'If your dreams don't scare you, they are not big enough' - Europe's young lawyers mark association's 30th anniversary

Young lawyers and bar leaders commemorate the founding of the European Young Bar Association at Lisbon conference
Photo taken during opening speeches of - from left to right - Izabela Konopacka, Vladimir Palamarciuc and Panagiotis Perakis

(l-r) Izabela Konopacka, Vladimir Palamarciuc and Panagiotis Perakis

Delegates from 32 member groups across Europe attended a three-day conference in Lisbon to mark the 30th anniversay of the European Young Bar Association (EYBA).

Addressing the conference were current EYBA president Vladimir Palamarciuc, from Moldova, and Panagiotis Perakis, the Greek president of the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE), which represents national bar associations. Poland's Izabela Konopacka, the first vice-president of the Federation of European Bars (FBE), representing Europe's local law societies, also spoke.

Palamarciuc addressed the need for young lawyers to maintain professional, practical, and ethical standards in a complex legal world. By maintaining a broader perspective on legal practice, they would retain the flexibility to deal with crises as they arose, such as the global financial crisis of 2008 or the failure of US bank SVB. 

By doing so, they could anticipate the challenges of new technology, such as cryptocurrency, e-commerce and financial obligations, applying established principles to recent legal developments.  

Perakis, whose association is considered the official representative of legal professions in Europe, especially by EU institutions, outlined the CCBE's policy work to delegates, the majority of whom hailed from EU countries.

He cited the CCBE's "continuous production of positions, justifications, and arguments regarding the profession and its core values" and said it was was engaged in a "continuous fight to promote and defend these values". 

Referring to technology, especially in dispute resolution, he highlighted the rise of online dispute resolution in Estonia and Denmark as an example of significant change, just as the surge in online legal information, including judgments, had increased public access to information previously held by lawyers. 

“Technology is here to stay and will continue to run even at ever greater speed,” he said. “It must be that lawyers and not others are in the driver's seat.”

Click here to sign up to receive GLP's daily newsletter

Perakis outlined the importance of professional independence and self-regulation for lawyers and bar associations. The profession, he said, would need to prove its resilience, adjustability, and stability without compromising on core values to meet modern needs. 

He added that core values could only be defended by independent legal professions, which were fundamental to maintaining rights to access to justice, the rule of law, and professional obligations of privilege and confidentiality. 

He said he had established a young lawyers committee to facilitate their input on policy and training issues regarding entry to the profession, diversity and gender, and the attractiveness of the work across Europe. 

Konopacka outlined the FBE's work in representing more than 220 local and regional bar associations and noted that both the FBE and EYBA had a common purpose: promoting the exchange of knowledge and good practice within Europe's legal profession.

Highlighting the themes of the EYBA event, she said: “Business as usual does not exist anymore. We live in an era of constant change where what we thought of as science fiction only moments ago is an everyday reality.”

She noted that lawyers were defined by "creativity, compassion and the ability to make moral judgments" as well as legal and technological ones.
Diversity, she concluded, was also important; in many jurisdictions, women formed the majority of the legal profession, with more women leaders holding senior positions in law firms, albeit full equality was not yet achieved. 

Quoting former Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf – Africa’s first democratically elected female head of state - she wished the EYBA well, telling delegates: "If your dreams don't scare you, they are not big enough." 

Email your news and story ideas to: [email protected]