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The Complex Landscape of Esports: Addressing Harassment and Initiatives for Change

Explore the thriving landscape of collegiate esports in the United States, delving into the significant investments, scholarships, and competitive teams emerging on campuses nationwide. Uncover the stark gender disparities and issues of harassment prevalent in the gaming community, shedding light on the urgent need for inclusive and safe gaming spaces.

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The Growth of Esports in U.S. Colleges

Colleges and universities in the United States are investing heavily in esports by offering gaming scholarships, forming competitive esports teams, and creating dedicated gaming arenas on campus. This trend has gained momentum, with 250 institutions proudly showcasing robust varsity collegiate esports programs and an additional 900 schools providing some level of engagement in esports. However, amidst this growing enthusiasm for gaming, there is a gap in addressing the pressing issues of sexual cyberviolence, harassment, and technology-enabled abuse that unfortunately occur within the electronic gaming community.

The rapid expansion of gaming during the pandemic has been presented as a way to connect socially distant students to campus life and foster connections. Nevertheless, a harsh reality lies beneath the surface of this inclusive gaming culture. Despite video games being popular among 97 percent of U.S. Teenagers, scholastic-based esports predominantly attract males. They do make up the majority in terms of participation. They also receive most of the esports scholarships available. The difference is quite noticeable, considering that women comprise more than half of all college graduates. However, in the world of gaming, they are often seen as a niche market rather than being given equal opportunities.

The Dark Side of Collegiate Gaming

A more profound look into the gaming community reveals a treatment pattern, especially towards women. Research shows that gaming stands out as a community regarding how women are treated. The statistics are alarming, with 70 percent of gamers choosing to hide their gender to avoid online harassment. Additionally, one out of every five gamers ultimately gives up on gaming due to the abuse they face.

Ironically, gaming involves teamwork and building relationships. Its surroundings are filled with hostility, misogyny, and racist attacks. Women, along with people of color, LGBTQ individuals, and those who don’t conform to gender norms, become targets for harassment within these settings. Popular esports games and scholarship providers like League of Legends have gained notoriety for fostering player communities that perpetuate behavior.

Instances of violence and reports about sexual assaults in virtual worlds have cast a dark cloud over the entire gaming landscape. In situations where sexual violence is not explicitly woven into the storyline of a game, some players engage in acts that violate others sexually. They often expect these experiences to be dismissed as jokes or part of the gaming experience rather than acknowledging the actual harm caused.

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Moreover, when gender, race, or ethnicity cues are exposed during gaming sessions, we can see the intersectionality of issues within the gaming community. Those who don’t fit the white male identity often face levels of harassment. Women of color frequently report enduring torrents of gendered hatred and slurs when using their voices in games. On the other hand, men of color navigate racism by employing strategies like silence and emotional desensitization.

Title IX and the Imperative for a Safer Gaming Environment

Title IX mandates schools to prevent and address harassment and violence, even extending its reach to esports. The U.S. Supreme Court’s 1999 ruling in Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education recognized student-on-student harassment as a form of sex-based discrimination under Title IX. Furthermore, the 2011 Kowalski v. Berkeley County Schools decision upheld the school administrator’s authority to address bullying and sexual harassment regardless of the setting.

Gaming has challenges due to instant communication, rapid escalation, and anonymity. Both schools and students have a responsibility to promote cultures within gaming and confront these problems actively. Thankfully, research shows that educational campaigns and raising awareness about victim’s experiences of harassment and its adverse effects can effectively reduce behavior.

As esports continues to grow in popularity within institutions, we must acknowledge and tackle the other side of gaming, the prevalence of sexual cyber violence, harassment, and abuse enabled by technology. It’s not about providing scholarships or team positions for non-male players; it requires an effort to create an inclusive, safe, and fair gaming environment for everyone.

Movistar’s #MiJuegoMiNombre Campaign Addresses Sexist Harassment

In response to the problem of sexist harassment in esports, the Spanish company Movistar has launched the #MiJuegoMiNombre campaign. The objective of this initiative is to report and combat the harassment that women face in the field of video games. Movistar had already presented this campaign in 2019 and, after four years, is evaluating the progress made.

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As part of the campaign, an event included a round table where participants shared their experiences. In a context marked by unfortunate incidents in the industry and coinciding with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, the need for initiatives that seek to create a healthier environment for players is evident.

This campaign has the collaboration of professional players and renowned content creators in the industry, such as Jen Herranz, Gemita, Mery Soldier, Leviathan, Laurita Chicle, and Sugus Susana. These personalities share their experiences of the negative aspects of multiplayer games, thus helping to raise awareness and promote a more respectful and safe gaming environment.

image by:DCStudio

Author

  • Gilberto Ceballos

    Gilberto is a Mexican law student at Universidad Panamericana in Mexico City, one of the top law schools in the country, with an unwavering passion for various legal subjects like international law and arbitration. He is part of the full immersion program, designed to provide students with a deep understanding of international law. This experience aims to delve into the complexities of global legal systems, international relations, and dispute resolution mechanisms. In addition to this, Gilberto participated in the youth parliament organized by the Mexican Senate, representing the voice of the Mexican youth, as well as having various international academic experiences in Canada, United Kingdom and France. He is a passionate gamer and looking forward to contribute to ELN.

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ELN Announcement: Launch of Esports Legal Wiki

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ELN Announcement Launch of Esports Legal Wiki

We are thrilled to announce the official launch of the Esports Legal Wiki, a groundbreaking new resource in the field of esports law, edited by Dr Despoina Farmaki and Leonid Shmatenko. This comprehensive digital encyclopedia features over 60 detailed legal definitions and analyses authored by a distinguished panel of experts in the esports legal domain. We extend our heartfelt thanks to the following contributors for their invaluable insights and expertise:

Esports Legal News (ELN) is also excited to promote Dr. Despoina Farmaki to Chief Academic Officer. Dr. Farmaki, who has played a pivotal role in the development of the Esports Legal Wiki, will not only oversee the finalization of this extensive project but will also spearhead an exciting new academic initiative set to be unveiled in the first quarter of 2025.

We invite scholars and practitioners from around the world to contribute to the Esports Legal Wiki. Your submissions will help ensure that this platform remains a cutting-edge, authoritative source for legal professionals, scholars, and anyone interested in the legal aspects of esports.

To participate, please refer to the attached call for papers and submission guidelines. Your contributions are crucial to the success and continual growth of this essential legal resource.

Thank you to all our contributors and supporters for making this project possible. We look forward to your ongoing engagement and to revealing further innovations in the near future.

Author

  • Leonid Shmatenko

    Leonid Shmatenko is part of Eversheds Sutherlands’ data protection and technology law team. He has vast experience in regulatory and general issues in the areas of eSports and Blockchain. He advises eSports associations and clubs on all legal issues, advises and supports crypto startups in all matters from planning, preparation to execution of private and public token offerings (so-called Initial Coin Offerings or ICOs). Furthermore, Leonid Shmatenko specializes in international arbitration and has participated in several arbitration proceedings (SAC, ICC, DIS, UNCITRAL, ICSID, ad hoc) as a party representative and secretary of the tribunal. Leonid Shmatenko studied at the Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf and is currently pursuing a PhD in international law. After his successful first state examination (2011), he completed his legal clerkship, inter alia, at the German Embassy in Lima and within international law firms in Düsseldorf and Paris. He passed the second state examination in 2015. He is an external lecturer at the National Law University of Ukraine “Yaroslav Mudryi”, where he teaches International Investment Law. He is admitted to the Bar in Switzerland and Germany. Before joining Eversheds Sutherland, Leonid Shmatenko worked as an attorney at leading law firms in Geneva, Munich and Paris.

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Takaze’s Take: Free the Agents – Sexism and Misogyny in the Esports Business

This new format of an article (Takaze’s Take) explains how an eathlete can file a discrimination lawsuit in the USA. This article also discusses women in sports.

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Takaze's Take: Free the Agents

On 28 February 2024, Josefine Jensen, a member of Astralis’ Women’s Counter-Strike team, took a stand. She Xed a letter to Valve Corporation, demanding a change in their business practices. Specifically, she urged them to make female agent skins free to use in Counter-Strike. This issue, she believes, is not just about Skins but about the deep-rooted sexism and misogyny that pervades the esports industry. 

The esports world has a rich history of mistreating women.[1] However, women in America do have a way to counterattack. For example, suppose the misandrist is someone you work with. In that case, you can file a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).[2] 

The EEOC enforces “federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person’s race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information.”[3] If you sign and file a Charge of Discrimination, you are “asserting that an employer, union or labor organization engaged in employment discrimination.”[4] You must file a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC before you can sue your employer for discrimination.

Takaze’s Take

Filing a Charge of Discrimination is not your only option. In fact, as the war against Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) intensifies, the EEOC may be unable to protect you. Unfortunately, your enemies intend to compel the EEOC to enforce the status quo.[5] If DEI is important to you, then a showdown with your adversaries may be inevitable. 

Mr. Monopoly’s Wisdom

Your opponents view DEI as a zero-sum game. Fear and insecurities are at the center of the conflict.[6] We ought to celebrate your accomplishments.[7] Instead, your adversaries recognize that these fears and insecurities make their followers susceptible to viewing your success as a threat.[8] Mr. Monopoly can help you understand the schism. Until recently, your enemies owned the entire board. Their rule was ruthless and absolute. Over time, your foes’ forefathers were forced to make half-hearted concessions. Your forebears were given Mediterranean Avenue—Connecticut Avenue. Their adversaries expected them to be content. 

Those whose shoulders you stand upon continued to press the issue. You landed on Atlantic Avenue, and your sights are set on Boardwalk. The last seven to eight years in American politics should have clarified one thing for you: Your enemies consider your desire to own Boardwalk wholly unacceptable. 

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Their Strategy

Your enemies are clever.[9] They copied the tactics of Civil Rights activists.[10] Now, your opponents are erasing them from your history books.[11] Their recent legislative and judicial victories show that your adversaries are reaping the rewards of their efforts.[12] Your enemies likely believe their victory will be absolute if they can expunge the history of your forebears.

The Counter-Strike

The sports and entertainment worlds have not acquiesced to your enemies’ demands.[13] As we enter the next phase of the streaming wars, alienating marginalized groups is a surefire way to lose.[14] You can leverage the pursuit of profits to your advantage. For example, working at the FDIC was a never-ending party until the Wall Street Journal arrived.[15]The author hopes that soon, every woman will feel safe in the workplace. Perhaps your enemies feel secure because the esports world is not mainstream. The author hopes you show them that they are misreading the tea leaves.

The spotlight is shining brightly upon the women’s sports universe. The WNBA and ESPN plan to capitalize on Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese’s fame.[16] The NWSL is expanding.[17] Private equity firms are investing heavily in the sports world.[18] The NFL is arriving fashionably late to the dance, but their dance card is undoubtedly full.[19] The esports world claims to be unhappy with its dependence upon the Saudis, and the business model needs to be tweaked.[20]Investors not chosen by the major sports leagues will need a date. If DEI is important to you, now may be the time to press the issue. 

Advance your token to Boardwalk.

Image source: Netcompany

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[1] Ajay Rose, Inside the World of Female esports: “It’s a Scary Space for Women’, The Athletic (Jul. 23, 2023), https://theathletic.com/4635621/2023/07/23/inside-the-world-of-female-esports/.

[2] Filing a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOChttps://www.eeoc.gov/filing-charge-discrimination (last visited Apr. 7, 2024).  

[3] Overviewhttps://www.eeoc.gov/overview (last visited Apr. 7, 2024). 

[4] Id.

[5] Robert Draper, America First Legal, a Trump-Aligned Group, Is Spoiling for a Fight, N.Y. Times (Mar. 21, 2024), https://www.nytimes.com/2024/03/21/us/politics/stephen-miller-america-first-legal.html?smid=nytcore-ios-share&referringSource=articleShare&ugrp=c&pvid=E1F42499-3ECC-4095-9233-0DA8057CA02A&sgrp=c-cb.

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[6] Why Young Men and Women Are Drifting Apart, The Economist (Mar. 13, 2024), https://www.economist.com/international/2024/03/13/why-the-growing-gulf-between-young-men-and-womenMaking Sense of the Gulf Between Young Men and Women, The Economist (Mar. 14, 2024), https://www.economist.com/leaders/2024/03/14/making-sense-of-the-gulf-between-young-men-and-women.

[7] Aparna Rae, White Men’s Role in Advancing Equity and Inclusion, Forbes (Mar. 14, 2024), https://www.forbes.com/sites/aparnarae/2024/03/14/white-mens-role-in-advancing-equity-and-inclusion/?sh=6f4d22b85b5f.

[8] Nicquel Terry Ellis & Catherine Thorbecke, DEI Efforts are Under Siege. Here’s What Experts Say is at Stake, CNN (Jan. 11, 2024), https://www.cnn.com/2024/01/07/us/dei-attacks-experts-warn-of-consequences-reaj/index.html.

[9] Nicholas Confessore, ‘America is Under Attack’: Inside the Anti-D.E.I. Crusade, N.Y. Times (Jan. 20, 2024), https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2024/01/20/us/dei-woke-claremont-institute.html; Meg Little Reilly, Anti-DEI Bills Rely on Vague Language and Self-Censorship, Forbes (Mar. 5, 2024), https://www.forbes.com/sites/meglittlereilly/2024/03/05/anti-dei-bills-rely-on-vague-language-and-self-censorship/?sh=75b5535b1742.

[10] James Devitt, Bayard Rustin’s Blueprint for Activism—and Perhaps Progresshttps://www.nyu.edu/about/news-publications/news/2023/august/bayard-rustin-s-blueprint-for-activism-and-perhaps-progress.html (last visited Apr. 7, 2024); Adam Gopnik, Eclipsed in His Era, Bayard Rustin Gets to Shine in Ours, The New Yorker (Nov. 6, 2023), https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2023/11/13/eclipsed-in-his-era-bayard-rustin-gets-to-shine-in-ours.

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[11] Taifa Natalee Alexander, Tracking the Attack on Critical Race Theory in Education, U.S. News (Apr. 11, 2023), https://www.usnews.com/opinion/articles/2023-04-11/tracking-the-attack-on-critical-race-theory-in-education;  Daniel Golden, Muzzled by DeSantis, Critical Race Theory Professors Cancel Courses or Modify Their Teaching, ProPublica (Jan. 3, 2023), https://www.propublica.org/article/desantis-critical-race-theory-florida-college-professors; Myles Hollingsworth, AP African American Studies and Critical Race Theory Ban in Florida, The Crisis (July 24, 2023), https://naacp.org/articles/ap-african-american-studies-and-critical-race-theory-ban-florida;  David Bernstein, Is Opposition to Critical Race Theory Correlated With Ignorance of Critical Race Theory?, Reason (Apr. 2, 2024), https://apple.news/AQmeDx-k2Te6xfEP5a69ndg.

[12] Jeff Green & Simone Foxman, Why Corporate America Has a Diversity Problem, Bloomberg (Mar. 14, 2024), https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2024-03-14/video-why-corporate-america-has-a-diversity-problem.

[13] Bill King, The Pushback on DEI, Sports Business Journal (Mar. 11, 2024), https://www.sportsbusinessjournal.com/Articles/2024/03/11/dei-pushback; Jeremy W. Peters & Brooks Barnes, The Oscars Now Have D.E.I. Rules, But Some Say It’s Just a Performance, N.Y. Times (Mar. 10, 2024), https://www.nytimes.com/2024/03/08/us/oscars-oppenheimer-dei-diversity.html.

[14] Dr. Darnell Hunt & Dr. Ana-Christina Ramon, Diverse Audiences Prop Up A Struggling Theatrical Industry and Demand Diversity on Screen, Forbes (Mar. 7, 2024), https://www.forbes.com/sites/drdarnellhuntanddranachristinaramon/2024/03/07/diverse-audiences-prop-up-a-struggling-theatrical-industry-and-demand-diversity-on-screen/?sh=3ff2cb78742d.

[15] Rebecca Ballhaus, ‘What the Hell is Going on at the FDIC?’, The Wall Street Journal (Jan. 10, 2024), https://www.wsj.com/articles/fdic-6d9e8bf1.

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[16] Jacob Feldman, WNBA Has Big Plans to Ride Women’s Basketball Momentum, Sportico (Apr. 4, 2024), https://www.sportico.com/leagues/basketball/2024/caitlin-clark-wnba-momentum-popularity-draft-marketing-1234773879/; Tom Friend, Engelbert: Clark-Reese Could be the New Bird-Magic, Sports Business Journal (Mar. 3, 2024), https://www.sportsbusinessjournal.com/Articles/2024/03/03/wnba-cathy-engelbert-caitlin-clark-angel-reese.

[17] Cleveland Soccer Group Announces 12k Season-Ticket Pledges for Possible NWSL Expansion Franchise, Sports Business Journal (Apr. 4, 2024), https://www.sportsbusinessjournal.com/Articles/2024/04/04/cleveland-ohio-nwsl-expansion-team-bid?hl=NWSL&sc=0&publicationSource=searchNWSL Enters 2024 Campaign with Renewed Hope Amid Offseason Growth, Sports Business Journal (Mar. 15, 2024), https://www.sportsbusinessjournal.com/Articles/2024/03/15/nwsl-2024-season-preview?hl=NWSL&sc=0&publicationSource=search.

[18] Arctos Partners Raises $4.1B for Investments in Sports, Sports Business Journal (Apr. 2, 2024), https://www.sportsbusinessjournal.com/Articles/2024/04/02/arctos-partners-deals?hl=private+equity&sc=0&publicationSource=search; Abby Schultz, The Wealthy are Turning to Sports for Diversification, Barron’s (Jan. 2, 2024), https://www.barrons.com/articles/the-wealthy-are-turning-to-sports-for-diversification-9726aaac.

[19] Ben Fischer, Explaining the Caution on Private Equity, Sports Business Journal (Mar. 28, 2024),https://www.sportsbusinessjournal.com/Articles/2024/03/28/explaining-nfl-private-equity-caution?hl=private+equity&sc=0&publicationSource=search.  

[20] Asli Pelit, In Fading Esports Business, Saudi Money Still Flows, Sportico (Mar. 15, 2024), https://www.sportico.com/business/sponsorship/2024/esports-investment-saudi-arabia-1234770868/.

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Author

  • Takaze Turner

    Takaze A. Turner, a distinguished figure at the intersection of entertainment and law, showcases a profound passion for anime, cinema, and gaming. His academic journey commenced at the Ohio State University, where he excelled in English, earning his degree with cum laude honors. Furthering his legal education, Takaze achieved his Juris Doctor from the University of Missouri School of Law, before embarking on specialized legal studies. He has since attained an LL.M. in Business Law from Florida State University College of Law and an LL.M. in Entertainment Law from the University of Miami School of Law. Currently, he is enhancing his expertise by pursuing an LL.M. in Taxation Law at the same institution. Takaze’s multifaceted legal education, coupled with his deep-rooted interests in entertainment, positions him uniquely within the legal landscape. His academic accomplishments reflect a dedicated pursuit of knowledge across various sectors of law, particularly those intersecting with the business and entertainment industries. At the core of his professional journey is a commitment to understanding and navigating the complex legalities surrounding entertainment and media, ensuring he remains a pivotal figure in legal discussions related to these dynamic fields. His ongoing pursuit of an LL.M. in Taxation Law further exemplifies his dedication to broadening his legal acumen, underscoring his role as a key contributor to the legal community, especially in areas where law meets entertainment and technology.

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Launch of Deviant Legal: A Law Firm for the Video Game Industry in the Netherlands

Founded by René Otto, a seasoned lawyer with an impressive track record and a deep passion for video games, Deviant Legal emerges as the first full-service law firm in the Netherlands, dedicated exclusively to serving the legal needs of the video game, esports, and content creation sectors.

With its official launch on 10 April 2024, Deviant Legal introduces a new paradigm in legal services, characterized by accessibility, inclusivity, and a profound understanding of the video games industry. Otto’s vision for the firm stems from his belief in the necessity of legal services that are not only of high quality but also personalized to the nuances of the international games and esports ecosystem.

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Rene Otto - Deviant Legal

A Remote-First Approach

Perhaps the most distinctive feature of Deviant Legal is its remote-first structure. By embracing remote operations, the firm not only aligns itself with the global nature of the video game industry but also ensures that its services are more accessible and cost-effective for clients. This innovative approach enables Deviant Legal to connect seamlessly with clients and team members around the world, offering flexibility and scalability that traditional law firms struggle to match.

“With Deviant Legal, I believe the legal services provided can be better tailored to the international nature of the games and esports ecosystem. Because of our remote set-up, we are able to connect with clients and team members worldwide. Next to our core team, we work with a network of carefully selected remote (freelance) lawyers, which allows us to scale when needed. While we primarily focus on Dutch & European law first, we will be seriously researching international expansion opportunities.René Otto

Emphasizing Accessibility and Inclusion

Accessibility is at the core of Deviant Legal’s mission. Otto and his team are committed to making legal services approachable for everyone, regardless of their background or financial situation. This commitment extends beyond mere words, as Deviant Legal plans to roll out initiatives aimed at promoting legal access and reducing the intimidation factor often associated with seeking legal counsel.

The firm also places a high value on diversity and inclusion, fostering an environment where lawyers can be their authentic selves. This philosophy not only enriches the firm’s culture but also positions it as a desirable destination for talented legal professionals who may feel out of place in more traditional settings. René Otto states:

“One of the core values of Deviant Legal is accessibility and inclusion. I believe that everyone should have access to a lawyer. We will announce some initiatives to promote that relatively soon. Additionally, accessibility means that lawyers should be way more approachable than they are currently. As a result, we work with authentic lawyers which are ‘down-to-earth’ and who ‘come as they are’. This does not only provide value for clients, but also for the legal profession itself. On a daily basis, I meet lawyers who love their work as a lawyer, but do not feel at home at the culture of the legal profession. This is a shame as it leads to an ongoing and unneeded brain drain. By giving these lawyers who do not adhere to the norm a place to call home, I believe Deviant Legal will win the war on talent”.

A Firm to Watch

The unique approach and specialized focus of Deviant Legal have not gone unnoticed. The firm has been highlighted by the prestigious international ranking LEGAL 500 as a “firm to watch,” and its founder, René Otto, has been named a “Next Generation Partner.”

René Otto’s journey from Van Iersel Luchtman advocaten to establishing Deviant Legal showcases that there is need for a dedicated full service boutique servicing the video game industry. René Otto also holds roles as a board member of Breda Game City and an ambassador for Women in Games.

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Author

  • Leonid Shmatenko

    Leonid Shmatenko is part of Eversheds Sutherlands’ data protection and technology law team. He has vast experience in regulatory and general issues in the areas of eSports and Blockchain. He advises eSports associations and clubs on all legal issues, advises and supports crypto startups in all matters from planning, preparation to execution of private and public token offerings (so-called Initial Coin Offerings or ICOs). Furthermore, Leonid Shmatenko specializes in international arbitration and has participated in several arbitration proceedings (SAC, ICC, DIS, UNCITRAL, ICSID, ad hoc) as a party representative and secretary of the tribunal. Leonid Shmatenko studied at the Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf and is currently pursuing a PhD in international law. After his successful first state examination (2011), he completed his legal clerkship, inter alia, at the German Embassy in Lima and within international law firms in Düsseldorf and Paris. He passed the second state examination in 2015. He is an external lecturer at the National Law University of Ukraine “Yaroslav Mudryi”, where he teaches International Investment Law. He is admitted to the Bar in Switzerland and Germany. Before joining Eversheds Sutherland, Leonid Shmatenko worked as an attorney at leading law firms in Geneva, Munich and Paris.

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