Despina Mavromati
Firm:
Office:
Rue Enning 1
Lausanne
1003
City:
Lausanne
State:
Vaud
Country:
Switzerland

Questions and Answers:

Who's Who Legal Thought Leaders - Switzerland

Dr Despina Mavromati is the founder of SportLegis, a Swiss sports law and arbitration practice. She served as counsel or as an expert witness in many recent high-profile international sports cases and sits as an arbitrator at the tribunals of major international federations including the IAAF, the ITF and the IPF. Despina co-authored the critically acclaimed Commentary on the CAS Code (Kluwer, 2015) and is said to be one of the leading experts in international sports arbitration. She is a founder and board member of Women In Sports Law (WISLaw) and the vice chair of the Sports Law subcommittee of the International Bar Association (IBA). Despina teaches sports law and arbitration at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland.

WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT PRACTISING INTERNATIONAL SPORTS LAW? 

I am intrigued by its diversity, the international character of the cases and the interdisciplinary character of sports-related disputes, for example, in doping. Sports law seems to be very specific but is, in reality, quite diverse because it touches upon so many areas of law: labour law, contract law, IP law, criminal law, human rights, etc. I started working in the field of private international law and arbitration long before taking an interest in sports law and arbitration. The evolution and constant development of sports law continue to fascinate me even today, after over a decade of practising in this field.  

WHAT HAS BEEN THE GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT OF YOUR CAREER TO DATE? 

The Commentary on the CAS Code (Kluwer, 2015) was definitively an important milestone – I am proud that the book, which includes a systematic commentary, materials and charts showing how the CAS procedure is conducted, has become the reference book for so many arbitrators and practitioners. I also consider founding Women In Sports Law (WISLaw.co), an international association now connecting more than 300 members from 50 different countries, along with my friends Melanie Schärer, Marisa Dominguez and Moya Dodd, a major accomplishment that taught me so much on a professional level, but also on a personal level. 

However, the highlight of my career has been the launch of my practice, SportLegis, in 2017. Even though I thoroughly enjoy my autonomy, I have come to appreciate selective teamwork. I have an extensive network of colleagues that I draw from whenever the complexity of the case requires.

WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO ESTABLISH SPORTLEGIS? 

Although I learned a lot during my time at the CAS, my true passion was to work directly with clients and to act as an arbitrator. I also realised that, despite an ever-increasing interest of big law firms in sports law, a niche legal practice such as SportLegis could quickly find its place in the market. In my practice, I enjoy in particular the long-term relationships that are created. In the relatively short time since I established SportLegis, I have had the chance to be involved in very interesting and quite complex cases involving an interesting set of facts or raising novel procedural issues. I am also privileged to have sat as an arbitrator and to have acted as counsel or expert witness in various proceedings that gave me a global perspective of how things work in this unique industry.

WHAT QUALITIES DO CLIENTS LOOK FOR IN AN EFFECTIVE SPORTS LAWYER? 

Efficiency, reliability and trust. As in all areas of legal practice, clients look for results-driven counsel. For better or worse, winning cases matters. However, clients also want to know that you understand them and their case, and that you will come up with a strategy that fits both the matter at issue and the client’s personality. Thorough knowledge of the mechanics and the politics of the sports market and its governance is also a quality that both athletes and federations look for when hiring a sports lawyer.

HOW HAS YOUR EXPERIENCE AS MANAGING COUNSEL AT THE COURT OF ARBITRATION FOR SPORT (CAS) ENHANCED YOUR DISPUTE RESOLUTION PRACTICE? 

My experience as managing counsel at the CAS offered me international exposure and was crucial for my development as a sports lawyer. It helped me grasp the mechanics and politics of the international sports dispute resolution system, that I now see from a different perspective as a sports lawyer and arbitrator.

WHAT ARE THE MAIN CHALLENGES AND ADVANTAGES FACING SPORTS LAWYERS IN SWITZERLAND AT THE MOMENT?

The only challenge that I could think of relates to the high living and operating costs for Swiss-based lawyers. This, however, can be counterbalanced by opting for a small, flexible and innovation-focused structure. Other than that, being based in Switzerland has only benefits, for both the lawyers and their clients. The vast majority of sports federations are based in Lausanne, therefore proximity is key. Moreover, the CAS and other major sports tribunals are based in Switzerland. A knowledge of Swiss law – and the jurisprudence of the Swiss Federal Tribunal – is critical for most arbitration procedures and therefore Swiss lawyers have a competitive advantage over their international colleagues.

HOW DO YOU EXPECT THE MARKET TO DEVELOP OVER THE NEXT FIVE YEARS? WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO LAWYERS LOOKING TO ESTABLISH THEIR OWN SPORTS BOUTIQUES?

The entire legal profession is in a transitional phase and the sports law practice is part of it. Consolidation trends will continue to shape the legal market, thereby creating larger law firms offering a vast palette of services, including some sports law advocacy. However, in many cases, these firms are only offering a limited scope of sports-related legal services, which allows small structures like mine to flourish in the niche areas. Therefore, there is, and will continue to be, space for highly specialised boutiques that offer quality and personalised services in an efficient and speedy manner. To compete with the larger law firms, specialisation is key and I cannot stress enough the importance of building an international network and pursuing value-added synergies. 

Biography:

Who's Who Legal Switzerland - Sports & Entertainment

Dr Despina Mavromati is an attorney (Member of the Ordre des Avocats Vaudois and the Swiss Bar Association) practising in the field of international sports law and arbitration. She is the founder of SportLegis, a sports arbitration practice based in Lausanne, representing athletes, clubs, and sports federations in all aspects of arbitration, trials, and drafting policies.

Despina has been appointed as counsel or expert witness in many recent high-profile sports arbitrations, which have resulted in landmark decisions in the sports world. She also serves as an arbitrator at the tribunals of the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF), the International Tennis Federation (ITF) and the International Powerlifting Federation (IPF).

As the former managing counsel of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), Despina has extensive knowledge of the functioning and mechanics of major arbitration tribunals. She also teaches sports arbitration at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland. 

Despina has published extensively on international arbitration and sports law, having authored the critically acclaimed The Code of the Court of Arbitration for Sport: Commentary, Cases and Materials (Kluwer, 2015, with Matthieu Reeb).

Despina is a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (FCIArb) and an accredited Mediator (CEDR and Harvard). She is a founder and board member of Women in Sports Law (WISLaw), the vice chair of the sports law subcommittee of the International Bar Association (IBA); and an advisory board member of the National Sports Law Institute (NSLI).

She received her PhD in Switzerland (University of Fribourg); her LLM and MBA in Germany (European Institute, Saarbrücken); and her law degree in Greece (Aristoteles University). Despina was also a visiting scholar at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

WWL says: Despina Mavromati is a widely recognised name in the Swiss sports market. She wins high praise from sources who commend her “ability to deliver high-quality legal opinions in a short timeframe” and speak highly of her “deep industry knowledge”.

This biography is an extract from Who's Who Legal: Switzerland which can be purchased from our Shop.

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