Jay Bilas on the Value of Law School

By Preston Clark

An Interview with Jay Bilas, Esq.

So it turns out that Jay Bilas, the Jay Bilas, basketball analyst, ESPN commentator, and former Duke hoops standout, also happens to be a licensed attorney and Of Counsel at Moore & Van Allen, PLLC in Charlotte, N.C.

It also turns out that Jay Bilas is a nice guy, and he agreed to do an interview with TheLawInsider.com.

In TLI’s continuing series on lawyers who find success outside of the legal profession, we asked Jay about his decision to attend law school and what legal education has done for his broadcasting career. We also managed to sneak in a question about NCAA athlete compensation (can we pay these kids already?).

You can follow Jay Bilas on Twitter via @JayBilas.

For those readers who aren’t familiar with Mr. Bilas, here’s a quick rundown.

Jay Bilas was a four-year starter for Mike Krzyzewski on the Duke University men’s basketball team from 1983–1986, and helped lead Duke to the Final Four and National Championship game in 1986. Bilas served as an assistant coach under Mike Krzyzewski (Coach K) for three seasons from 1990–1992. While serving as an assistant coach, Bilas attended Duke University School of Law, receiving his law degree in 1992. During his three-year tenure as an assistant coach, Duke advanced to three Final Fours and won two National Championships. Bilas has been a color commentator and studio analyst for ESPN since 1995. (More info available at Wikipedia).

The Law Insider Interviews Jay Bilas, Esq.

You attended law school while an assistant coach at Duke under Coach K. With such a tremendous pedigree in collegiate basketball, why did you decide to attend law school?

I thought the education would be valuable to have, and it would teach me a different way of thinking and approaching practical problems.  My parents always believed that a law degree was the best thing for me, and emphasized that it would be of great value to me even if I chose not to practice law as a career.  They were right.  My law school education was one of the most valuable experiences of my life.

[pullquote]I take pride in my preparation, and law school added a fine edge to the basketball preparation I learned playing and coaching under Mike Krzyzewski at Duke.[/pullquote]

You are currently Of Counsel for a law firm in North Carolina. How much of your professional time and focus is spent on being a lawyer?

I practiced full time for nine or ten years as a commercial litigator with Moore & Van Allen, PLLC in Charlotte.  When I went full time with ESPN, I stepped away from my law practice and took the designation of Of Counsel.  Basketball is my full-time job and it goes from October to August at full speed.  I still keep current, and my law license is up to date and I am ready to hang out my shingle again should any of my friends need a divorce or name change.

In what ways has your legal education helped you in your career as a basketball analyst?

Organization, preparation and presentation. I take pride in my preparation, and law school added a fine edge to the basketball preparation I learned playing and coaching under Mike Krzyzewski at Duke. With my legal background, I think I am more prepared than I would have been otherwise.  I am able to organize information and present it with purpose.  I may not always hit the mark, but I am closer to the mark because of my legal training.  Plus, non-lawyers generally believe that lawyers have all the answers.  I am not about to dissuade anyone of that notion, wrong as it may be.

Jay Bilas, Duke Blue Devils, 1986

Legal education has come under fire in recent years for its high cost and low post-grad employment rates. What advice do you have for people who are considering law school?

I didn’t go to law school to get a job.  I went for the education and the experience.  I wasn’t disappointed in the least.  While education is expensive, I find it worth every penny.  I played a few years of pro basketball after college, so I went to law school with some real life experience, and not just from undergraduate school to law school.  Everyone is different, but I think that was helpful for me.  I wasn’t worried about grades, rather, I was concerned with what I was learning and absorbing.  The extra years of maturity were useful to me.

What’s your position on NCAA athletes and compensation?

I find it profoundly immoral that athletes alone are restricted from benefitting beyond “expenses only” in a multi-billion dollar business.  A scholarship is really just an expense incidental to that multi-billion dollar industry.  There are scholarships provided to other students, whether for music, English or science, yet those do not come with similar restrictions from benefitting from name, likeness and ability in a chosen field of endeavor.  I don’t suggest that schools must pay players, but players should not be restricted from compensation when no other person in a university community is so restricted.  No player is made a better athlete, person or student by virtue of his or her amateurism.  It is simply wrong for the NCAA to restrict athletes, and only athletes, from benefitting.  The Olympics took amateurism out of its charter in the 1970’s.  The NCAA should do the same.  The NCAA always throws up its hands and cries it doesn’t have enough money or it is too complicated to compensate players, but that is total nonsense.  It is past time to allow athletes to benefit to the level of their worth.

Share your comments with Jay in the comments section below.


An Emmy nominated basketball analyst, Jay Bilas provides courtside and studio commentary for ESPN and CBS Sports.  As co-host of ESPN’s College GameDay, College Gamenight and CBS Sports’ coverage of the NCAA Tournament, Bilas is well-known for his basketball knowledge, player evaluation and analysis.  Sports Illustrated has called Bilas the best college basketball analyst in the country.  While an active litigator with MVA, Bilas delivered similar high-powered performances in the courtroom.

In 2009, Jay wrote an essay on “Toughness” that’s widely quoted and circulated among college coaches and players.  Jay’s Essay on “Toughness”


About Preston Clark

Preston Clark has been writing about legal tech since 2010. He's currently the CRO for a leading legal tech SaaS company in the San Francisco Bay Area. Preston was formerly in-house counsel for the University of Miami and a Peace Corps Volunteer in Central America. In his free time, Preston enjoys building world-class sales teams, reading about SaaS, playing pick-up basketball and planning adventures with his son.