European Bar leaders were due last weekend to discuss how to better present themselves, after an embarrassing session at the American Bar Association Conference last month in which they appeared to contradict each other.
The session, entitled 'The European Lawyer', and held in Orlando, Florida, was sponsored by the Council of the Bars and Law Societies of the European Community.
It featured talks by European bar leaders including Tony Girling, Law Society president, and David Penry-Davey, chairman of the Bar of England and Wales.
The aim was to present a united front, to encourage US lawyers to use European colleagues. But there were several embarrassing moments:
The leaders of the two rival German bars both gave speeches advertising their respective associations.
Hans Jurgen Hellwig, vice-president of the Deutscher Analtverein (German Bar Association), in a talk entitled 'What European Lawyers Can Do For You', told the Americans to contact his Bar when they needed a German lawyer, and gave the address and phone number.
Then Eberhard Haas, president of the Bundesrechtsanwaltskammer (Federal Chamber of German Bars), in his speech entitled 'In case you need a German lawyer', urged the audience to contact his group.
Eugenio Gay Montalvo, president of the Spanish Bar Association, first apologised in Spanish that he could not speak English, and then read his speech in English in an unintelligible Spanish accent.
Montalvo made assertions that were later described as “outrageous” by Law Society international head Jonathan Goldsmith.
Montalvo said that in negotiations over rights of establishment, England and Germany had been adopting “a protectionist model… which was clearly restrictive for the rest of the European lawyers”, while the Spanish model was “more open and without restrictions”.
He claimed the draft directive backed the Spanish view, but the British and Germans say it was the Spanish who were being restrictive and that the Anglo-German view prevailed.
Afterwards, Goldsmith insisted that the agenda for the CCBE standing committee, held last Friday and Saturday, must include a review of the ABA conference.
The item calls for incorporated “synthesis of the presentation” for next year's ABA conference.