IBA Conference 2012: Dublin

No-one would devise a week-long programme of business card swapping and drinking. One needs a defensible pretext. For the IBA, the pretext is the series of workshops and lectures delivered in precisely the sort of slightly darkened environment that the schmoozing excesses of the previous night demand.

IBA Conference, Dublin

Sean Jones QC, Employment, 11 KBW
Sunday 30th September, 12.30 GMT

I must confess; I love the lectures. This year the range of topics was breath-taking: Torture (it’s bad); Is Water Law a sexy career for young lawyers? (Absolutely not); How do we tackle Human Over-population? (Selective culling and compulsory X Factor). There were barn-storming performances (Justice Frank Clarke somehow made e-disclosure seem utterly compelling) and some leaden reading from PowerPoint decks that sucked your soul out through your eyes. Mostly, there were far too many speakers. I attended a morning of discrimination lectures. Of the two and a half hours available 15 mins was spent telling speakers to hurry up; 15 minutes were used up by speakers telling us what material they would be skipping as time was too short to allow it to be dealt with and the remaining time was divided between 16 different people.

The reason for the over-abundance of speakers is association politics. A speaking slot is a reward for hard work on a committee. They are highly valued and distributed, in some sections, without any apparent regard to whether the recipient has anything useful to say or much in the way of talent for public-speaking. It leads to some oddly constituted panels. The first discrimination lecture I attended was delivered by six white men and one white woman. The last, a consideration of disability rights, concluded with a Spanish lawyer informing us that in Spain, lazy disabled people shirked work knowing that a quota system made sacking them impossible. This caused the one member of the 7 strong panel that actually had a disability to express her disappointment and amazement that anyone had thought that a fitting note upon which to close the session.

But here is the joy of the IBA Conference: for every buffoon insisting that the greatest injustice in modern Employment Law is the absence of a treaty dealing with the international secondment of senior executives, one gets to hear from a lawyer who, as a young man, sat down at a table and helped to negotiate away Apartheid. There is always inspiration to be found.

Angelo Anglani, Partner, NCTM
Friday 5th October, 10:00 GMT

When you go there, everything can happen: you may amiably talk with the best arbitrators around, listening to their interesting insights and drops of wisdom; or, you may come across youg hopefuls, very well prepared and anxious to jump into the arena. Or it may happened that you sit close to unknown and silent persons unwilling to have any decent communication with you, or in any case unworhty of any attention. Yesterday I was lucky: I spent the dinner talking nicely with a great arbitrator, good and young colleagues enthusiastic of arbitration. Perhaps, the dinner was too long (as well as the speeches), but the location was very nice and so the company.

This morning, a great and well attended session about class actions and mass actions (complications and nightmares that can be found in cross border cases) took place. Excellent speakers [see picture] and great interest from the floor.

Then, as a tradition, the litigation lunch, another event that is usually sold out well before the beginning of the Conference.

There is no stop in this frenetic week and this mixture of promotional purposes, exchange of views, leisure and duties, seems to catch more and more lawyers every years around the world. Does it work? I believe, on balance yes, as long as you do not let yourself be overwhelmed by too many things, up to getting lost; if this happen, you may run dry in a world that, at a superficial sight, may seem empty and useless.

Joanne Harris, Special Reports and Europe Editor, The Lawyer
Thursday 4th October, 18:00 GMT

The IBA winds down today after a week of debating, talking and meeting. Although many people have already left Dublin, keynote events still to come include an address by former Irish president Mary Robinson and of course the closing party this evening.

The organisation of the Dublin conference has been praised by many, with the main criticism being that there are not enough meeting places in the convention centre itself. Hotels nearby are doing a roaring trade in tea and coffee as lawyers split off for their private meetings.

The other major criticism, voiced by even stalwart supporters of the IBA, is that there are simply too many sessions with too many panellists, forcing several into a ‘talking heads’ situation rather than an interactive discussion of the issues. Does every IBA section – and there are many – need a full conference programme? Probably not. The sessions are also long. Three hours is a big commitment, especially if you’re also trying to meet that elusive firm from Latin America you’ve been just missing all week.

But overall even the sceptical first-timers have been won over by the sheer variety of the delegates and the quality of the event and the networking. Independent firms vastly outnumbered the internationals, again highlighting the need for solid referral relationships in these troubled times.

The real winner has probably been Dublin and Ireland’s lawyers, who have showcased a city that even in the depths of recession can give a warm, friendly and often raucous welcome. Next year’s hosts, Boston, have something to live up to.

See you next year.

IBA blog: Yun Kriegler, Asia editor, The Lawyer
3 October 2012

For most delegates, it’s not their first time attending the IBA annual conference, but many will tell you the uniquely warm Irish hospitality has made it a better than average experience. Perhaps, that’s why it has attracted over 5,000 lawyers around the world to Dublin – the largest IBA gathering ever.

A friendly, chatty taxi driver in Dublin told me on my way to the conference that he had taken a New Zealand delegate earlier that day, who lived in Paris for five years. She told the taxi driver that she felt like she had spoken to him more than all the conversations she had with local Parisians over the past five years.

The local friendliness aside, it’s the great networking opportunities that ultimately draw lawyers to the event from around the world. This year, 450 of the 5,200 delegates are from Asia. Even though the Asian delegations account for a small percentage of the total, about 9 per cent, their presence has been felt and some have even been popular members at the IBA conference.

China, needless to say, remains an highly interesting and equally mysterious market for all foreign lawyers. Here are a couple of examples.

In the session of BRICS: trade and investment activities in 2012 and beyond, AllBright partner Donna Li and June He partner Janet Hui were the two Chinese speakers among the 10 panellists. The queue of lawyers from elsewhere waiting to have a chat after the session was visibly longer than usual.

Zhong Lun, traditionally less known in the international community, has raised its profile in Europe following its May 2012 office opening in London. The representatives from the large Chinese firm have been inundated with invitations to social events and receptions during the IBA. Slaughter and May, William Fry and LK Shields are among a long list of their hosts.

It’s not surprising that as more growth opportunities are being generated in Asia, Western lawyers’ relationships with Asian lawyers are vital. But with liberalisation taking place in more Asian legal services markets, there has never been more imperative for Asian firms to foster stronger links with their foreign counterparts.

Korea’s opening legal market is definitely a highlight in the past year. About 20 of the 25 Korean delegates are from the top four local Korean firms, namely Bea Kim & Lee, Kim & Chang, Lee & Co and Yulchon. One of the partners told me that client and team poaching by international firms in Seoul is inevitable. Although full liberalisation is still five years away, the urgency for leading Korean firms to prepare themselves for fierce competition is already high.

Matters relating to Singapore and Malaysia’s opening legal markets are also being hotly debated between delegates at the IBA. While some local lawyers from these two countries may voice their objection to the liberalisation move, India’s slow progress in this area drew some criticism even from its own lawyers. Allen & Overy’s break up with India’s Trilegal was a frequently quoted event during IBA. A partner from Mumbai-based AZB & Partners noted publicly that “a couple can’t stay engaged if there is no hope for marriage. India’s closed legal market is also hurting the local legal profession.” AZB ended its relationship with Clifford Chance two years ago, and now is using opportunities such as the IBA conferences to establish friendship with a wide range of foreign firms.

Japanese firms, facing a shrinking domestic market, are also increasingly looking outside for more opportunities. Anderson Mori & Tomotsune, for example, sent 13 partners to attend this IBA conference in Dublin. The firm, where the current IBA president Akira Kawamura is a partner, has the largest delegation group among Japanese firms. One of the 13 partners told me, he was most interested in knowing the latest developments in the jurisdictions where Japanese investors are looking at, such as Brazil, South East Asia and Europe.

The 5,200 lawyers may come from different countries, practise different laws, speak different languages and have different strategies in developing international businesses, but during the IBA, they all have a common priority – having fun and making new friends.

Joanne Harris, Special Reports and Europe Editor, The Lawyer
Wednesday 3rd October, 10:00 GMT

They say the IBA conference is all about networking and all the evidence so far supports the theory. In just a few hours I’ve managed to meet lawyers from a number of firms I’ve never come across before from countries all over the world.

Each has a different story about how their particular market is developing and how their firm is doing in what are certainly difficult times.

But the atmosphere is far from gloomy. Everyone is making the most of the networking opportunities in a variety of spectacular Dublin venues. Last night Irish firm Mason Hayes & Curran hosted a packed-out reception at the Dining Hall at Trinity College, which went on long past the official closing time and saw lawyers eating Irish cheese and listening to an excellent Irish band.

There was also a more intimate networking event for the members of the Meritas network at the Merrion Hotel, which has previously hosted the Troika negotiating Ireland’s bailout and several US presidents – although not Barack Obama, according to Stephen Walker, managing partner of host firm Whitney Moore. And Ukraine’s Vasil Kisil & Partners was celebrating its 20th birthday at the fashionable Circle Club; the catering staff had worked hard to create authentic Ukrainian dishes including a delicious borscht.

After a late night, the best way of recovering is of course a proper Irish breakfast in the company of Germany’s Luther in what used to be the headquarters of the Bank of Ireland. No bankers to be seen this morning, only lawyers from all over the world getting to know each other. Among the networking stories so far are tales of bumping into Bulgarians outside a lift and promptly being instructed on a Bulgarian deal. Another attendee told me that at his first IBA conference many years ago as a young lawyer he met an in-house counsel from a major corporate – two months later he had a job with them. I suppose that’s why people keep coming back.

Tim Strong, Partner, Taylor Wessing
Monday 1st October, 15.50 GMT

I haven’t counted the names in the list of participants for this conference, but it is 200 pages long and in small enough type I have to squint to read it.

Reputedly, there are over 4,500 people registered. Not surprising, perhaps; we’re in Dublin, a great city. Late last week, the IBA confirmed #ibadublin as the hashtag for the week. At 3.30pm on the first day, a search shows barely 30 tweets using it today, a number of which are from me. So where is everyone? Are they watching but not engaging? Interestingly I’ve asked around 20 delegates about Twitter and not one of them uses it. A roomful yesterday gave a nervous laugh when someone suggested a tweet wall in a session. Of course, that’s not a scientific approach, but it doesn’t suggest widespread familiarity or engagement with the medium. So, we’re going to try a little experiment. If you’re watching but don’t want to engage online, how about IRL? Or would you like to find out more about Twitter and why it could benefit you? We’ll be arranging an informal tweetup while we’re here, so watch the hashtag for details.

Don’t ask what the IBA can do for you…
Stephan Swinkels, L&E Global, Attorney at Law and Executive Director
Monday 1st October, 10.30 GMT

The annual IBA conference started on Sunday night with the traditional opening party. After Vancouver in 2010, Dubai in 2011 it is now Dublin’s turn to host more than 4,000 international lawyers from all over the world. A fact that is impossible to go unnoticed for Dublin’s 530,000 inhabitants evidenced by the fact that Dublin’s prime minster Enda Kenny agreed to officially open the conference.

He would be the last in a long line of speakers at the opening ceremony held in the Royal Dublin Society. Akira Kawamura, the IBA’s president, surprised the delegates to welcome everyone to Dubai. But after this slip of the tongue, he was able to charm the Irish lawyers by greeting them with a Gaelic salute. Kawamura interestingly referred to Irelands most famous son, John F. Kennedy, by requesting the thousands in the hall not to ask what the IBA can do for them but what they can do for the IBA. He is of course correct, but the timing was not ideal, as this week would be impossible without the voluntary contribution of so many lawyers acting as panelists, speakers, moderators or hosts to the numerous breakfasts, lunches, receptions and diners that take place all over town during this week.

After the Japanese IBA president it was Nobel price laureate Joseph Stiglitz’ turn to address the delegates. A big event, not only for the IBA apparently, but also for Ireland: the summary of his speech was the headline in the business section of the Irish Times on Monday morning.

Stiglitz noted that austerity is almost never the solution to solve a financial crisis. Unless the country in case is small and the government stimulus can be replaced by exports. This made only a few Dutch lawyers smiling. It must be a bit cynical for Stiglitz: the worse the news is he brings, the more honors he receives as the messenger of such news. And he does nothing to soften the message. His closing sentence was quite illustrative: “These are as troubled as times as we faced in three quarters of a century”. “Thank you”.

Finally prime minister, or Toaiseach, Enda Kenny opened the IBA Annual Conference. A very charming speaker, he could not have better promoted Ireland. He also quite pointedly stated that he hoped that lawyers were better able to create an atmosphere of trust and believe, something he misses between the leaders of the European Union. This problem was solved later that night when Europe finally acted as one, with trust, believe and vision by beating the USA at the Ryder Cup.

Stephan Swinkels is executive director and member of the board of L&E Global, an alliance of premium employment law firms.

Sean Jones QC, Employment, 11 KBW
Sunday 30th September, 12.30 GMT

As ever, Dublin’s arms are spread wide in welcome. The economic crisis means that Dublin’s handshake me be firmer than is entirely comfortable, it’s eyes a little desperate, but there is no doubting that it is pleased to be hosting this year’s IBA conference. What of the lawyers, pouring in from every jurisdiction, what are they hoping Dublin will have to offer?

For some, the conference is the place to try to realise a marketing dream; to network oneself into a lucrative International practice. For others, it is the next stage in a decades long campaign to nudge themselves ever higher in the IBA’s complex system of committees; wringing esteem from from colleagues one planning meeting at a time. The straw hats and polo shirts worn by so many American delegates suggest they are here for the golf – or perhaps a painful lesson in Ireland’s climate. For many, the conference offers a chance to put aside the strip-lit court waiting rooms, irascible clients and deadline pressure and recapture for a moment the sustaining illusion that the Law is a glamorous profession.

For those keen to mix some pleasure with their business, the IBA organises a busy programme of social events. That, however, is rarely where the action is. Even in difficult economic times, firms compete for the prize of throwing the best party. It can take years to identify where the most fun is to be had and finagle an invitation (or, failing that, acquire the necessary gate-crashing skills). Old hands know a short-cut: befriend a Nigerian Energy Lawyer. Wherever the most fun is being had, they will be at it’s centre.

Despite the party venues being awash with alcohol, the conference can be a sobering experience for barristers. Confronted by the hard business, billion dollar reality of the global firms, it is hard to escape the feeling that one is a member of a small craft industry – engaged in legal market equivalent of hand-knitting Aran sweaters. Other delegates are often less interested in our cutting-edge, technology-enabled, team-focused grip on 21st century legal advice and advocacy services and distressingly fascinated by the more anachronistic elements of the Bar. It can begin to feel as if one is wearing pantaloons and a ruff. You’ll have to excuse me, I have to slip into a fresh doublet and hose before this evening’s opening ceremony.

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LATEST TWEETS (updated 2nd October 13:30)

Mason Hayes & Curran ‏@MHCLawyers
May the road rise to meet you-May the wind be always at your back-May the sun shine warm upon your face-until we meet again #ibadublin

IBA News ‏@IBAnews
Final day at #ibadublin: 20+ sessions/events today incl. Rule of Law Symposium http://bit.ly/Q0yOvH , Construction Comm. excursion

Matthew Denney ‏@MatthewJDenney

Goodbye #ibadublin. Thanks for all the parties, Guinness and business cards. Oh and the extra couple of lbs on the waist. #saladsfromnowon

Jeremy Hopkins ‏@Jezhop
#ff Boyz on Tour, top tweeting from #ibadublin @strong_tim @Bert_Digby @seanjones11kbw

Francisco J. Roggero ‏@PanchoRoggero
Camino a mi conferencia en Dublin “The true meaning of success: what really makes you an outstanding lawyer” #IBA #Dublin

Meg Strickler ‏@Megstrickler
Last day #ibadublin 🙂 http://pic.twitter.com/STIK9eW3

Law Society Scotland ‏@Lawscot
Our #IBADublin fringe event gets underway. Packed room of people. http://pic.twitter.com/03meNjcQ

The Law Society E&W ‏@LSInternational
Enter a competition to win law books at the Law Society stand at the #ibadublin

Sean Jones ‏@seanjones11kbw

#ibadublin it seems that when it comes to astroturfing both FTC and EU have found temptation to swinge overwhelming

IBA News ‏@IBAnews

Today at #ibadublin in Auditorium Level 3; 1pm – interview with Juan Mendez, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture http://bit.ly/P81FRQ

Daragh O Brien ‏@daraghobrien

Here’s a question: if you are an ostensibly personal blogger/reviewer based in Irl but fall into FTC “endorser” category…(1/2) #ibadublin

Daragh O Brien ‏@daraghobrien

Listening to a great presentation on #astroturfing at #ibadublin first encountered AstroTurf via this http://web.archive.org/web/20011010175610/http:/www.gopteamleader.com/activities.asp

Matteo G.P. Flora ‏@lastknight

@mschirmbacher: .@lastknight Infront of 70 lawyers on the Zero, First and Second Moment of Truth. #ibadublin ” hope it was Clear enough!


Peppe Santoro ‏@VentureLawIE

First blood in the Dublin law firm marketing derby goes to @MHC #ibadublin http://pic.twitter.com/pG8F5eN8

The role of arbitration in banking and finance disputes this morning. Looking fwd to it having been involved in #PRIME Finance #ibadublin

Around 50 working sessions taking place today at conf #ibadublin see http://bit.ly/VhBYOIfor details


world map

Delegate breakdown by area:
West Asia – 119
Australasia & Oceania – 121
North Asia – 162
South Asia – 168
Latin America – 402
North America – 632
Africa – 969
Europe – 2609