Dr. Matteo Zambelli is a partner in the commercial dispute practice of the law firm Zambelli Tassetto, Studio Legale and an associate professor on the University of West London LLM programme where he lectures on the International Arbitration, International Commercial Litigation, International Commercial and Shipping Law, International Banking Law, Legal Aspects of International Finance and Securities Regulation modules. A well-rounded practitioner with very diverse experience, Matteo is admitted to the New York State Bar, Solicitor England and Wales, Solicitor Ireland (not practicing in the jurisdiction) and to the Italian Bar (with higher rights of audience).
Matteo sat down with Young EFILA to share his observations and tips relating to the world of investment law and arbitration.
Young EFILA: What attracted you to a career in arbitration?
Matteo Zambelli: While I have always been interested in this tailored dispute resolution process, in practice, my “attraction” to arbitration as a career was due to sheer chance: it was an opportunity that presented itself. I started off as a transactional finance lawyer, and, after a job change, I was able, over time, to transition to arbitration, thus matching my academic interest in the field with a professional one while bringing baggage of different experiences in the process.
YE: What is your most treasured memory workwise?
MZ: One of the work-related events I treasure the most is a case in which we can use our client’s greatest weakness (a potential insolvency risk) as its strong point to force a very favourable settlement in arbitration proceedings. This, to me, highlights that viewing things from a different angle, at times, could yield unexpected favourable results.
YE: How do you react when you are confronted with a difficult client?
MZ: It is fairly hard to present a set reaction: many clients can be difficult in their unique ways. Managing clients is often as hard as managing counterparties. The key tends to be effective communication: it is important to be able to deal with people with different perceptions, expectations and cultures. While flexibility, empathy and interpersonal skills are key assets at times setting clear limits and taking a firm stand could be equally important.
YE: Is there anything that you are particularly proud of when you reflect on your development as a lawyer and as a professor?
MZ: I am quite happy with how over time, I have developed the shared lawyer-lecturer skillset. With a considerable amount of practice (I first qualified as a lawyer in 2003, and started lecturing in 2010), I have been able to hone my interpersonal and persuasive skills. Being able to present information clearly in different languages, address and explain complex data in a comprehensible manner, understand different legal cultures, connect with diverse clients, professionals or students, to keep an audience engaged are all skills I am proud to have developed over time as a result of my role as a lawyer or professor. Also, I am pretty happy to have worked and taught fairly different areas of law, this gave me a broader perspective and wider understanding as a dispute lawyer.
YE: What qualities and skills make a good arbitration lawyer?
MZ: In addition to technical, analytical and research skills, the ability to communicate clearly, concisely and persuasively are essential skills. Intellectual curiosity, strong motivation, ambition, and a sense of humour are qualities often shared by good arbitration lawyers.
YE: What advice do you have for someone looking to improve their writing skills?
MZ: Writing is a large part of being a lawyer. Strong writing is never easy, it takes hard work and practice.
Reading extensively and practising consistently are the only ways to improve legal writing or any kind of writing. Form, grammar and proofreading have to be there as they make an impression on any reader. One has to bear in mind that the strongest legal writing is simple, direct and succinct.
YE: Please recommend our readers a movie or a series and tell them why they should watch it.
MZ: I would recommend “Thank you for smoking”. The story of a lobbyist for the tobacco industry whose job is to put a spin on cigarettes is a witty satire that focuses on the power of words and the capability to look at an issue from both sides (and to find humour in it all).
YE: Thank you so much for your time, Matteo!
**** This interview was conducted by Ioana Maria Bratu and forms part of Young EFILA’s Interview Series with Arbitration Practitioners ****