Then there was the time that Frank Salzano saved Christmas. The brash young entertainment-sports lawyer-fixer-consigliere was spending it with his family, celebrating the holiday and a family member’s birthday. Then came the call – a client who shall remain nameless had decided to purchase dozens of iPhones, the newest thing at the time, for all his staff and friends. He was trying to draw $50,000 from an ATM. Salzano’s mission: contact the bank on Christmas Eve and convince them to raise the cash limit on the machine in question. In the end it was a Christmas miracle – the client’s crew got iPhones and everybody was happy… except maybe Salzano’s family.
And this is how you carve a niche for yourself in the cutthroat world of A-list sports and entertainment law. Salzano, Jackson & Lampert LLP are bespoke fixers for clients like 2020 Pro Bowl Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, Saints tight end Jeremy Shockey, boxer Evander Holyfield, musician Usher Raymond IV, Lil Kim and Darryl McDaniels, a founding member of hip-hop pioneers Run-D.M.C., not to mention two of Salzano’s past clients like Michael Jackson and Prince.
“We’re constantly on the clock and constantly off the clock cause there’s no line of demarcation. You do what you have to, for as long as you have to, however you have to do the job,” Salzano says.
“Our phones are never off. We’re working 24/7,” adds the firm’s Jason Lampert. “We don’t complain about it. This is our life. We’ve received calls at three a.m., four a.m.. You immediately start working.”
Whether they’re underworld figures, athletes, entertainers or high net-worth individuals, the one thing all their clients have in common are tough demands with no room for failure. “We do corporate work, we handle criminal matters and civil litigation for clients, we’ve even done trademark applications. But it’s all done out of this one percent of one percent of the population and their legal needs. If you fit into that category, we figure out how to get the job done,” Salzano explains about how the firm manages to stand out in a crowded field. “We love what we do. And that’s the only way you pick up the phone on a Saturday night at three a.m. and make a pot of coffee.”
Salzano and Lampert came together in 2015, when the two, previously acquainted, collaborated over a client they had in common. They won the case and decided their skill sets – Salzano in sports and entertainment law - Lampert, criminal lawyer – and both registered NFL player agents - complemented each other.
After graduating Seton Hall University School of Law in 2011, Lampert got NFL certified at a small New York agency to recruit players in the Northeast. He moved from there to the prominent criminal law firm, Tacopina & Seigel, P.C., where he honed his skills and sharpened his nerve “on cases where the stakes are extremely high, especially with criminal litigation, where the client’s liberty is at stake.” When the opportunity presented itself, Lampert was happy to merge his expertise with Salzano’s.
Before his days at law firms like the now-defunct Dewey & LeBoeuf, and later Rottenstreich & Ettinger, Salzano did general corporate litigation at Jones Day early in his career. Around that time, he found himself on a high-profile case involving a Swiss film financier and legendary filmmaker Woody Allen.
“It was in the paper every day, the stakes were high, the microscope was on it. And, as a young associate, I was like this is what I need to be doing, this is getting my juices going,” Salzano recalls. “I worked forty-five days in a row without a day off and I didn't blink at it. It was that kind of energy. We went to trial and settled halfway through. And within six months I left and joined a boutique entertainment and sports law firm.”
All of which led to a defining moment for Salzano, Jackson & Lampert in 2017 when, on behalf of Dallas Cowboy running back Ezekiel Elliott, they successfully postponed a six-game suspension through most of the 2017 season. Two years later, along with their sports agency partner, Rocky Arceneuax, they secured a $90 million contract extension for their client, making him the highest paid running back in the NFL. In a business built on results, the firm proved that theirs could not be bested.
“If it’s a criminal matter, they want a dismissal or acquittal. If it’s a deal, they want to be the highest paid in that department. They expect you to pull any rabbit out of your hat,” laughs Salzano. Sometimes it’s getting a client a place on a restricted guest list at a nightclub, other times it’s finding a private flight from somewhere at three a.m. on a Saturday night, or negotiating boundary-busting contracts like the one they got for Elliott.
Both Salzano and Lampert both grew up playing sports, something they have in common that they find critical to understanding the mindset of their clients. “We both bring that competitive athlete mentality to what we do,” says Lampert. “Even though you're not doing it on a public forum like the NFL or on a stage, you have to think like an athlete, or celebrity. The mental state is the same.”
But that’s not all they have in common with their clients. In a niche industry that runs on word of mouth, they’re dealing with “alpha personalities,” is how Lampert describes it. “Pro sports figures, entertainers, high networth entrepreneurs, they've risen to the top of their industry,” something he and Salzano can relate to.