Ben Odom ('04)
On the Fast Track
When Benjamin “Ben” Odom entered law school, he had no intention of practicing law. He was working as an assistant for the Florida State University football team and thought his legal training would be useful in coaching. He never imagined he would practice corporate and transactional law at the nation’s leading promoter of motorsports activities.
After passing the bar and several years of the long hours associated with coaching football, Odom was ready for a change. He wanted to spend more time with family and to live closer to the water, so in 2006 Odom moved to Daytona Beach to be an attorney at International Speedway Corporation (ISC), which currently owns 13 racetrack facilities and promotes more than 100 events annually.
“It was the first law job I ever had and I really didn’t have a ton of corporate law experience,” said the Class of 2004 law grad. “They brought me over for a specific purpose. At that time, ISC and NASCAR were having more sponsorship and sales agreements coming in than they could process, so they brought in somebody to cut their teeth on those agreements, but also to get them in and get them out. You would never believe how many contracts had to be in place to run one NASCAR event.”
Odom – whose responsibilities expanded as he took on new challenges as ISC’s business evolved – now serves as ISC’s associate general counsel and director of compliance. His days are spent managing the company’s contract process and the attorneys who draft the contracts, building relationships within the industry, and handling compliancerelated work.
“There are a whole host of other compliance-related issues that our business has,” said Odom about work that goes beyond the company’s quarterly filings. “We own 13 race tracks, so there is environmental compliance, there is accessibility and ADA compliance. We sell our own tickets and process our own credit card transactions, so there is digital compliance.”
Odom often attends races for work, but he is far too busy to enjoy them the way a typical attendee does. During events in Daytona, Odom seizes the opportunity to network with sponsors and other industry professionals. He always makes himself available in case there is an emergency, or to give garage tours and help anyone who needs a hand. Odom typically watches the races after-the-fact with his 5-year-old Bassett Hound, Jessi.
Odom’s office in Daytona Beach overlooks Daytona International Speedway. But the view and the races are not what has kept Odom at ISC for more than nine years.
“My boss is fantastic, the people I get to work with are fantastic, the business people I get to work with are amazing,” said Odom. “Bill France, Sr. started this by himself back in 1948, and now his grandson runs NASCAR and his granddaughter runs ISC. Even though we’re publically traded, we treat it as a family business and that’s awesome. It feels like coming to work with family all day, every day.”
Odom recently has used his experience at ISC to benefit Florida State law students. He has visited campus twice to share his story and insights about how students can prepare for corporate life, including taking advantage of relatively new specialized business law classes. ISC also has established a clinical externship for Florida State students to obtain hands-on experience in transactional work. This summer, two students will serve as ISC’s inaugural Florida State externs.
“Any time I’m invited back, if somebody thinks I can help out, I’m going to,” said Odom about visiting the law school. “I’m surprised anybody wants to hear what I’ve got to say, but if it helps students, I’ll do it. When I was in that position, I had some really amazing people who were true mentors and made sure that I wasn’t on my own. I always felt like I had a responsibility to return the favor to any extent possible. So if we can offer an internship to somebody who is in the same boat I was 15 years ago and they benefit, I want to. For alumni, it’s one thing to donate, that’s great and we’ve got to do it, but something as valuable is donating your knowledge and time and resources.”
When Odom isn’t working, he enjoys running and fishing – and Jessi is often by his side.
“I’ve got an 18-foot flats boat, I live 10 minutes from the water, and if it’s a sunny day on the weekend, you’re going to find me on the water, hopefully catching a fish,” said Odom, whose earliest memories involve boating with his father and grandfather.
Odom’s grandfather, Palmer Daughtry, had an enormous impact on Odom. “He is the smartest man I’ve ever met. He was an amazing renaissance man– self-made, fought in World War II, fought in the Korean War, grew up a farmer. You’ve never seen anyone work harder, you’ve never seen anyone be as diligent and as conscientious. If he was going to do something, he was going to do it right. You knew from watching him that if you worked hard enough and if you did the right things for the right reasons, there was no problem you couldn’t solve.”
The year before Daughtry passed away in 2013, Odom took him fishing in the Keys – a place Odom’s grandparents often took him on vacation. “It was the best week of my life,” recalled Odom.
Although Odom did not envision himself practicing law when he was younger, Daughtry did. “We were a very blue collar, very rural family. Anything that my grandfather ever did, he had to have an attorney work on it with him. He always thought there should be an attorney in the family. He always told me that I had the skill set and the capabilities and the work ethic to do it. Eventually, you hear something like that from a guy you respect and you begin to believe it.”
As printed in the spring 2015 issue of Florida State Law magazine.