by Patrick Dransfield
This was my first International Bar Association Annual Conference attending as a Speaker and as a Delegate and I did not know quite what to expect. Having spent a week in a tent without air conditioning as an exhibitor at the Delhi offering in 1997, my expectations were quite low.
My experience in 2019 could not have been more different from my Delhi experience. Perhaps I was spoiled by my first encounter, meeting the charismatic Alessandra Mourao of the Professional Ethics Committee at the reception desk and then attending the opening ceremony where the President of South Korea, Jae-In Moon, and his friend and fellow Human Rights lawyer and Mayor of Seoul, Won-Soon Park welcomed the 2,000 plus attendees (over 6,000 delegates signed up for the IBA annual conference altogether). For both Moon and Park the IBA clearly mattered and Moon specifically mentioned the fact that the IBA was founded in 1947, at the same time of the World Bank and the World Trade Organisation, and indicated that its altruism and dedication to holding up the Rule of Law throughout the world was as relevant today as it was a its founding seventy-two years ago.
The pinnacle of moral high grounds now secured, it was left to not only the meticulous work of the various planning committees but also the conference hosts of the IBA and the various law firms in South Korea to continue in kind. And rise to the occasion they certainly did. Operations Director Joe Bell, Asia Director Juni Son and their team were exemplary in their dedication to logistics, and international and local law firms alike put all their pride and famous Korean hospitality in making our days long but happy and full of ambient opportunities to make great new friends.
On the substantive side, the Conference tackled all-embracing themes such as bullying, sexual harassment, mental health and law firm culture, as well as climate change and AI / Technology. It looks clear that climate change especially will move up the rankings as an important topic in Miami in 2020 and those that bravely introduced the topic of work place mental health and bullying will be thinking long and hard about how to advance these topics with examples of real and practical change in the workplace — myself included.
The present situation in Hong Kong also featured, with morning addresses from Secretary for Justice for Hong Kong Teresa Cheng, President of the HK Law Society Melissa Pang and Chairman of the Bar (HK), Philip Dykes. The most memorable contribution in my opinion coming from Simon Davis, President of the Law Society of England & Wales.“The Law Society of England and Wales was pleased to see the Hong Kong Law Society and Bar speaking out for the independence of the judiciary as we and our Bar have done in the UK in the wake of the recent judgment of the Supreme Court. We look forward to showing our confidence in the Hong Kong legal system by attending the LawAsia conference in November.”
That sentiment extends to the other law-related events in the Hong Kong legal calendar, including the ABA Section of International Law: Asia-Pacific Forum: Navigating the life cycle of a cross-border deal’ (October 24-25) and Hong Kong International Arbitration Week from 20 to October 25.