Fighting for fairness

Dianna Kempe, IBA secretary general and the highest ranking woman in the organisation, is a busy woman. The only contender in this year's IBA elections to face a challenge, she has an action-packed agenda.

She was in London at the opening of the legal year, which coincided with a Bar leaders' meeting to discuss the liberalisation of lawyers, a topic which will soon be considered at a World Trade Organisation meeting. And then there were meetings to discuss her idea for a new women's group for internationally minded lawyers.

Regrettably, she says, there is still a perception that the IBA is a men's organisation. Hence her move to hold a women lawyers' lunch where like-minded women can get “to know each other and learn skills from each other”.

The lunch will be useful to “gauge reaction from women members that there is an interest”. Already, she says, there is enormous interest.

Kempe is not interested in heading the group and hopes the lunch will attract women who will “try to take it on as there is a need for it to happen”.

The organisation, if it goes ahead, will take the same format as the American Bar Association's Women's International Association (WIN). Kempe, who is a member of WIN, has already asked if the new group can adopt the name as “many of their members are also ours”.

But while women's issues are close to Kempe's heart, it is only one of many matters on her agenda. She concedes that she is on too many committees.

But Kempe is not shy when it comes to tackling the problems facing the profession worldwide and believes these should be tackled head-on.

Multidisciplinary practices is one such issue, as is the foreign lawyers' practice rules. The IBA is meeting with the WTO in Geneva after the Berlin conference, where it will receive a full brief on legal services.

“How the IBA is going to facilitate the WTO and GATS is all about the liberalisation of lawyers services and not internal,” Kempe says. The subject will be discussed in Berlin before the meeting as will the IBA's long-awaited foreign legal consultants' guidelines.

Kempe acknowledges that the subject of guidelines is difficult and that while 80 per cent of the membership will be happy with the rules, 20 per cent will have some concerns. She says: “The guidelines are not 'thou must do'. You can't say that to a country.” She adds that instead they would be useful for local Bar associations in some countries to take to their governments.

The IBA is “particularly well placed because of the because membership to become a voice for the legal profession,” she says. After the meeting with the WTO Kempe is proposing that a memo be prepared for all Bar associations which would explain what was happening.

Kempe is also preparing for the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the IBA, a high-profile event that will take place in New York next June.

Of her plans to gain re election as secretary-general, Kempe says she will continue to do what she had always done.

She aims to do more marketing and public relations for the IBA. And she is in the middle of setting up a managing partners forum, a subject close to her heart as managing partner of Bermuda firm Appleby Spurling & Kempe.