Getting down to business in Berlin

What limits should be applied to the use of human genetic information? How are electronic developments affecting the legal profession? And what are the current factors influencing success at law school?

These are among the subjects that will be examined at the upcoming 26th biennial conference of the International Bar Association.

The conference, my last as president, brings together the three IBA sections – business law, general practice, and energy and natural resources law – and covers issues ranging from the independence of the judiciary to the economics of antitrust.

More than 130 working sessions have been scheduled for the week, as almost 3,000 law-yers drawn from the 183 countries in which the IBA is represented converge upon Berlin.

The IBA's extensive social programme offers networking opportunities for everyone, with events ranging from a new members' reception and a women lawyers' lunch to a German beer and music evening.

Legal practitioners from the Asia Pacific region, Europe, Africa and North and South America have registered to attend the conference and 24 lawyers have been awarded conference scholarships from the Section on Business Law.

The scholarships contribute to the cost of airfares, hotel expenses and registration fees. They also entitle recipients to attend a series of basic courses on the fundamentals of international business practice.

The conference will also include meetings of the IBA council as well as all sections, standing committees and the Human Rights Institute.

Members will address a number of key issues being debated by the international legal community, such as the rights of foreign legal practitioners and the introduction of multidisciplinary partnerships.

Elections will be held for all officer posts, including IBA president, vice-president, secretary-general and treasurer. The incoming chairman of each section will also be introduced at the close of the event.

A top line-up of speakers has been assembled for the week-long programme, including The Hon Mrs Justice Mary Arden of London's Royal Courts of

Justice and the UN's special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Dato' Param Cumaraswamy.

Professor Dr Roman Hertzog, President of Germany, will be providing the keynote address at the conference's opening ceremony, a multimedia production that will also include speeches by myself, Germany's federal minister of justice and Berlin's mayor.

The conference will be preceded by a human rights seminar, a three-day event that opens at Berlin's Estrel Hotel on 17 October.

The seminar will examine the provision of legal education, access to justice, the independence of the judiciary and the impact of corruption on human rights.

Organised jointly by the IBA Human Rights Institute and the general professional programme, the seminar will be attended by Bar leaders and senior representatives of the world's legal profession.

A new fundraising initiative, the “One Dollar per Lawyer for Human Rights” campaign, will be launched during the seminar. It calls for a US$1 donation from each of the 2.5 million lawyers estimated to be practising around the globe.

The funds raised by the project – which will run throughout next year's IBA 50th anniversary celebrations – will be used to continue the institute's promotion and maintenance of global human rights.

Registrations for both events are still open, although delegates should book as soon as possible.