Boston variety provides spice

It’s a funny thing for a European visiting the US and recovering from jetlag, because I woke up again around 4.30 this morning ready to go to work, only to realize that the sun had yet to rise.

stephan swinkels l&e global
Stephan Swinkels

So I brewed some coffee, grabbed my laptop, and started the day early – extremely early. As the IBA conference is such a pressure cooker of activities, meetings and expected and unexpected events, there is no guarantee that the day will also end early.

Yesterday was a highly productive day, both socially and professionally. As an employment lawyer, a good part of the day is spent with fellow employment lawyers and attending the labour and employment law and discrimination law section’s panels. It is the perfect setting for exchanging experiences, developments and talking about new rules and laws implemented in each jurisdiction.

One of the sessions today is about how to retain employees. As we are considering retention again instead of large restructurings, perhaps this is a good sign for global economic recovery. Apart from attending practice group events related the area of law one is practising, there is also an opportunity to learn about and discuss other topics of interest, like law firm management or the use of technology.

The venue for the IBA conference is the Hynes Convention Center, a huge conference hall, but very convenient and well chosen. It lies in the heart of Boston, which is obviously much preferred over conference halls on the outskirts. A main attraction for many lawyers is that the convention center is opposite the Apple Store. It’s debatable whether the lawyers are spending more time at the conference or at this store shopping for the latest gadgets.

Don’t get me wrong though, it’s not all about shopping and leisure time. The hotels are bustling with small meetings, coffee sessions, quick lunches, break-outs between lawyers and sometimes whole firms, to discuss future cooperation or to exchange information. It’s ironic that at a time when everyone can Skype, face time, conference call and so on, lawyers still like to be scheming together in the spirit of a Nixon cabinet meeting. I guess there is nothing like a face-to-face meeting.

The social functions are numerous and Boston is an excellent city to organize an event. Walk along Boylston Street around 6pm and you will go from a samba and caipirinha party, complete with flip flops organized by a Brazilian firm, to Irish folk and stout, to French hors d’oeuvres and champagne. The city of Boston has never been so multicultural.

One of the highlights was a reception hosted by an American firm at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. It provided us with the unique opportunity to mingle and chat while getting a private tour through this fantastic museum. It proves that if you decide to organise an event during the IBA you have to do it well or not at all. As tonight is our own function, I can today prove my own words true.

Stephan Swinkels is executive director of L&E Global