Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, December 10, 2021

Combining law, sports a winner for Feldman

Attorney playing whole new game in evolving field

Torrey Feldman is a sports and entertainment attorney with Rockridge Venture Law, where she focuses on the legal application of emerging technologies. - Photo by David Laprad | Hamilton County Herald

Talking sports with attorney Torrey Feldman can be a head-spinning experience.

A Carolina Panthers fan, Feldman might critique quarterback Cam Newton’s passer rating one minute – a simple thing for most gridiron fans to grasp – and dive into the deep end of non-fungible tokens and their relevance to the world of professional athletics the next.

“Non-fungible tokens are unique digital items, meaning each one is different from any other token,” she explains. “Think of them as limited-release vintage cars – only so many exist, and with handcrafted leather, each one differs from the next.

“Turn that into a token you can sell via cryptocurrency, and you have an NFT.”

Feldman uses the Golden State Warriors – the first professional sports team to offer an NFT collection – to explain how the tokens can come into play in professional sports.

“The Warriors have digital artwork of championship rings and commemorative tickets to important playoff games, for example, and all the proceeds from the sales go to the team’s foundation.

“Some of the items are modestly priced, and others are for fans with deep pockets. There’s also a push for these digital art collectors to purchase one of each of the rings to unlock another NFT that’s only minted for those who complete the set.”

Feldman, 28, plunges even deeper, tossing out terms such as “blockchain technology” and “decentralized market” with the confidence of a Monday morning quarterback describing how the Dolphins were able to rout the Panthers on Thanksgiving weekend.

“These things have a lot of moving parts, and the laws governing them either haven’t been written or are unclear, so it’s critical to have people who know what’s going on contracting around them to the best of their ability,” she says.

To establish herself as an expert on emerging sports law, Feldman is penning articles she then publishes on the website of the firm for which she’s working – Rockridge Venture Law. Topics to date range from understanding the new landscape of college athlete endorsements to the pros and cons of receiving prize money in the form of cryptocurrency.

“Given the volatility of cryptocurrency, you have to write in what you want out of a contract because if it plummets, where’s the safety net?” she asks.

Unlike a Monday morning quarterback, Feldman lives and breathes sports and the law. And she’s building her practice at the intersection of these two passions.

“I adore sports,” Feldman notes. “One of the reasons I joined Rockridge is I knew we’d be building something in those areas of the law – not just locally but everywhere.”

Feldman can trace her love for sports back to the soccer fields of her youth (she jokes she took her first step and then kicked a soccer ball) and the many hours she spent watching televised sports with her father.

“He’d say, ‘Sit down and watch this game with me. I’m going to explain everything about it,’” she recalls. “Being a part of this world has never been daunting to me. I know more than a lot of guys and I can hold my own in a debate.”

When Feldman reached middle school, she left soccer behind to become a cheerleader. This took her physically closer to a sport she not only loved but also understood.

“I took pride in knowing the game. If there was an interception, I’d stop the offensive cheer and switch us to a defensive one,” she says.

These experiences birthed a rare ambition in Feldman: She entered college intending to become an NFL sideline reporter.

This was no short-lived pipe dream. While attending Appalachian State in North Carolina, she became the school’s lead sideline reporter and contributed to a sports talk radio show.

Feldman’s next stop was the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, where she earned a master’s degree in sports journalism.

“I wanted to show I could not only communicate verbally but also write,” she explains.

The stars seemed to align on Feldman’s behalf during her time at UT. The SEC Network was a regular presence on campus, helping her meet the right people.

There was just one issue.

“When I told people what I wanted to do, I got a lot of, ‘Yeah, you’re pretty enough to do that,’ and, ‘But do you want to have kids? Because there are games on holidays.’ And I thought, ‘No one would ever ask a man this question.’”

Feldman also was reluctant to pursue a career that relied on her face, so she reassessed her goals. That second look steered her to law school.

“During my last semester at UT, I took a First Amendment in journalism class – and I loved it. Everyone else hated it but I thought there was something there for me.”

Feldman applied to American University Law School in Washington, D.C., after seeing a travel ban protest while visiting while a friend there and deciding it would be an interesting place to study law.

Her instincts were correct.

“Attorneys who’d had cases at the Supreme Court in the morning would come to our class in the afternoon and talk us through their oral arguments and what they were feeling as they were presenting. That was invaluable.”

Feldman first came to the Scenic City in 2017 as part of the first class of the Chattanooga Legal Diversity Consortium, an association of law firms, businesses and government agencies working to create a more diverse local bar.

The following year, Feldman split her time as a summer associate between Baker Donelson and the general counsel’s office at Blue Cross Blue Shield Tennessee. A job with Baker followed.

One year later, Feldman switched to Rockridge, eager to fast track her career.

“Changing to Rockridge was better for what I do and where I want to be,” she says. “Big firms have a process. Developing a passion practice takes longer.”

Feldman just as quickly became active in both the local bar association and the broader local community. In addition to serving as a member of the executive council of the Young Lawyers Division of the Chattanooga Bar Association and as the Tennessee Bar Association liaison for the S.L. Hutchins Bar Association (the local Black bar), she’s joined the board of the Urban League of Greater Chattanooga.

At 28, Feldman is the youngest member of the board. This made her an ideal choice for delivering an address to the Urban League’s National Achievers Society, a leadership program for public high school students in Hamilton County.

During her talk in September, Feldman urged her listeners to follow three principles in life.

The first was to be diligent but not overwork themselves. “I try to be vigilant about making time to sit on my couch and watch football because it’s good for me,” she says. “When I was in law school, I completed all my work during the week so I could have weekends to myself. I do the same with work because I can get burned out and it’s not worth it.”

Feldman also challenged students to be kind. “I try to exhibit courageous kindness in situations where I’ve outgrown a hotheaded response and choose to extend grace instead of harsh words or actions.

“I also encouraged them to be kind to people who might never know their names or never be able to repay them for the time they sacrificed to lend a hand.”

Finally, Feldman encouraged the students to make their voice heard. “It’s important to tell everyone, but especially young people, to find a way to say what they have to say,” she notes. “Everyone has something of value to say, and you don’t have to be the loudest person in the room to say it.”

Although Feldman was born in Knoxville, she claims to be from North Carolina. There, her mother demonstrated the value of education and her father passed on his entrepreneurial spirit.

“My mom is now ‘Dr. Angel Wright-Lanier,’” Feldman says with pride. “She graduated with her Doctor of Education from Vanderbilt in May. Apart from her associates, she earned the rest of her degrees after I was born. This sparked my desire to keep learning.

“And my dad has owned his own business since before I was born.”

As Feldman develops her practice, she’s also focusing on creative rights for entertainers. Like sports, this area of professional service aligns with a personal interest.

“I love live entertainment,” she says. “I saw Chris Rock at Zanies in Nashville last month. I’m seeing Chris Tucker in the same room later this month.”

Similar to her sports law practice, Feldman can cover the basics for musicians, filmmakers, comedians and other creatives, whether it’s intellectual property rights, licensing fees or content agreements.

But she can also dive deeper and turn a simple conversion about entertainment law into a head-spinning experience.

“NFTs permeate every sector. The Country Music Awards sold them after their 55th awards show this year for $25 each, and they sold out. Owning something in which you have an interest is the main purpose of NFTs, so they’ll soon be ubiquitous.”