Ice Network

Sur joins fellow former skaters in legal practice

Two-time U.S. champion says skating prepared him for rigors of travel
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Gorsha Sur (right) with his partners in Versus Advocates, PC, former ice dancer Jeffrey Benz and former singles skater Jennifer Yuen. -courtesy of Gorsha Sur

As two-time U.S. ice dance champion Gorsha Sur wound down his professional skating career with partner Renée Roca, he knew he wanted the next phase of his life to include intellectual challenges. He turned his attention to law school, attending the University of California, Hastings College of the Law and also enrolling in a program at Stockholm University, where he studied international commercial arbitration law.

In short order, his legal career took an international turn. His first job was with a firm in Paris, and then he returned to Russia, working in Moscow with one of the largest law firms in the country.

"As an international arbitration lawyer, you get thrown into different kinds of substantive law governing particular disputes or contracts. From case to case, you get to know quite well sets of national law in any kind of jurisdiction," Sur said.

At the start of this year, Sur, 49, moved back to the U.S. to go into practice with 1987 U.S. junior ice dance champion Jeffrey Benz and former U.S. ladies competitor Jennifer Yuen. Their firm, Versus Advocates, is based in Los Angeles.

In his legal career, Sur has been involved in a lot of international arbitration work, including representing athletes. Benz is an accomplished international lawyer, arbitrator and mediator, and Yuen also has done a lot of work involving sports law.

"One of the reasons I went to law school was to be able to help athletes and artists," Sur said. "Those were my initial inspirations for becoming a lawyer. Now, it's coming full circle. Once we started putting our heads together, we realized that we have so many connections in the sport world and in entertainment, but more so, we're very passionate about sport and athletes.

"Our clients have been on the organizations and companies' front, and on the athletes' front," he added. "We feel we can help both in certain circumstances."

He feels very fortunate and gratified that Versus is deeply involved in the business of sport.

"[With athletes], it's a personal story every time, and as an athlete you feel it and you want to help," Sur said.

Sur's work involves a fair amount of travel, and he has used his athlete's discipline to get into a rhythm for long-distance trips. Once he gets on a plane for an international flight, he carefully plans his work and rest time.

"You become travel savvy," he said. "Once you get there, you know what time zone you'll be in. … This year, I traveled twice to Lausanne (Switzerland) from LA. You arrive there a day before. You have a hearing the following day, and then you leave the day after. You set your mind, and you know what to expect."

Regardless of the venue, Sur's experiences as an athlete and entertainer have been invaluable in his work as an attorney.

"First, it's preparation. You know you have to prepare. You're so organized with planning and laying out what it is you need to do," Sur explained. "The last-minute preparation, when you're getting into that mode when you're just about to perform, that's very helpful as well. You know how to tune out everything. It's a very similar feeling to what I had just before stepping on the ice. You're nervous, but you know it will be OK because you know what it's going to be like when you step on the ice and the program starts.

"It's a very similar feeling when you have to argue in court," he added. "You know what it's going to be like, and you can project yourself to that moment. Once it starts, you just roll it out. I'm so fortunate I had that experience."