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Tom Coolican LL.M. ’14 Takes His Passion for Rugby from the Playing Field to St. John’s Program in International and Comparative Sports Law

Monday, May 12, 2014

Scrum, maul, ruck, and sin bin. While these terms don’t have a familiar ring to most people in the U.S., they are everyday parlance for players and fans of rugby union, the full-contact team sport played with an oval ball that can be kicked, carried, and passed.

Thomas Coolican LL.M. 14 knows the sport well. Born in Cleveland, OH and raised in Australia, where rugby is a popular winter sport, he played the game through high school and college, excelling to the top of the field. After completing a combined law and business degree at University of Technology, Sydney, Tom received an invitation to return to America to play with the acclaimed New York Athletic Club (NYAC) rugby team in New York. “This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” says Tom. “After consulting with my parents, my employer, and my rugby coaches in Sydney, I knew I would regret it if I didn’t make the move, even though it was a significant gamble.” To make the most of his time in New York, Tom also decided to continue his legal education in the LL.M. in International and Comparative Sports Law program at St. John’s.

Jointly offered by St. John’s Law and the Instituto Superior de Derecho y Economia (ISDE)—a distinguished European law faculty in Madrid, Spain—this first-of-its-kind program is designed for attorneys with a passion for sports and a clear desire to practice in this rewarding global legal specialty. “The practical nature of the St John’s LL.M. really appealed to me,” Tom says, “especially given the emergence of sports law as a developing niche market. Also, American LLM’s are highly respected in Australia and the link that St John’s has with ISDE in Madrid gives the program credibility in Europe and the UK so it really is universally recognized and respected.” 

On the rugby side, Tom’s big gamble on New York has paid off. While continuing to play for the NYAC team, he has realized a dream by earning a spot on the U.S. men’s national rugby team, the Eagles. After an exceptional season, the Eagles qualified for the IRB Rugby World Cup 2015, where they will compete against top teams in the international arena. Tom has also made strides in his LL.M. studies, spending the internship portion of the program in London this semester. “I was lucky enough to secure an internship with the British Horseracing Authority, where I was able to do a variety of regulatory work, including anti-doping, inside information, and match fixing, as well as standard in house legal work,” he says.

Tom has found his time on St. John’s campus equally rewarding. “The classes have been incredible,” he says. “We’ve had the privilege of hearing from some of the sharpest minds in sports law, including head arbitrators for the Court of Arbitration of Sport and legal counsel for NFL and NBA franchises. The professors offer a balanced range of perspectives on U.S. and international law. And we’re very lucky to have a great group of students who come from a number of different home countries and backgrounds.”

Tom will return to Australia to play rugby until the World Cup next year, and looks forward to completing his LL.M. degree and continuing on his professional path as an athlete and a lawyer.