundtrip tickets to Paris. The professor said Delta Airlines — which did not disclose the amount the company’s covering for airfare and hotels — was on board with sponsoring the trip about 48 hours after she pitched them her idea. She garnered other small donations from alumni of Georgia State’s law school.

“It wasn’t a hard sale,” said Ivory, a Spelman College alum who earned her law degree from Temple University. Over the years, she built her relationships within the entertainment and media industries as a practicing attorney and a radio host and at Warner Music Group, where she worked on artist contracts.

Ivory said she wants to use her relationships to enhance her students’ experiences, while creating new partnerships.

“I’m giving my students a learning experience through the popular culture that they already love,” she said. “It’s not hard to explain that to an organization or corporation or anybody. They immediately get it. People are genuinely kind and really want to see students get the experiences that will change their lives.”

That’s certainly been the case for one of Ivory’s students, Ayanna Grant, who comes from a family of immigrants. She’s gained invaluable experience through the course that she feels has given her a “leg up” — even if Georgia State’s law school is not as highly ranked as Yale, Harvard and Stanford.

“Seeing professor Ivory and hearing her story and path as an attorney is very inspiring for me,” said Grant, who is Guyanese and Jamaican and has aspired to become an entertainment lawyer since the fifth grade.

Now, Grant and her classmates will have a chance to network and build connections on an international level.

“Seeing who’s putting on and helping to make the Olympics happen, that’s an amazing opportunity,” she said. “You never know what connections can come out of that. Years down the road, that person could be someone who’s giving you a job. You’ve already gained that familiarity with them.”


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