Benefits of attending Global Conferences
Head of Litigation at Sherrands Solicitors Paul Marmor proffers some advice for those new to the global conference experience in an article commissioned by the Law Society’s International Division
As you are a regular visitor to the International Bar Association (IBA )conference, what first brought you there and what brings you back this year?
The IBA annual conference attracts many of the world’s finest lawyers, who tend to be outward-looking, progressive, dynamic and willing to network. With such an impressive gathering of lawyers, it is a great place to develop and consolidate relationships, whether it be with a view to receiving referrals and work or, indeed, passing out work.
From the perspective of the international alliance that I am developing, it has also been a very effective vehicle to meet progressive law firms willing to get involved in such a venture. So, I am returning this year in order to continue to develop those relationships, and meet other good law firms for the alliance.
What advice do you have to first time delegates to help them make the most of their experience at the conference?
Without a doubt, joining the Law Society-UKTI trade delegation is a very effective gateway to some of the better events and receptions. Furthermore, the delegation provides a backbone of good comrades with who to share the experience, and in my case I have developed some excellent relationships with other delegates over the years.
All delegates need to be very focused in their endeavours. It is impossible to be in all places at once, and it is a question of finding some disciplines and areas of mutual interest with other like-minded lawyers, and concentrating on those. I would advise any delegate to plan their conference and schedule well in advance. I would also suggest contacting lawyers in their given field of expertise in advance of the conference, to initiate meetings ahead of time.
In my case, I am interested in meeting the heads of litigation departments, with one eye towards my own discipline as a litigator and the other towards the alliance. I would strongly advise intellectual property lawyers, private client lawyers, and so on, to do the same.
Following up after the conference is vital – be it with friendly emails or sending newsletters – to keep in touch and develop relationships. That’s what really counts.
You have joined the Law Society-UKTI delegation to the IBA annual conference in previous years, what have you found to be the key benefits of this?
There are a number of significant benefits:
- the opportunity to attend a reception hosted by the British ambassador (with photo opportunities) and more importantly the chance to invite guests;
- regional briefings provided by the Foreign Office/British Embassy;
- high-level networking events organised by the Law Society and UKTI, with specific introductions to local law firms;
- use of the Law Society-UKTI exhibition stand as a platform for meetings – theirs is the most prestigious stand at the IBA;
- the comradeship and support of the group as a whole, and really strong support provided by the representatives from the Law Society and UKTI.
I have no doubt that the International Division of the Law Society working together with UKTI is a potent and formidable team, and really does help to sell UK PLC and, in particular, our English legal profession overseas.
This year the conference is in Dubai: how important is the location of the conference to your decision to attend?
I am not concerned about focusing on a particular region, and am therefore not too preoccupied about the location of any particular conference. That said, I have certainly noticed that the global conferences do attract a lot of lawyers from the region concerned, which was especially noticeable when I attended the IBA annual conference inBuenos Aires,Argentina, in 2008. I would expect the same to be true for a conference inDubai, in attracting a lot of Middle Eastern lawyers.
Finally, conferences often involve early mornings and late nights, do you have any survival tips for our readers?
Every delegate needs to understand time management. The IBA conference sounds glamorous, and occasionally it is, but for the most part the days are long, gruelling, demanding and very testing. The trick is to make the most out of every hour.
In my case, I use every meal time for meetings and find that breakfast is a great time to bring three or four people together. As I have indicated, setting up meetings beforehand is very sensible, but it is also important to take opportunities as they present themselves to sit down and have informal meetings over coffee, as the day progresses.
We all do things differently, and in my case, over three years I have attended less than three hours of seminars, which I think are something of a distraction. It is important to attend the evening receptions, the drinks parties and lunches, but using those as a platform to set up further meetings with people is important, and delegates need to know that the week does get better once the first couple of frenetic days are over and people start to relax a little.
My best advice is: be prepared but, equally, be ready to go with the flow, and recognise that the event can be really stimulating – you meet some interesting and fascinating people, who are paddling a similar canoe to your own, in their own jurisdictions. I have found that the challenges and rewards are pretty similar throughout the global legal profession.