3 February 2020
Stefania Genesis shares her inspiring story in the latest of our series highlighting role models in the industry
As a headstrong young girl, Stef was driven by a desire to "get things sorted fairly”.
It's no surprise then, that her negotiating skills, including the odd playground row, led to a career in law - and to her current role at Mishcon de Reya as a commercial litigator specialising in sports disputes.
"I loved being an advocate or representative of someone," says Stef. "I was always outspoken as a kid and from early on, I knew I wanted to work in law. Even in primary school, I was keen to make sure that what was right prevailed over what was wrong. I was probably a really bloody annoying child!"
Stef describes her path to her current role as somewhat convoluted.
"I studied Spanish and English Literature at King's College, and then did a conversion into law straight after", she explains.
However, despite her dream of pursuing a career in law, she was keen to broaden her experience in the working world, and accepted a job at Bloomberg covering international banks in London and Dubai, before jetting off to New York to take up a position in business development with the insurance company, AIG.
Following a “brilliant" year in New York, Stef returned to the UK to continue on the path to qualification.
"When the opportunity came up to apply for a paralegal role at Mishcon de Reya, I didn't hesitate to apply. I had amassed quite an extensive amount of experience working in finance and insurance, and knew that this could be a good way to gain legal experience as well.”
Soon after she applied for a training contract, and after a rigorous interview process, was successful.
The rest, as they say, is history, with Stef now an associate at the company, working in sport - and football in particular.
"It's so important that girls, and women, who want to work within the football industry, realise that virtually every skillset can be transferable," she says. "From the medical side, to retail, sports science, accountancy, catering, commercial and media - there literally is something for everyone.
"For me personally, being trilingual was a game changer. Originally, I qualified into the intellectual property team, but because of my languages, I was always heavily involved in sports matters.
"After six months, and realising that the sports work was what I enjoyed the most by far, I transitioned into the sports group on a full time basis”.
Stef explains that with the international nature of the sports sector, language skills are a huge advantage, and being able to communicate with clients in their mother tongue, makes all the difference.
"In disputes you really are fighting your client's corner, so it's up to you to make sure that they are as comfortable as possible - and being able to communicate effectively is a basic part of that."
Clear communication is high on Stef's list too, when it comes to sharing her own experiences to help the next generation of budding lawyers.
"Mishcon are the only law firm to offer a sports law academy from October to March every year," she explains.
"Around 30-35 candidates are selected, and every couple of weeks attend talks on topics ranging from employment and immigration to intellectual property and disputes. I'm part of the screening process for the academy and like to give students who I think are capable, but might not have the network, an opportunity they might not otherwise get.
"My dad is a bus driver and my mum is a nursery officer, so when I'm reviewing applications, diversity is a key consideration. Not everyone goes to private school, not everyone goes to Oxbridge and it's so important that those opportunities to tap into knowledge and experience are widely available."
Infact such has been the success of the sports law academy that Mishcon de Reya made a #WhatIf pledge as part of Women in Football’s ground-breaking campaign, using the sports law academy template and offering it to women working in or around football.
“Their mission sat in alignment with Mishcon and it has been great to see it come to fruition,” adds Stef. “Providing opportunities and sharing knowledge is vitally important.
"I currently mentor three BAME girls who all want to be sports lawyers. One approached me through LinkedIn, one was on our sports law academy and the other was an intern at one of Mishcon's contacts".
"Mentoring is such a great thing to do. Why keep your own experience in an industry to yourself when sharing it is a benefit to society and can be absolutely priceless for these young girls, many of whom don't have that all important network to tap into."
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