Significant documents came out of the recent conference in Tokyo. You must hear about them.

This is the season for the big international legal conferences. The Gazette reported live from the annual meeting of the International Bar Association (IBA) in Tokyo from 19 to 24 October, and the Union Internationale des Avocats (UIA) has its own annual meeting in Florence from 29 October to 2 November.

The UIA conference is still taking place at the time of writing, and clashes with another meeting I have to attend. For that reason, I will concentrate on parts of the IBA conference’s output of particular interest to solicitors, and especially those items which have not so far received much coverage. I know what it is like to run a member organisation (albeit much smaller than the IBA) and to ensure its messages are conveyed to the wider legal profession. So let me do my bit in spreading the IBA’s products… before my generosity kills me.

Some significant documents were launched at the Tokyo conference. Chief among them from my point of view was the Global Cross Border Legal Services Report. If I were able to add sound to this piece, the volume would be at ear-piercing level, to ensure that you hear about it (the report is more a website than a document). For the first time, there is harmonised and accurate information about what foreign lawyers can do in around 90 countries (and many more jurisdictions, because it includes state-level information for federal entities like the US).

The website contains information on a number of topics, including: the particular country’s legislation governing legal practice; how lawyers from the country become licensed to practise; what trade in legal services commitments the country has made in the WTO; possibilities for foreign lawyers to provide transactional legal services, appear in court or undertake arbitration; and possibilities for foreign and local lawyers to work together formally in employment and partnership arrangements.

For anyone dealing with cross-border work, this is an invaluable treasure-house of information, not only for large firms, but for governments and their negotiators, for small firms and individual lawyers who are thinking of practising temporarily or permanently in another jurisdiction. Well done to the author who laboured so hard to gather the data!

Among the other significant documents from Tokyo was ‘A Lawyer’s Guide to Detecting and Preventing Money Laundering’ about which I have already written – a joint publication from the IBA, Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe, and American Bar Association. (While on the subject of money laundering, the IBA has an excellent resource on money laundering legislation around the world, to assist lawyers navigating the laws in a range of countries.)

A report on Access to Justice was also launched – ‘International Access to Justice: Barriers and Solutions’. The report encourages the IBA to gather good practices, which should be disseminated to a wide audience. This would in turn contribute to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, where access to justice features as number 16.

I have left to last the document to which the IBA gave most publicity, via a press release, even though it is still a draft awaiting comments from its intended recipients – ‘Business And Human Rights Guidance For Bar Associations’ with commentaries, and an annex called ‘Guidance For Business Lawyers On The UN Guiding Principles On Business And Human Rights’.

The aims include urging bar associations to develop an overall strategy for integrating the UN Guiding Principles into the practice of law; and serving as a training tool for current and future legal professionals. Although the authors give assurances that confidentiality should not be breached under the Principles, they admit that, when dealing with ethics, ‘it is possible that there will be tensions and dilemmas arising from their [the Principles’] application in practice’, for instance in withdrawal from representation of a client. Business and human rights is a topic growing in popularity, which bars and lawyers need to follow closely.

Each of these documents deserves an article to itself. I happened to know about each of them, but still had trouble tracking them down. It is worth the effort.

So much positivity has exhausted me. So let me ask for a pay-off. Can the IBA please use some of its more-than £20m in reserves to assist its member bars further – for instance, by supporting the production of additional resources like the Global Legal Services Report?

Jonathan Goldsmith is secretary general of the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe, which represents around a million European lawyers through its member bars and law societies. He blogs weekly for the Gazette on European affairs