A year out of law school, Brian Leung (Col ’05, Law ’08) says he was working 14- to 16-hour days as a junior associate at a New York firm. Rarely would he get home before midnight. Leung says he realized he needed to find an outlet that involved more than meeting up with friends for drinks after work.
“I wanted to do something productive and creative with what little free time I had,” Leung recalls.
Alone in his Manhattan apartment one evening, Leung (pronounced Lee-YOUNG) created a Twitter account. The next night he tweeted updates from the Virginia baseball team’s dramatic win over Florida State that clinched an ACC tournament title and an automatic bid in the NCAA tournament:
WAHOOWA! UVA is the lowest seed to EVER win the ACC Title! Way to go Cavs! Next stop, Omaha!
Leung didn’t know it, but he had altered his career path in a way that would connect thousands of Virginia alumni.
For the past two years, Leung has worked as assistant general counsel for Vox Media, which owns SB Nation, a website that runs blogs covering professional and college sports teams. Leung’s own sports blog, Streaking The Lawn—spawned from his Twitter account (@TheUVAFool) in September 2009—is part of the network and draws hundreds of thousands of hits each month.
“It’s almost a dream come true,” says Leung, who heads the UVA Alumni Association’s Young Alumni Council. “I couldn’t have planned it any better. It just really fell in my lap.”
As Leung tells it, he wasn’t even much of a sports fan when he arrived on Grounds. Then he stormed the field after Virginia’s hook-and-ladder play win over Georgia Tech in 2001 at Scott Stadium.
“I was like, ‘This is fun,’” Leung recalls. “We should do more of this—this winning stuff.’”
Leung’s fondest memories as a student revolved around sports, he says. His eyes glimmer as he recounts camping out for basketball tickets in frigid conditions on the concourse between Onesty and University halls. Leung’s law school experience—even as he was president of the student bar association in his third year—was also packed with sporting events. That’s what made his first year away from UVA so challenging, he says.
Then came that first tweet.
The newest twitter on the block: All the UVA sports you've ever wanted!— Streaking The Lawn (@TheUVAFool) May 24, 2009
It wasn’t hyperbole. It was commonplace, and still is, to see Leung tweeting at all hours about anything related to UVA sports.
SB Nation took notice. As part of a partnership signed in 2010, the company paid Leung a sum they won’t disclose (“It wasn’t enough to retire off of,” Leung says) and agreed to host STL. The deal allowed Leung more time to focus on content as he continued to work long hours at Dewey & LeBoeuf. The partnership also gave STL much-needed credibility, Leung says.
Per the company’s model, he had to make a few adjustments. The big one was keeping his personal opinions to a minimum and treating the website as more of a media entity than a personal blog.
When Leung was looking to leave Dewey in 2011, he reached out to Vox, SB Nation’s parent company. Leung was already running STL, so why not put his legal skills to use for them, too?
At the time, there wasn’t a fit. But in 2014, Vox called. Now, as assistant general counsel for Vox and SB Nation, Leung is in charge of the company’s corporate legal needs, including mergers and acquisitions, debt and equity financing, real estate, insurance and stock-option plan management.
Lauren Fisher, the chief legal officer for Vox, says she hired Leung strictly for his legal skills. His work for SB Nation was just a bonus.
“He had the most appropriate, relevant experience,” Fisher says. “It helped that we knew people who had sort of worked with him a little and could say, ‘He’s a good guy.’ But mostly it was that he was qualified, enthusiastic and knew what he was getting into.”
Long hours, for sure—not that Leung has ever been big on sleep. The bachelor, who lives in Alexandria, wakes up at 4:45 every morning to coach a CrossFit class, then heads to Vox’s offices in D.C. Leung estimates he spends 10 hours a week mapping out STL’s coverage and overseeing 15 freelance writers. He considers his interactions with the writers, many of whom are friends, part of his social life. Leung tweets and blogs during any spare moments in his day.
Matt Brown, SB Nation’s College League manager, says Streaking The Lawn consistently ranks within the top 20 during football season and top six for basketball.
At the height of the successful 2016 men’s basketball season, STL logged roughly 850,000 page views in the month of March. As Virginia was making its run to the Elite Eight, it ranked as SB Nation’s 11th most popular blog, according to Brown.
Leung also recently wrote a book, 100 Things Virginia Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die. Leung says he was approached for the project by Triumph Books, which had seen his website.
“Things just keep landing on my lap,” says a smiling Leung. “Hashtag blessed.”