15.10 EST: Wednesday 9 October
If you don’t mind I’ll wrap up early for today. Thanks for all your ongoing comments and tweets - I do very much appreciate them. I’m going to try and find a city bus tour and finally see some daylight.
14.20 EST: Wednesday 9 October
Mtetwa: ‘There has to be naming and shaming of those responsible for violence. We know who did what to whom. Unfortunately because of political will nothing has been done. There is talk of an amnesty and a whole lot of perpetrators have got away with murder so to speak. This mean it will just go on and on.’
14.05 EST: Wednesday 9 October
Mtetwa is asked whether being a woman has made her work harder: ‘If anything it has been easier, as I haven’t been beaten as badly as if I were a man. When I was being beaten in 2003 one of the guards said they should stop because I was a woman.’ Sobering stuff.
14.00 EST: Wednesday 9 October
Mtetwa: ‘Vigilance at all levels is crucial. In Zimbabwe people could see things were not going right. It started with the small things which people didn’t do anything about. However small an issue is, as lawyers where we see compromises in the rule of law we ought to challenge it from the beginning and not wait until thing have fallen apart.’
13.45 EST: Wednesday 9 October
Mtetwa: ‘I am very optimistic there will be the rule of law established in Zimbabwe in my lifetime. If you look at where there has been repression it has resulted in change which is usually positive. If I didn’t think that things will change then I wouldn’t do this job.’
13.40 EST: Wednesday 9 October
If ever you think you have it tough as a solicitor in the UK, try putting yourself in the place of Beatrice Mtetwa. Despite her arrest and the ongoing threat of violence she refuses to stop her work. Remarkable woman - and a reminder of the good that lawyers can do even under the most difficult circumstances.
13.05 EST: Wednesday 9 October
Whilst we wait for the Beatrice Mtetwa session to start, here is what the Twittersphere is saying at the moment:
@MatthewJDenney Was asked last night if anything worse than 7000 drunk lawyers. Yes, 7000 sober ones.
@sharonereilly #ibaboston women lawyers group. How to become a leader: “there is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women”.
@AnnetteMagnusso Climate change justice and human rights. Probably this week’s most urgent topic. Task Force is great news.
12.50pm EST: Wednesday 9 October
I must admit, the last session went slightly over my head. It was basically about how technology will save us all. Would have worked great if only the internet connection hadn’t gone down just as it was about to start.
11.50am EST: Wednesday 9 October
Going to nip into talk now on law firms’ ‘secret weapon’ (which presumably will no longer be a secret) to maintain income in face of pressure to reduce fees. Good luck with that.
11.30am EST: Wednesday 9 October
Interesting to hear opinions from other jurisdictions on issues affecting the UK. Chatted to one Indian lawyer who said she would welcome the liberalisation of the market to allow in foreign lawyers. Said competition is not something to be afraid of and the move would drive up standards across the board. The decision-makers might take more convincing, I suspect .
Then there was a talk with a regulator from Canada, who suggested that the country would most likely allow non-lawyer ownership within the coming years, coming hot on the heels of Australia and England and Wales. His main point was that if regulators can’t find a compelling reason not to allow it, it wasn’t their place to reject it. Very different outlook to their cousins across the border in America. We wrote about the issue.
11.10am EST: Wednesday 9 October
Much talk also last night on the media law committee and its event entitled ‘What happens in Vegas, stays on the internet’. I don’t frankly know why, but apparently one of the slides involved a full-frontal nude picture of Brad Pitt. Rather impressive it was too, confirmed one female lawyer to me.
11.05am EST: Wednesday 9 October:
There’s more here on the remote learning scheme pioneered in the States by Washington University of St Louis.
10.30am EST: Wednesday 9 October
Today’s lunchtime talk is from Zimbabwe lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa on the rule of law and her work in the profession. She is a fierce advocate for human rights and is currently standing trial on a charge of ‘obstructing justice’; for insisting that police show her a search warrant as they ransacked the office of the main opposition party.
10.15am EST: Wednesday 9 October
Much discussion last night on yesterday’s showdown debate on Guantanamo between John Bellinger, who served as the Legal Adviser for the US department of state and the National Security Council during the Bush administration, and former UK attorney general Lord Goldsmith. All got rather heated as Bellinger rejected Goldsmith’s suggestion that he was just an apologist for the US government’s position on Guantanamo. As one tweet put it, Goldsmith took Bellinger ‘to the cleaners’.
10am EST: Wednesday 9 October
Day four, and it’s noticeably quieter in the convention centre. That may or may not have something to do with the plethora of parties happening last night. I finally managed to track down the Cheers bar but was rather underwhelmed. There was no wisecracking guy at the bar, no chirpy theme music and no one even knew my name. That song was just one big lie.
17.00 EST: Tuesday 8 October
And with that, I’m clocking off (well, strictly speaking I’m going to write up the three stories in my notebook for the print edition of the Gazette - this is no jolly I can assure you). Somehow today has managed to include lawyers being urged to help fight poverty to firms predicting $15bn turnover figures. With a little bit of Namibia thrown in for good measure.
I’ll see you back here tomorrow for another day from the IBA. In the meantime, remember that these type of events are extremely rare, so please, don’t have nightmares (that cultural reference will be completely lost on anyone unaware of Nick Ross, I’m sorry). See you Wednesday.
16.55 EST: Tuesday 8 October
Here’s a few of my favourite tweets from the socially media folk here in Boston:
@mchartung Consolidation of legal markets - does history repeat itself? Reminds me of 1999 #ibaboston
@peter_bert “Hot Topics” Call for regulation of third party funding, by bar rules or institutions, by Haliburton GC. Second such call at #ibaboston
@MatthewJDenney I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many bow ties in one place #ibaboston
@ThomasSpohr A genuinely epic presentation to a surprisingly hostile (in parts) room by @EricGitari . Previously noisy people suddenly quiet #IBABoston
@strong_tim 2 days down. When the IBA is in the US that’s technically the point at which I’ve consumed more than my own body weight in food #ibaboston
16.50 EST: Tuesday 8 October
But enough of all that, let’s get back to in-house. Was very interesting talking with Kathryn about the challenges facing counsel now and the demands placed on them by companies. They’re now expected to be business people as well as lawyers and are seen more than ever as integral to the wellbeing of the company.
But that’s not to say things have changed in the perception of them. Research has found around one-fifth of GCs don’t have direct contact with the board of their company, while many directors still regarded them as a ‘necessary evil’. Interested to hear people’s experiences of in-house working.
16.40 EST: Tuesday 8 October
Apologies for the delay, I nipped away to interview Kathryn Britten, general counsel at KPMG (more on that in a bit).
Have also realised through my Twitter timeline that I’m missing DIY SOS. Could anyone let me know if it’s good? Probably by now it’s looking unlikely they’ll manage to finish in time, but I have a hunch everything will turn out ok. And the builders will cry. I think Nick Knowles is probably ‘celebrity I’d most like to go for a pint with’ so Nick, if you’re reading, give me a call.
15.05 EST: Tuesday 8 October
Dejonghe: ‘There may even be firms who are reaching $10bn or $15bn within five years. There is further consolidation to come in the market.
‘But there is a limit. I don’t see consolidation like we have seen in the accounting industry. I don’t think you will ever see more than 10-15 large firms because of the prospect of potential conflict. And how large can one partnership be? We’re still one global partnership with 530 partners and it’s challenging.’
14.53 EST: Tuesday 8 October
Great opening from Wim Dejonghe, global managing partner at Allen & Overy. He predicted there will be firms within five years bringing in revenues of more than £3bn a year. To put into context, the firm made around £1.19bn in turnover in 2012/13
14.30 EST: Tuesday 8 October
Another pretty varied afternoon in prospect, with subjects ranging from hot topics in arbitration to the repeal of sodomy laws. I’ll be at a session on consolidation of the market and its effect on firms of all sizes.
13.45 EST: Tuesday 8 October
Quiet now everyone is at lunch, so here’s a few tweets from other sessions this morning:
@hannahmjkinch Michael Todd says we are all ambassadors-privileged to be lawyers, but with that comes responsibility
@paulcall1 : Preparing for my IBA panel. Have been told to expect some strong opinions from a diverse audience
13.15 EST: Tuesday 8 October
But the difficulty faced by host countries was summed up rather well by Deirde Sauls, president of the Namibian Law Society (Namibia being a country that, with certain exceptions, prevents foreign lawyers from practising there).
‘It is about lawyers wanting to protect their market. You don’t want to just give your market away. There are those who feel there should be some more liberalisation and others would feel historical factors are there for a reason which is to maintain the interests of the local profession given that it was so small. There is a fear they would be swamped by firms that are bigger than our entire profession.’
13.00 EST: Tuesday 8 October
Alasdair Douglas, chairman of the City of London Law Society, was not suprisingly keen to urge foreign jurisdictions to relax their rules and said the prevailing attitude was ‘anti-competitive’.
‘English lawyers don’t want to trample on foreign lawyers at all. Our clients want us to work internationally. We’re very conscious to work with international firms without upsetting local people.
‘English firms don’t want to export English lawyers for the rest of time. It’s hugely expensive and culturally not right. After a few years the local lawyers become experts.’
12.30pm EST: Tuesday 8 October
Time and again this week the UK has been described in glowing terms by IBA delegates for innovation. Yesterday the talk was of liberalisation of the market, today it’s in its attitude to foreign lawyers practising in Blighty.
The last session was essentially on how to break down the barriers other countries have placed to English lawyers coming into their jurisdiction. India is probably the most intransigent on this issue, but there are plenty of hurdles for opening offices in the likes of Nigeria, Brazil and the Philippines too.
Turkeys and Christmas usually come to mind when we consider countries opening their legal borders, but there is a school of thought that foreign firms and legal professions will benefit from the greater exposure and experience English firms can bring.
11.30am EST: Tuesday 8 October
With all that choice it’s a minefield trying to pick the right one. I’m opting for a roundtable on working across borders. Will let you know what comes out of it.
11.15am EST: Tuesday 8 October
Apologies for the delay - it turns out the Boston subway can rival the London Underground for punctuality. Serves me right for trying to be the independent visitor and not bother with a taxi.
There really is a huge amount going on at any one time here in the Hynes Convention Centre (Center to our US chums). Right now you can choose between events on intellectual property rights, labour and employment law, the future of the legal profession, hydrocarbons explorations, litigating for and against public authorities, corporate social responsibility, cross-border judicial cooperation, financial regulation, environment courts, international construction projects, real estate, mediation, M&A transactions, working in different jurisdictions, tax abuses and human rights.
You can hear from speakers from the USA, UK, Netherlands, Switzerland, Turkey, Ireland, Brazil, Japan, Nigeria, Ghana, Uruguay, France, Germany, Spain, Pakistan, Italy, South Korea, Belgium, India, Poland, Ukraine, Mexico, Finland, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Latvia, Luxembourg and the Cayman Islands.
9.45am EST: Tuesday 8 October
And a word of warning for governments looking to increase court fees:
‘Making court proceedings inaccessible for a considerable part of society by increasing court fees to a level that many individuals cannot afford may well be an unacceptable sacrifice.’
9.15am EST: Tuesday 8 October
The report also makes it clear that lawyers have an important role when it comes to holding cost-cutting governments to account:
‘In times of financial crisis, those with governmental responsibilities are seeking measures to make governing more efficient. Of course, politicians also look at it from this point of view: let measures be both more efficient and cheaper, while achieving the same or even better results.
‘Many such measures are sensible, but some of them need a closer look: when moral principles are sacrificed on the altar of efficiency, the basic values of our society are threatened. We are then in danger of losing the delicate balance that is the very fundament of the rule of law, of the rule of fundamental rights and of a society that protects all its citizens at a minimum civilised level.’
8.40am EST: Tuesday 8 October
While much of the talk has been about how to preserve legal firms and increase their business, the IBA is keen to promote an altruistic attitude from its members.
A new report, released this week to mark the conference, focuses on poverty, justice and the rule of law. The message is clear: lawyers cannot ignore the world around them - and together they can work to improve the lives of the people in poverty.
‘This is the right time for a serious discussion on how the law and lawyers can enable the poor to help themselves throughout the world.’
8.21am EST: Tuesday 8 October
I definitely agree with this tweet:
@SusanRodwayQC Prize for best title of talk today “What happens in Vegas stays on the internet” #ibaboston
8.10am EST: Tuesday 8 October
So what was being talked about in the bars of Boston last night? Well, mostly it was about the Red Soxsuffering a heartbreaking last-gasp loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. Honestly, think Liverpool-Arsenal in 1989 and you’ll be close. I made a major faux pas with one barman who couldn’t believe what had happened by asking ‘was that home run important then’? I’m pretty sure he didn’t top up my next beer deliberately.
Once the shock of that wore off, much of the chat was based on alternative business structures. The Australian contingent were surrounded for most of the night by people asking how it works and what the pitfalls were of liberalising their legal profession. The Americans might in theory oppose non-lawyer ownership but that doesn’t mean there isn’t interest - particularly if it’s likely to mean business is lost overseas.
The full story from yesterday’s discussion on ABS is here .
8.00am EST: Tuesday 8 October
Morning all, ready for another onslaught of legal opinion and comment? Me too.
17.00 EST: Monday 7 October
Right, most of the delegates have headed to the bars now (in fact it’s only the journalists and cleaners left in the building). There are various functions I’ll be attending tonight (mine’s an orange juice, of course) so I’ll keep you updated with anything interesting through Twitter @johnhyde1982. Enjoy your night and I’ll be back around midday your time tomorrow.
15.55 EST: Monday 7 October
And his view is backed up by Anthony Davis, who is none too pleased with how the US bar associations have dealt with this issue:
‘It is the fundamental objective of most state regulators to maintain a monopoly. As long as we are a self-regulated profession that of promoting competition is simply foreign. New York is very inhospitable to the idea of competition.’
15.48 EST: Monday 7 October
Strong words from Perlman, who was until recently the Chief Reporter for the ABA Commission on Ethics 20/20. He describes as ‘ugly’ the commission’s unwillingness to even debate the issue of allowing non-lawyer ownership. Predicts there is little sign, if any, that the ABA will change its opposition to the principle any time soon.
15.30 EST: Monday 7 October
Now hearing the US position from Suffolk University’s Andrew Perlman. The one in Boston, not Ipswich. ABA ethics commission rejected limited non-lawyer ownership in April 2012 but kept conversation open on sharing fees with UK firms that are ABSs. Perlman, former chief reporter for ABA, advises delegates they need a lot of coffee to understand current position.
15.21 EST: Monday 7 October
Hudson has a friend in fellow panellist Anthony E Davis (what is it with American lawyers using their middle initial?) from New York firm Hinshaw & Culbertson on the benefits of ABSs.
‘Just as Walmart has quality controls as to the freshness of its beef, because of its scale it can have risk management in place. A number of ABSs are hiring in large numbers while mid-sized firms are cutting back.’
15.10 EST: Monday 7 October
Absolutely ringing endorsement of alternative business structures by Law Society chief executive Desmond Hudson. Here’s a selection of quotes:
‘It isn’t about who owns you, it’s about what you do and how you do it. Lawyers don’t have a monopoly on ethics.
‘Because of the advantages they offer to firms and clients, different forms of MDPs/ABS are unlikely to remain confined to our jurisdiction for long.
‘The profession remains independent and robustly regulated so why is it a bad thing if some lawyers have to compete for business? Other professions do.’
14.35 EST: Monday 7 October
I’ll be honest, there isn’t a huge turnout for this session on ABSs. Is it just that lunch was so good people went back for seconds or is there a lack of international interest in liberalising the market?
14.23 EST: Monday 7 October
About to head into a session on non-lawyer ownership and whether it’s good for clients or business performance. Law Society chief executive Desmond Hudson will try to convince speakers from the US, Germany and South Africa it’s a good idea. Will update any interesting points here (assuming there are some).
13.43 EST: Monday 7 October
While you all tuck into your dinner, here’s a selection of lunchtime tweets from the conference:
@JohnGrimley huge change in the use of Twitter at IBA since Dublin – I’d estimate Twitter use at #ibaboston exponentially greater. Fun to be following
@EdwardMachin “Beware of false prophets,” says panel co-chair introducing third party funding discussion. Second biblical reference so far #ibaboston
@strong_tim It’s like the first day at big school trying to find your way around this place
12.35pm EST: Monday 7 October
All quiet now as people head for something to eat. Really could do with something that doesn’t involve fries.
12.30pm EST: Monday 7 October
Really interesting discussion on mandatory retirement age - on the one hand it clears the way for younger partners and gives them hope, on the other it removes someone who may be bringing in good profits and risks them taking their skills - and clients - to another firm with more relaxed rules.
Some criticism that UK firms don’t prepare the ground well enough for the ‘conversation’ compared with US firms. In the US it is claimed the firm’s management finds ways of scaling back partners input (and their earnings) but keeps their best skills. In the UK there is the theory heads are buried in the sand until the day when senior partners are ushered out of the back door.
Good to hear as well from a German former senior partner at Allen & Overy. He was forced to retire at 62, ironically a few weeks before the firm changed its rules to allow more flexibility. ‘Does the firm regret its decision to let me go? Probably not. Am I happy? Yes.’
11.45am EST: Monday 7 October
Now listening to debate on partner retention and specifically the release of partners. Heard from one speaker whose firm has a mandatory retirement age of 65, with no exceptions. Harsh.
11.37am EST: Monday 7 October
Really interesting chat with Michael Koby from the school of law of Washington University in St Louis. This year it became the first US university to offer a law qualification for students studying abroad. Classes of up to 15 are taught through a platform called 2Law and break off into groups to discuss cases.
The demographic is very different to campus students - mostly this is existing lawyers with ties to their home town who nevertheless want to gain qualifications in US law. Two people have signed up from the UK already - would it appeal to you?
10.30am EST: Monday 7 October
With such a large group of lawyers in one place, I’m trying to work out the best collective noun to describe them. A gaggle, perhaps, or a flock? Apparently apes are grouped together by a ‘shrewdness’. I like this one best.
10am EST: Monday 7 October
A seminar on the influence of the internet run jointly by the Law Society and the Danish Bar, starting at 8am, on a Monday morning. Not one that would set many pulses racing, but there was a packed house for it this morning. It was an interesting discussion too, with other jurisdictions sharing their war stories of legal versions of Trip Adviser which didn’t always paint lawyers in a good light. One key theme was the need for law firms to be pro-active and adopt a counter-social media policy, putting out the fires of a bad review or unflattering tweet. Interesting idea but would your firm be prepared to employ brand experts to concentrate on social media reputation?
There was one funny moment too, when the president of the Law Society of Scotland - complete with kilt - spoke up during the debate. The Danish chair thanked him for the contribution and said it was good to have someone from Ireland taking part. Cue laughter and an embarrassed host.
The IBA really is enormous. Apparently there are 6,000 people here and I can well believe that. Huge British presence too, with the likes of the University of Law and Bar Council having prominent stalls (the latter is next to the Law Society’s - good to see solicitor-barrister relations are so healthy).
7.45am EST: Monday 7 October
Right, I’m fully rested and adjusted to the time difference (we’re five hours behind the UK, so it’s still pretty early over here). Think yourself lucky folks, you’ve already seen off Monday morning - Bostonians still have a good four hours to endure.
It’s a very busy programme today with dozens of events, seminars and debates on every aspect of the legal profession you could think of. My first stop will be a breakfast discussion on lawyer comparison sites, followed by an interview with a US university trying to attract UK students. Would you fancy studying over here? Potential under-graduates, just be advised, the legal alcohol limit over here is 21. You can forget about moving that traffic cone.
This afternoon (about 7.30pm your time) I’ll be blogging from a main stage event on non-lawyer ownership, which could well get feisty. Or at least, as feisty as a legal conference can get.
Enjoy your lunch people, I’ll be back in an hour or so.
22.15 EST: Sunday 6 October
Now I’ll be honest, I didn’t make it for the opening speech by Mrs Albright. I blame this entirely on an hour-long queues for taxis at Boston airport.
While I wait for a copy of her address, here’s a selection of tweets on her performance:
22.00 EST: Sunday 6 October
Finally arrived in Boston, which seems to have a very British love for queues at every stage. My journey was fairly smooth, which can’t be said for the poor delegates from London who tried to travel here on Saturday. Apparently the plane turned back to Heathrow after two hours in the air as there was a technical issue. Weary passengers were then put up at a hotel near Heathrow before catching a flight to Boston - via Paris - the next day.
Law Society president Nicholas Fluck was one of the unfortunate passengers. Given that he’s from the namesake town in Lincolnshire, he can now say he spent 48 hours getting from Boston to Boston.
17:00: Sunday 6 October
We now have the slight technical issue with the blog of me being on a plane for the next six hours. Much as I’d love to keep you updated with the quality of the in-flight movie, I’m sure you’ll survive without.
I’ll be updating from around 11.30pm your time with the keynote speech from Madeleine Albright, former US secretary of state. I’d argue it’s the perfect way to end a weekend (certainly not the best way to ensure a good night’s sleep, thank you) but I don’t mind if you want to head to bed as long as you’re back here in the morning. Deal?
See you in Boston folks!
16:45: Sunday 6 October
I mentioned the Law Society in the first post and it’s fair to say the group will be fairly prominent, with appearances on the main stage by its leaders and a stall in the main conference itself.
The main message will be around the legal bogeyman for so many international jurisdictions: non-lawyer ownership. Of course, England and Wales (following in Australia’s footsteps) have already paved the way, but for the likes of the USA and Germany it’s a non-starter. For the US in particular, just the mention of ‘ABS’ is like kryptonite in the hands of Superman, weakening them at the knees and reddening them in the face. For the contingent from Blighty, it’s their task to change attitudes and open the international market.
16:30: Sunday 6 October
Hello campers, and welcome to the second Gazette live blog, this time covering everything you need to know about the International Bar Association conference in Boston. That’s Boston Massachusetts, not its Lincolnshire brother this side of the Pond.
For those who don’t know, the IBA conference is one of the biggest legal gatherings in the world, bringing together 6,000 legal professionals under one (presumably giant) roof. Topics up for discussion this year include non-lawyer ownership, diversity in the profession, the benefits of globalisation, how the profession will adapt to survive and human rights. And all in just five days.
For the UK, we’re represented by around 800 delegates from the biggest City firms to sole practitioners. The Law Society for England and Wales is also there in force. Our legal services made around £4bn in exports last year and it’s events like these that play a major part.
We’ll have all the updates, opinions and reactions during the week, so if you want to get in touch with comments or questions you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet me @johnhyde