McGeorge alumna a trusted advisor for pro athletes
When Michelle Wong-Halabi ’03 became an attorney, she didn’t envision herself working with Super Bowl stars and other professional athletes.
Now a partner at Porter Wright Morris & Arthur LLP in Columbus, Ohio, the McGeorge alumna focuses on estate planning where her reputation has garnered well-known professional athletes as clients.
“A lot of times, law is a referral business. By thinking about practical solutions for clients, being proactive and responsive, and just doing the best that I can, people felt they could trust me with their high-profile clients or teammates,” she said.
Wong-Halabi came to law school at McGeorge with an interest in business law. She found her new passion while enrolled in a tax law course with Professor Christine Manolakas and a trust and estates course with Professor Raymond Coletta.
While Wong-Halabi cannot reveal her clients for confidentiality reasons, she says the firm has an impressive roster of primarily NFL players. She also works with NBA, MLB and NHL players and coaches.
“In my sports practice, I do a lot of the same things for professional athletes, but on a larger scale,” Wong-Halabi said. “Issues like privacy and asset protection matter more, and so does thoughtful planning around the nuances that professional athletes might face.”
Wong-Halabi enjoys the distinct challenges presented when representing professional athletes, such as forming nonprofits, protecting assets, establishing business entities and managing wealth in retirement.
“Because my clients all have such unique situations, not only is there significant wealth to consider for estate and gift tax purposes, but there are income tax considerations to be mindful of. These are weighed against the client’s personal goals, which may extend beyond strictly tax savings,” Wong-Halabi reflected. “It is a big puzzle, which keeps my practice interesting.”
Wong-Halabi is making an impact in the world of professional athletics through her involvement in the nonprofit Greater Columbus Sports Commission.
“It is a collaboration of business owners and local sports teams that have a vested interest in making Columbus one of the premier sports venues in the country and putting us on the map as a great place to host sporting events,” Wong-Halabi explained.
Wong-Halabi serves on McGeorge’s Alumni Board. “I really like the direction the school is going, and it prompted my interest to get involved,” Wong-Halabi said.
Wong-Halabi encourages students interested in sports law to consider the variety of opportunities.
“There are a lot of different ways to be a sports attorney,” Wong-Halabi said. “Some attorneys are agents, others represent the leagues, or represent teams as in-house counsel, and some are like me, private practitioners that specialize in particular areas of law.”