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Summer Work Profile: Wells takes on U.S.A. Track and Field


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – The idea of being general counsel for a sports league or team has been at the top of third-year student Allison Wells’ mind since she started at Penn State Law. She knew that the position she held the summer before her last year of law school was critical to set her up for her future career path in such a competitive field. Turning to an online database that contains a large percentage of the sports industry’s open positions, she set out to find the right one for her. Wells was happy just to get the interview with U.S.A. Track and Field (USATF), knowing that opportunities are so limited. She was even happier to be offered a position.

This year was a particularly interesting one to work for a National Governing Body, as the Olympic Games in Rio drew near. “I was kind of thrown to the wolves on the first day to handle a really large issue,” said Wells. “I was given a lot of responsibility from day one.”

The work was exciting because it was something different every day, part of what drew Wells to general counsel work in the first place. It was typical to be dealing with intellectual property issues, like addressing illegal use of the USATF trademarked logo, as well as issues relating to the governing bylaws and operating regulations. She had the opportunity to sit in meetings with outside counsel, gather documents for discovery, and draft legal documents. A highlight of the position was working with outside counsel, which is critical to an organization like USATF, because, as Wells said, “It’s somewhat of a common idea amongst general counsels that they know enough about a lot, and not enough about specifics.”

Penn State Law courses in Trademarks, Copyrights, and Licensing of Intellectual Property helped with understanding the legal importance of drafting cease and desist letters, and how to protect intellectual property. Other courses that Wells has taken throughout her time in law school helped her to stay organized, while prioritizing work in such a rapid-fire environment. But in working with so many different departments with people from varying backgrounds, Wells found something outside of academics that Penn State provided her with: experience with diversity. “I think the vast diversity of our campus has been crucial and invaluable to my success this summer,” she said.

The fast-paced environment of USATF was not something Wells thought she would experience immediately upon starting her internship. But after spending her summer there, she learned to take everything one day at a time, and she knows that her ability to be keen on detail in that kind of workplace will set her apart in her future career.

 “I learned that I’m a lot stronger than I thought I was,” she said. “Taking it day-by-day and attacking each day as a new challenge to improve on the previous day made me capable of producing amazing work a lot quicker than I thought I could.”

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