Professional melting pot
The International Bar Association has a well-deserved reputation for partying hard at its annual bash, but, says Reuben Guttman, its multinational delegates also tackle crucial issues of legal practice around the world
DUBLIN -- At the old Jameson Distillery, lawyers from across the globe danced into the night listening to a band from Long Island pumping out the music of the Irish rockers U2.
The International Bar Association -- which is meeting in the Irish capital -- is a melting pot of nationalities, languages, styles, and legal systems. The record turnout of more than 5,000 international delegates is perhaps, more than anything, a reflection of the global economy and the financial crisis -- a reminder that the impact of regulatory dereliction does not confine itself to geographic boundaries.
Even on the way to the conference centre, a taxi driver pointed out the headquarters of the agency charged with picking up the pieces of the country’s property crash and dealing with troubled real estate assets.
At a meeting of the IBA’s Anti-corruption Section, money laundering, the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, UK anti-bribery legislation and compliance enforcement with anti-corruption laws in Africa were all discussed. Those who came late were turned away at the door to a session that left some delegates standing.
‘The crimes are international, the victims are international, the float money is international, but the laws are not,’ argued UK lawyer Brian Spiro of London-based law firm BCL Burton Copeland.
The melding of different legal systems or calls for uniformity of laws are constant topics. At a meeting of the Antitrust Section, lawyers on a panel clashed over the application of US laws and the jurisdiction’s contingency fee system, whereby lawyers can be paid based on the level of damages recovered. Stephen Susman from US national law firm Susman Godfrey, probed European colleagues over whether they can take a contingency interest in cases they refer to US lawyers who file suit in America. There was no clear response from a panel of lawyers from UK, Ireland and Poland.
At a meeting sponsored by the Banking and Securities Law Sections, lawyers from Asia, North America and Europe chatted over lunch. ‘I don't know any other organisation where you can have the opportunity to meet lawyers from all over the world,’ said Michael Bulach from Luxembourg firm Wilgden Partners. ‘It's an opportunity to network and learn about systems of law that could come to our country.’