A meeting of minds

When you have the facts on your side, argue the facts. When you have the law on your side, argue the law. When you have neither, holler.”

This advice to the aspiring advocate, said to be current among Tennessee attornies, is probably not the sort of advice English barristers go to the American Bar Association Annual Meeting to receive.

But there is much to learn at what must be the largest lawyers' educational programme put on by any one country. Those whose practices include cross-border transactions in trade, securities or white collar crime can hear of developments in the law and practice in the US from highly placed and experienced practitioners.

The same is true of developing areas of the law, environmental law or tortious duties to avoid economic loss, where our shared common law tradition means we can find the US approach invaluable in developing our own.

Advocacy tips can also be obtained, as anyone who has sat through the illuminating presentations of Mike Tiger or James McElbeney can testify. Both pack the audiences in for good reason.

The process is not only one way. The English Bar regularly produces well attended and well received presentations on English advocacy, including mock trials and hearings. The Northern Circuit, under the guidance of Gerard McDermott, the Bar Council's North American sub-committee chairman, has been especially active. This year Nigel Pascoe QC, from the Western Circuit, will be putting on his celebrated one man show: The Trial of Penn and Mead.

English barristers regularly take part in panels with US colleagues sharing our experiences in areas of procedure and substantive law.

This sharing is important. In the auditors' liability decision of Caparo, the House of Lords referred to, and relied heavily on, US decisions. The compliment was returned when the Supreme Court of California in Bily relied heavily on the decision of the Lords in Caparo.

This year I will be speaking at several meetings on developments in English law concerning the responsibility of accountants, lawyers and other professional advisers for economic loss in financial transaction. I am sure I will learn a lot from what I hear from other panelists.

It is this learning opportunity, together with the chance to make friends and contacts, which encourages so many English lawyers to attend the convention.

The English Bar has recognised the importance professionally of having its role and the abilities of its practitioners well understood by US attornies whose clients may be litigating in the UK. That is why we now have a very strong and close relationship with the section of litigation, whose membership is over 60,000.

For those who attend this year's conference it will bring pleasures and benefits, whether or not they learn to holler.