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THE Union International des Avocats has launched expansion plans which will set it on a collision course with its avowed rival, the International Bar Association.
The UIA has always been regarded as an organisation for lawyers of the French-speaking world, whereas the IBA is seen as more anglophile.
But now it has elected an Australian as its 1995 president and is holding its conference in the capital of the English-speaking world, London.
In a move away from the UIA's traditional practice of electing presidents from France or North Africa, the 1995 president will be Garry Downes QC, of Sydney. Lord Alexander QC will give a keynote speech.
UIA secretary Christopher Jackson says: "The UIA has always been francophone with an emphasis on Europe. But we would like to push out in to the English-speaking world more. We have 300 individual members, and both the Law Society and the Bar Council are affiliated." He adds: "Although we co-operate, there is no denying that the UIA and the IBA are rivals. We have a more collegiate structure than the IBA."
Leading legal figures in the UK have backed the London conference. Former Law Society presidents, Rodger Pannone, Mark Sheldon and Sir Derek Bradbeer are on its organising committee, along with leading QCs Peter Goldsmith, Ian Hunter, Nicholas Stewart and Hilary Heilbron.
Preparations are under way for this year's UIA congress in Marrakech, Morocco, which starts at the end of October.
Organisers are expected to attract 850 delegates to the three-day event, from 28 October 28 to 1 November, including UK lawyers.
Delegates will concentrate on business, human rights and professional matters. Speakers will include Ian Hunter QC, of Essex Court Chambers, and Jonathan Melrose, of Simmons & Simmons.