Commonwealth conference pulls in the crowds

Around 2,500 lawyers and judges from around the globe arrived in Vancouver last Sunday for the triennial Commonwealth Law Conference which will run until the week's end.

James Vilvany, conference co-chair, said attendance was higher than the last conference, in Cyprus in 1993, and added that a South African delegation will be attending for the first time since South Africa rejoined the Commonwealth after the end of apartheid.

Around 150 English and Welsh barristers and solicitors will attend along with about 50 Scottish lawyers and a handful from Northern Ireland. There are also delegations from Australia, New Zealand, Kenya, Jamaica, Hong Kong, Singapore, India, Malaysia and Sri Lanka.

Conference numbers have been boosted by about 1,000 members of the annual event of the Canadian Bar Association which is running alongside.

Top speakers include Canadian writer Michael Ignatief, whose book about ethnic conflict, Blood and Belonging, has just been published, and controversial lateral-thinking guru Edward de Bono, who will extol the use of creative powers in the legal profession.

Top women lawyers from South Africa and Sri Lanka will talk about women's rights and UN commissioner for human rights Brian Burdekin and an Indian supreme court judge will tackle human rights.

Law Society president Tony Girling and Bar Council chair David Penry-Davey will be attending alongside Lords Woolf Bingham and Mackay.