IBA Blog - Day Four
31 October 2011
1 October 2012
7 November 2011
7 October 2009
15 October 2012
30 March 2012
Day 5 - 4 November, 2011 by Stephen Swinkels , L&E Global
So why do people visit an IBA Conference? It takes quite something for 5,000 lawyers to leave their practice and spend five days in Dubai. I have tried to discover the three main reasons: and came up with (i) gaining legal knowledge and know how by attending the sessions organized by the various committees; (ii) networking; (iii) enjoying a week in the sun.
At a first glance one may consider the first reason the most obvious one and the other two reasons as more or less pleasant side effects. It sounds very attractive to assemble lawyers active in a specific area of the law from all over the world and let them exchange the latest legal developments, experiences, victories and defeats.
The IBA is made up of numerous committees so that every speciality has its own representative body that organizes working sessions. Apart from the obvious committees such as the Corporate Law Section and Criminal Law Section there are more specialized sections such as the Power Law Committee and the Discrimination Law Committee and the outright niche groups such as the Anti Money Laundering Legislation Implementation Working Group, the Lesbian, Gay Bisexual and Transgender Issues Working Group and the Art, Cultural Institutions and Heritage Law Committee. Smaller sections require longer names apparently.
This sounds highly interesting but the reality is a little bit different. Many of the sessions are poorly attended. Often a fierce battle is going on, who outnumbers who: the number of panellists or the participants? The last session I attended the panellists won by one. It does not help that the conference rooms offer space to 400 persons. I can only imagine how this must be for the experts on the podium staring into the great wide open. Part of the problem is the set up of the meetings, which is no longer up to standards. The prospect of a three-hour session, monotone presentation and not always so well prepared panellists is hardly inviting. It is time that the sections and committees will enter the age of social media and design more interactive formats.
Is networking then the main reason to visit to the IBA Conference? Networkers are active from early in the morning until late at night. Breakfast meetings, one-on-one conferences, office visits, receptions, dinners, cocktail parties, all in the name of getting connected. Every night any well-prepared member has the choice out of a selection of reception, often no less than 7 per night. If the quality of the parties is a measurement for the economic prosperity of firms, there is no such thing as a financial crisis. Dubai is of course an excellent location for al fresco cocktail parties.
The most popular location is the Armani Pavilion where up to a thousand guests could enjoy the hospitality of local firm Hadef on Monday, Norton Rose on Tuesday and Allen & Overy on Thursday. Also the Jumeirah Beach hotel, the Address Downtown and the Ritz Carlton provide for great reception locations. My personal favourite was the Burj Al Arab party thrown by Greenberg Traurig. Sheer decadence. A little less fortunate was the location of the Dutch lawyers party, which was held at the residence of the Dutch general consul. The place was so hard to find that an email with a help line number for desperate taxi drivers to be guided to the right location. The Brussels sprouts at the buffet did not help to raise the spirits.
Networking is definitely a very important reason to spend time in Dubai. However, due to the shear size it is difficult to get the right new contacts and you end up meeting many old friends and acquaintances again.
So, all in all did I find the answers to the questions I asked myself this morning? It seems that when you go to the IBA Conference, forget the sessions, endeavour the networking but most of all, make sure you do not forget to enjoy the sun!
Stephan Swinkels is executive director and member of the board of L&E Global
Day 4 - 3 November, 2011 by Philip Rodney, Burness
“So here I am - at the IBA Conference in Dubai with our managing partner, Ian Wattie. This is his tenth. It’s only my ninth. At Glastonbury, one shows one’s seniority by wearing a souvenir t-shirt from the first festival you went to. Perhaps we should do something similar here.
This is my first visit to Dubai. Someone described it as Las Vegas on steroids. Certainly, it has a lot of biggests, tallests and mostests.
The IBA Conference operates on many different levels. It’s a platform for debate on such global issues as resolving the turbulence in the Middle East, the Basel III plans to raise banks’ capital requirements and state privacy in the Wikileaks era.
At another level, it’s an opportunity to learn about current thinking on a whole list of legal topics. These range from the prosaic - asset recovery (“Show me the money, honey) to the arcane - space tourism (“Now that we are doing it, what are the legal pitfalls.”) My biggest upset is that I didn’t make it to “Pippa’s RAINBOW Strategy”. Sounds intriguing.
For me, more importantly, it’s an opportunity to network with lawyers from other jurisdictions. Apart from building relationships, one picks up useful intelligence on trends. There is a lot of negative sentiment about the UK, US and European economies. However, many delegates are positive - the Scandinavians, Canadians, Mexicans and Puerto Ricans, for example. The common view seems to be that to continue their growth strategy, UK firms will have to look beyond their boundaries.
And then there are the parties. Dubai has no shortage of great venues. But how is this for imagination? The Norwegian firm, Wiersholm, had a beach volleyball party. I think we will try that for our next business development event in Glasgow. Anyone coming?
Philip Rodney is the chairman of Burness.
Day 4 - 3 November, 2011 by Chris Carroll, Travers Smith
I was musing in a taxi last night about some rather tenuous parallels between the IBA and Dubai itself. Both are overblown, both multinational, and of both the question is often asked ’what is it for?’
Dubai itself: whilst on one level it is undeniably impressive, the rationale for plonking in the desert a city of such vast scale and vaunting ambition seems to have left most delagates bewildered . ’Weird’; ’ ’What’s the point?’ ’ Don’t get it’ . ’Who is going to occupy all these buildings?’ Nor does it seem to quite fit the bill for most delegates’ rather snooty taste. ’Vegas without the culture’.
Anyway, the weather, hotels and road network are all great. And who knows? Who is to say it won’t work out in the end.
And then what about the IBA itself. What is it for? While there are sessions in the Conference Centre on countless different topics, for our team of five partners the object of the exercise is to source, consolidate and deepen relationships with law firms from around the globe. About half our mandates have an international dimension requring legal advice from foreign jurisdictions and thus input from foreign law firms. And the IBA is the biggest annuall collection of law firms simultaneously congregated in one place . So it is a feeding frenzy.
I sense an unspoken suspicion among my partners that a week spent at the IBA is a tad more enjoyable and a tad less hard work than a week spent at the coalface back in London. Right and wrong. It is undeniably stimulating and but also undeniably exhausting.
Everyday is groundhog day. Breakfast with lawyers followed by three meetings with lawyers followed by lunch with lawyers followed by three more meetings with lawyers followed by drinks parties with lawyers followed by dinner with lawyers. It is not for the faint hearted. In the first three days we have had meeting room sessions with one or more firms from each of Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Argentina, Russia, Ukraine ,Brazil,India,Turkey,Hungary, China, Japan, South Africa, the Czech Republic and doubtless others that I cannot at this very moment recall. Most of these are catch up meetings with those we already know and work with; a few we are meeting with for the first time.
What do we talk about? How terrific our respective firms are and, among European firms, how the full extent of our terrificness is currently being thwarted and masked by the dark clouds cast by the Eurozone debt crisis. The emerging markets lawyers are, unsurprisingly, altogether more chirpy.
Chris Carroll is a senior partner at Travers Smith
Day 2 - 1 November, 2011 by Peter Taylor, Hogan Lovells
And Dubai poses a challenge in that regard! Covered in 8-lane highways, growing like an architectural mushroom farm, it is hard to keep track of addresses, roads, junctions, and where the heck you are, as week by week, the infrastructure morphs and throws up another 100-storey tower.
The opening party in the desert was a triumph of man-movement, with fleets of buses shifting a couple of thousand lawyers to the venue and back to their hotels in waves. In the town, all had not been so smooth. Poor old Akbar, our official IBA shuttle bus driver, was having a bad day. We left our hotel, the Al Manzil, headed East half a mile, performed the requisite official U-turn at the lights, and headed West; then North; a mile later, at the first and only junction encountered, another U-turn; South again, then East – arriving (but not quite) at the immediately adjacent (!) Qamardeen hotel for the second pick-up – only to find the entrance had been somehow shifted to the other side of the block, and so repeating the same trajectory seemed to be the only way in. Courage, Akbar! Round the same block, up a cul-de-sac, and through another building site, and there we were. And so off to the registration desk at the DICEC at last, having advanced a net 100 yards in 20 minutes…
Mercifully, on the return leg, Akbar had worked out where the entrance was, so our 2 mile journey from the Convention centre only took 35 minutes rather than the morning’s 45. So much for 8 lane highways and official buses – taxis from now on.
The first official day was spent in working sessions and meetings with other law firms, collecting the goss on the latest mergers and legal developments in anywhere up to 100 jurisdictions. The most delighted firm this week was BLG – no, not that one, but the one that just got its acronym back, courtesy of Clyde & Co’s latest UK predations -(Borden Ladner Gervais in Canada. Clydes, by the way, confirm that “there was no take-over: we kept the “&” (of Barlow Lyde &Gilbert)”, as it was explained to me by one nameless but definitely perky partner.
The day-time working sessions were lively, with the Maritime and Insurance Committees jointly addressing a “typical” maritime incident: a Libyan ship-owner sailing under a Vanuatu registration is caught shipping steel machine parts (ie gun-barrels) from Syria to somewhere it shouldn’t; gets shot up by Egyptian protesters with RPG’s on the way through Suez, captured by Somali pirates, loses a crew member on shore before the ransom is paid, crawls into Dubai, is arrested for sanctions breaking, warps off the berth and promptly sinks in the main shipping lane; the cargo finance falls apart and the credit insurers join a long list of interested (or not) underwriters and their multinational lawyers in unpicking the mess.
“Simples!”, as the little meerkat chap would say.
The evening started with a gathering of PRAC (Pacific Rim Advisory Committee) firms – walking distance, this time. The later cocktail party of Hadef & Partners in the shadow of the towering Burj Khalifa was a dizzying and lively affair, punctuated by fountain displays, and definitely the go-to event of the evening. Various members of the Barlows’ diaspora were being escorted around the venue by their new firms and partners, and did all seem to be as happy as brides on a honeymoon.
The evening being rounded off by a late working dinner (no, really) of the officers of the Insurance and Maritime Committees, your correspondent sloped off to bed at a very civilised pumpkin time, leaving the newly weds and their in-laws and former partners to party the night away.
Peter Taylor is a consultant at Hogan Lovells
Day 1 - 31 October, 2011 by Stephen Swinkels
A huge amount of legal knowledge was concentrated on board of the aircraft as the vessel was packed with Dutch lawyers on their way to Dubai. I wonder, what would be the average hourly rate, billed by the most efficient among us during the 6-hour flight. In any event, the conference started right after take off. Old acquaintances and former colleagues exchanged the latest legal gossip, made plans for the week to come and, I am sure, a few current matters were discussed in a more relaxed manner between opposite counsels, not in a board room or in court but comfortably in seats 14 c and d.
For the L&E Global members, the IBA conference is a great occasion to spend time together for a few consecutive days. Although we communicate on a weekly basis on new developments, cases and achievements, nothing beats a meeting in person. During these get-togethers I am always reminded of the fact that the initial L&E members started the alliance because they had become friends during these IBA conferences. It is even more rewarding to see that the new members also fit in effortlessly and the group get’s bigger and bigger.
Dubai is of course a very impressive glamorous city and it just feels a bit odd to enjoy Dubai’s splendour while the economic and financial world is in turmoil. Perhaps that is why, instead of staying in the well known “over the top” hotels, such as the Armani Hotel, many participants opted for more modest hotels. I did not see any lawyers setting up an “Occupy Dubai” camping site though.
We did not have a lot of time for sightseeing. However, one cannot escape the Burj Khalifa, with 829 meters, the tallest structure in the world. It always reminds me of the biblical city of Babel with its own Tower of Babel or Burj Babil in Arabic, which according to history was at least three times as high as Dubai’s tower. I hope that the comparison stops there because with more than 5,000 participants from all over the world, we can do very well without a Babylonian confusion of tongues the next few days.
Stephan Swinkels is the executive director and member of the board of L&E Global.