Early start in Boston

After Dublin, what city is more Irish? Boston of course.

stephan swinkels l&e global
Stephan Swinkels

Considering the successful turnout of the IBA conference in Dublin last year, it appears that the luck of the Irish continues with another impressive IBA annual conference.

For some, the conference already started on Sunday morning as we attended a master class facilitated by Harvard Professor Heidi Gardner, who talked about how lawyers can optimally use their capabilities to enhance their mentoring relationships for their associates and each other and make them mutually beneficial. Music to my ears!

Professor Gardner also explored how performance pressures shape leaders’, mid-level professionals’ and juniors’ propensity to engage in effective mentoring behaviors. The workshop proved very stimulating – naturally Harvard has a well-deserved reputation of having a world-class faculty. Some of the solutions offered by Professor Gardner to better deal with stress situations included drink enough water, do not forget to eat, get enough sleep and do not forget to socialise – all absolutely true, but recommendations that can at times lose their relevance in the day-to-day reality.

This year a record 6,000 people are expected to attend the conference. Even in times of crisis the IBA is able to attract a huge contingent of lawyers from all over the world. The conference will touch on a variety of topics, from climate change to human rights, from bullying and harassment in the workplace to the consolidation of legal markets and its impact on local firms, just to name a few.

The key note speaker at the opening ceremony was former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. In her own words: “Please ask questions. As I am no longer in government I can now actually answer them!” She was as impressive as ever and was quite adamant in emphasising the importance of the role the IBA can play, for example, in the battle against human trafficking.

Later this week Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court, Stephen Breyer, and former chairman of the US Federal Reserve, Paul Volcker, will also address the participants – let’s just hope that the government shutdown doesn’t affect their travel budget!

The shutdown is of course a great topic of conversation for lawyers. Fortunately, it only affects the conference slightly; just two events have to be re-scheduled. But the jokes are plenty, or as the customs officer at Logan International Airport smilingly said, after allowing the umpteenth lawyer into the US: “Do they really think that it will actually help to bring in an army of international lawyers to solve our little conflict?”

As always, the IBA provides an important networking opportunity that few venues offer. In fact, the IBA annual conference is as much about networking as it is about anything else. The fact that thousands of legal professionals, from boutique firms to legal powerhouses, from representatives of the judiciary to in-house counsels of Fortune 500 companies are all in one place is a truly unique endeavour. And economic crisis or not, many firms use the IBA to showcase their success by throwing lavish or modest cocktail receptions. I particularly am looking forward to playing ice hockey with Finish firm Castrén & Snellman and to indulge in Ukranian delights at the “Open Ukraine” reception.

All in all, it will be a week of seeing many familiar faces and making new friends, while attending insightful sessions, and mingling at the numerous extravagant receptions! Believe it or not, attorneys can sometimes be quite organised and even manage to throw a good party!

Stephan Swinkels is executive director of L&E Global