Baseball’s Texas Rangers appoint new top attorney in busy offseason

Baseball’s Texas Rangers appoint new top attorney in busy offseason

Erin Kearney, who has worked for three major law firms, has been called up to the big leagues as the new general counsel of Major League Baseball’s Texas Rangers.

Kearney, who confirmed his appointment by email, has worked in the club’s in-house legal department for three years. He replaces former Rangers legal chief Katherine Pothier, who out last year by the New York Mets.

The Rangers made headlines last month when they did signed Mets starting pitcher Jacob deGrom to a five-year, $185 million contract. The team in October brought three-time World Series winner Bruce Bochy out of retirement to be their new manager.

The Rangers, who play their home games near Dallas in Arlington, Texas, are owned by a group that includes Neil Leibmana former in-house counsel for Exxon Mobil Corp. Leibman is also the team’s president and chief operating officer.

fortuitous path

Kearney spent more than a decade as an associate at Alston & Bird, DLA Piper and Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison before joining Rangers in 2020.

The Massachusetts native spent several years in New York after graduating from college. He jokingly noted that after the Rangers signed deGrom in December, he received emails and texts from several people Kearney hadn’t heard from in years, as if he had personally recruited the star pitcher to Texas.

Being in the right place at the right time, Kearney said, helped position her for the team’s top legal role when it suddenly became available.

“My best advice is to never turn down an opportunity, even if it’s not exactly in the field you want to be in, because you never know where it might take you,” he said.

Kearney began his legal career representing lenders in commercial mortgage-backed securities. His path to professional sports began by chance. Kearney said she wanted to work remotely after her daughter was born.

DLA Piper’s sports and entertainment group was the only practice to offer her the opportunity in 2013. Kearney said her real estate experience helped her land the job. Negotiating mortgages on sports-related financing led Kearney to work for Rangers.

The team has close links with DLA Piper. Maxine Hicks, a real estate partner at the Atlanta-based firm, ready project documents for the stadium which the club opened in 2020. Hamilton Wise, a former summer associate at DLA Piper, is now Rangers’ director of scouting and international development.

While at DLA Piper, Kearney advised on the financing of Globe Life Park, the club’s 40,300-seat park, and worked on related issues as the building came into being. In mid-2019, he traveled to Arlington to meet Pothier and former Rangers corporate counsel Ilana Miller for the first time. Over the next several months, Kearney said he pestered Pothier to interview him for an in-house job.

Kearney initially joined the club as a senior business advisor. When Pothier left last year, Kearney was promoted to associate general counsel.

“Honestly, I was lucky,” Kearney said. “I was able to prove to the property over the last year that I was capable of filling the big void left by Katie.”

New baseball roles

Kearney’s new legal role with the Rangers comes as two other MLB teams promoted their own top lawyers to positions, making them among the highest-ranking female executives in the league.

The San Diego Parents announced last month the elevation of general counsel Caroline Perry to director of operations, effectively making her third in command at the club. Marta Wronskia longtime general counsel for the Milwaukee Brewers, was too promoted to the team’s COO in December.

Kearney is already making additions to the legal group he now leads.

The Rangers are set to welcome aboard Zackary Kessinger, currently a real estate development and investment partner at Winstead in Dallas. Kessinger, an ancient college baseball player and once in legal practice with the St. Louis Cardinals, soon will join the rangers as an associate attorney.

“He will be a great addition to our team,” Kearney said.

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