IBA conference 2009

By Philip Rodney, posted 8 October @ 14.51

The last big gathering I was at was Glastonbury. The IBA conference does have some similarities: genuine camaraderie, lots of middle aged men with bad haircuts, and a credibility hierarchy that depends on how many previous festivals – I mean conferences – you have attended.

Madrid is a wonderful city. The conference centre is terrific. The only problem is that they are a 45-minute journey apart in the rush hour.

On Monday, I attended a session ‘How senior lawyers can contribute more to their firms’. Apparently we can work forever. But one speaker told a story about the senior partner in a City firm who kept going until he was 94. His ritual was to come into the office, close the door, take off his trousers and then walk about the City until he was picked up by the police and taken back. Memo to self. Quit while the going is good.

On Tuesday, I was invited out for dinner at a restaurant that served one delicacy  – piglets aged less than 21 days boiled in their own juices. Only trouble is, I am Jewish, vegetarian and very squeamish. I should have said something before – but hadn’t – to the embarrassment of my gracious and generous hosts. The craic was wonderful though.   

Last night, I had my Superman moment. At a private dinner at the superfunky Hotel Me, our hostess’s handbag was snatched. A couple of us gallantly chased the thief through the lobby, apprehended him and retrieved the handbag. Further memo to self. Embellish story in retelling to the kids.

Philip Rodney is a partner at Burness

By Jamon Eileen, posted 8 October @ 12.25

Is the IBA conference (a) the best fun you have had all year (b) a worthwhile professional commitment (c) a waste of time or (d) the profession at its worst – backslapping and smug?

The case for (c) or (d) includes-

Big carbon footprint flights, paper, hot air, taxis etc.The IBA has few green credentials.

Cost? Even at current charge out rates (remember the so-called “chargeable” hour?) the opportunity cost of being here must be eye-watering. Surely?

Unhealthy? Fatty ham, deep fried canapes and acidic cava take their toll.

So can you justify it?(a) or (b)? Well the answers lie in the wedge of buisness cards which pack your pockets and the bloated to-do list that you go home with.

For all the conference calls and red-lined redrafts technology has failed to eliminate the essentially human and personal side of being an effective lawyer. And building the relationships that make that work does take time…… and alcohol. eBay hasn’t cracked it yet.

Some good ideas around to be picked up too.

Your writer is a (b) on this one.

Another day of patchily-attended sessions and well-attended receptions/dinners. My dinner was in a smallish classy restaurant that reminded me of the place where boy meets two girls at the beginning of Vicky Christina Barcelona.  In my dreams.

Couple of good drinks do’s. Is it just me or are nearly all Canadians the same? Nice and consistent but that’s about it – can’t even remember which one it was that threw the tapas fest that I went to. (Whoops just remembered they are hosting next year – could well be much heathier in Vancouver. Its not Espagna though- mountie or matador, ladies?)

Not many Americans here – could be the swine flu or the threat of lunch at 2pm and dinner at 10pm.
Helped a damsel in distress. Poor thing had run out of buisness cards (bit like going to St Trop without your cozzie) and I showed her how to E her details via bluetooth.One in the eye for global warming.

Three cheers for Spanish culture and lifestyle. Few surprises there though for those who took the trouble to work their way through the Almodovar boxed set a couple of times in preparation. Smug, me?

Chris Carroll

Chris Carroll

By Chris Carroll, posted 7 October @ 16.45

The IBA, if it is to be done properly, is not to undertaken by those with faint hearts, weak constitutions or pre-existing problems of the liver.

Properly executed it comprises a remorseless series of pre-arranged breakfasts, coffee meetngs, lunches, more coffees , cocktail parties, wine tastings, dinners and night caps.

Yesterday – breakfast meeting with a German firm at their hotel. Then sequential meetings with Ukranian and  Czech firms. To a lunch jointly hosted by German and Italian firms. A quick meeting with a Polish firm was followed by attendance at three drinks parties hosted by German, Italian and Dutch firms followed by a dinner hosted by Travers Smith for representaives from French, German, Austrian and Dutch firms. To bed at 2 followed by a breakfast meeting at 8 this morning.

More of the same for the rest of today including a lunch hosted by us for 12 and a dinner hosted by us for another 12 interspersed with a wine tasting at a Spanish firm. Monday was like yesterday and tomorrow will be like today. Groundhog day.. Home on Friday!

Chris Carroll is a partner at Travers Smith

Juan Carlos Machuca

Juan Carlos Machuca

By Juan Carlos Machuca, posted 7 October @ 14.27

We are halfway through one intense week at the 2009 IBA Conference in Madrid, opened last Sunday by His Majesty King Juan Carlos of Spain.

Madrid, waking up from a dream after losing the 2016 Olympic Games (parabéns to Rio and my Brazilian colleagues!) has received with its charm and sun 5,000 lawyers from all over the world. It is the most visited IBA Conference ever, which in the current economic turmoil seems to be nothing less than a huge success.

Certainly the madrileños taxi drivers are extremely happy with our presence, so is the hotel and catering industry. One gets overwhelmed when seeing the programme and sessions ahead and the number of attendees.

This year there are some words enjoying a high popularity in the different panels, debates or coffee breaks: crisis, insolvency, restructuring, distress, bailouts, credit crunch, new financing, recession…perhaps one would say gloomy, but the reality of my experience these days in the different events and during the corridor conversations in the Madrid Conference Centre is that the ongoing international crisis presents challenges but brings new and exciting opportunities, new trends for transactions, new roles for lawyers (are we reinventing the profession?), new areas and emerging markets to explore, develop or becoming a business revolution (particularly enjoyed yesterday the talk at the Asia Pacific Regional Forum lunch by Ms Margaret Chen, director for Asia of Telefonica International).

It is the best week to improve or build up your international networking during the work sessions, the bilateral meetings between firms or at many of the social events, cocktails or guided tours organised by the firms (it seems that the Real Madrid made an impact on some of the delegates on Monday…).

Let’s continue working and networking the rest of the week in the Capital of Spain, “a modern, dynamic and open country”….in the words of our King last Sunday.

Juan Carlos Machuca is London managing partner at Uria Menendez

By Jamon Eileen, posted 7 October @ 13.00

“They are not our best friend, just a good friend.”

“We used to have a joint venture but now it’s a non exclusive informal alliance.”

Just another Madrid conversation rattling round my head, as the great Lou Reed almost said.

Is this the language of billion dollar buisnesses, the playground or the marriage therapy couch? Hard to tell.

Day two of bloggery and the goss continues to flow like riocha at a decent Spanish lunch. Confit of suckling pig (whether you like it not) and lunch till 4.30pm are tangible evidence of a haughty and commendable lack of interest in what the rest of the world thinks of spanish practices. The samey and bland tide of globalisation has yet to rise and wash away the way of life here.

Headcount at the conference has risen to 5000 (2500 brace if you either (a) tend to count things like that at this time of year, dahling or (b) think that whole lot would be best shot). How are their firms surviving without them? Frenzied and ostentatious punching away at your BlackBerry in the corner isn’t work, you know, especially when you know (and everyone else suspects) it’s Brickbreaker (or, worse still, scabbing for the Lawyer) that is occupying you.

The curious encampment of little stands which is the spiritual epicentre of the whole conference centre offers little to feed the soul – unless you can find sustinence in those bibles of the legal world – the directories – so many of which they are giving away here. Hotel bedside tables next?

Best invite of the day? Wine tasting at the offices of one of Madrid’s finest.

Worst invite of the day? Coffee at the conference centre; think the cosy intimacy of Clifford Chance’s reception on a grey bank holiday Monday.

Crimewatch has been alerted to the unexplained loss by a UK law firm partner of his briefcase. No passport or the like in it, so why is he stressed? He swears that the contents of client accounts are “safely” tucked up in a “pucker” bank. We can only hope that there are no top shelf items sneakily placed in it by the thief before it is duly returned to its indignant owner.

A reader competition: How many Scrabble combinations can you get out of “What general counsel really want”? Should be able to give you my score by the end of this session.

Weather has broken and a deluge is expected. Interesting to speculate how they might pair up to get onto the arc. Or the Titanic, for that matter.

By Mark Beer, posted 7 October @ 07.03

“I always make money at the IBA” said Selima, a class action lawyer from Philadelphia, who sat next to me on the plane to Madrid for this year’s IBA Annual Conference.

Madrid is extraordinary in every sense, and for that reason was a good choice as a host city. The gathering of around 5,000 lawyers would have most cities quaking in their boots – and quickly fixing the potholes in the streets to thwart the actions of Selima and her ilk. However, Madrid took it all in its inimitable laid back style.

It wasn’t clear what brought people to this year’s conference. Certainly the economic situation hasn’t made firms flush with funds. Perhaps it is the realisation of the importance of building contacts and networks that has made this the biggest ever annual event.

The conference is grand by any scale, with the programme alone running to 172 pages. Topics under the spotlight range from nuclear power projects, Aboriginal women’s issues and the well attended ‘Show me the money! Lawyers, money and conflict’.

The conference had its humourous moments. I was approached by a US judge and lambasted for the state of human rights and women’s rights in the UAE. This was minutes before a lecture on human rights abuses called ‘Liberty, Legality and Security – the key issues on torture, detention without charge and extraordinary rendition’. The irony was lost on Her Honour, although I did have the opportunity to explain that the first female judge in the UAE was in our courts and that much of the judicial, arbitration and mediation facilities in Dubai are run by women or have women in senior management positions.

We were honoured to have had the King of Spain address the gathering at the opening ceremony, as well as the opportunity to see the Real Madrid stadium in all its glory on Monday evening for cocktails, a loose term that involves considerable amounts of dried meat, cheese and wine of all varieties.

One could analyse the benefits of such a gathering, but if the conference does nothing else than allow lawyers and judges from around the world to better understand and learn from each other it will have served its purpose; namely to unite lawyers in the promotion of the rule of law, the delivery of justice and the improvement and protection of communities around the world.

Mark Beer is writing in his personal capacity, but is also the Registrar to the DIFC Courts in Dubai.

Michael O'Kane

Michael O’Kane

By Michael O’Kane, posted 6 October @ 22.53

It’s day two of the IBA Annual Conference and Madrid is proving to be a fabulous city venue with 5,200 lawyers spending their evenings spinning between parties and their days networking at the conference centre on the outskirts of town.

Monday’s sessions were ubiquitous, ranging from how senior lawyers can contribute to their firm, to the protection of aboriginal rights.

On Monday night 4,000 lawyers went to the Bernabeu stadium and home of Real Madrid . After a tour of the trophy room, the reception was pitch-side and fizzing on a balmy night. I met a group of South African lawyers and agreed to do a house swap with one for the World Cup next year. I just need to find his business card again…

After that it was off to Garrigues, one of Spain’s largest law firms, for flamenco and tapas in its fabulous gardens. The live band was  electrifying, but when the dancers dived into the crown to grab unwilling dance volunteers like riot police snatch squads it was time for me to flee.

Tuesday’s sessions were exceptional. In the morning Gerry McCann gave a powerful speech on coping with defamatory allegations in the media, relating to the abduction of his daughter Madeleine. Closer to my own practice there was a solid session on insider dealing and market abuse with my former department head Monty Raphael being his persuasive provocative self.

Tonight was a chance for my panel members to meet and chew the fat over drinks – before tomorrow morning’s session on international cartels – followed by the Houthoff party and the Bar Council reception which was very well attended. Now off to bed. Early start in the morning.

Michael O’Kane is a partner at Peters & Peters

By Jamon Eileen, posted 6 October @ 12.13

Too long for a tweet and too short for a full blown discursive blog of the TMI running commentary sort I’m afraid.

Nonetheless here is a dispatch from the IBA in Madrid as solicited by The Lawyer (too cheap to pay an NUJ member to come).

5,000 lawyers all in one place. Makes you wonder how the wheels of global justice can keep turning without them/us……..

Usual round of panel sessions (“tell me how you see that issue in Mauritius, Brian”) and drinks parties. Running out of euphamisms to describe the private equity market in the UK and could use some help from your readers here. Challenging, quiet etc have become tedious.

Invite-to-die-for for lads of both sexes last night was the Uria Menendez pitch invasion at the Bernabau (Real Madrid’s stadium for those of you whose teams are languishing in the Conference). Culture was to be found at the Thyssen collection courtesy of Madrid firm Perez Llorca, where your writer was to be found (of course). Lots of hospitality (tricky to say that if you are Spanish).

The conference itself is in Madrid’s equivalent of Neasden which makes logistics a bit tricky. Boris is going to have a lot harder if London is ever to see anything like the Metro here. Rumours of a mugging of one of the delegates are doing the rounds but are as naught compared with the armed hijacking that was said to have taken place at a previous IBA. Vivid imaginations or just material for more lawyer jokes?

More languages being spoken than you can count-sure I overheard someone speaking Elvish this morning.

For an industry in crisis people are in pretty good cheer but understandably focussed on getting something of value out of the trip-even if its only comparing notes on how they are coping with the downturn. Not returning might help the overcapacity issue……