May Day, VE Day, World Naked Gardening Day, World Press Freedom Day and — of course — May the Fourth (for all the Star Wars fans out there), there are plenty dates to celebrate this month, if you’re so inclined.
But one that has a particular significance this year is Europe Day, regardless of your views on Brexit.
Held on the 9th, it marks the anniversary of the Schuman declaration of 1950, when the-then French foreign minister set out his idea for political co-operation in Europe: considered as the beginning of the European Union.
So piggybacking on this mood of working together across borders, it’s fitting that legal teams from around the world made their way to Milan earlier this month for the Lawyers Associated Worldwide Europe, Middle East and Africa regional meeting (LAW’s EMEA for short).
LAW is a global association of 100 independent law firms in more than 50 countries, and we’ve been the Scottish member since 2006. The organisation’s basic principle is that firms like us have access to more than 4,000 lawyers around the world, so we can support clients expanding their operations and relationships into new markets.
And it’s more than a talking shop.
We’ve used the network on many occasions, such as for several acquisitions of Scottish companies by organisations based in Europe, Ireland and Germany. Other examples include debt recovery in China for Scottish clients; litigation in the US and arbitration in Germany, both for Scottish-based clients; cross border succession and executry support alongside advice to non-EU based members on the impact of GDPR on their clients.
This even included advising an internationally renowned US band’s fan club.
A high level of member participation is expected, which includes regular attendance at regional meetings and AGMs. A tough gig when the venue’s Milan of course, but my colleague Tim Thomas and I were more than up for the challenge.
What struck me was that none of the topics under discussion were peculiar to legal businesses, but, even more so, there was a shared interest in them all across all of the countries represented — from Nigeria to the Netherlands, Finland to France, along with representation also from Canada, the US and Australia.
This year’s agenda covered topics as diverse as managing your day regardless of disruption and digital chaos; effective talent retention, and how fractious world politics are impacting legal markets.
In the midst of all of that, I took part in panel discussions focused on succession planning.
Another area that was subject to lively discussion was diversity, inclusion and unconscious bias.
LAW itself is seeking ways to encourage more depth in diversity in the make-up of its members and the executive committee that leads the organisation.
It was poignant to note the opening comment of our Nigerian member, the indomitable Isioma Idigbe of Punuka Attorneys, questioning why she, a young black lawyer in a predominantly black law firm based in Lagos, might have been asked to participate in the panel.
Leon Loganathan, partner at Ward Keller and LAW vice chair, recorded his Boundless Possible podcast at the event, interviewing Debbie Foster of the Affinity Consulting Group, who mediated the session on diversity and inclusion.
Fundamentally, the impact of the changing face of immigration across all of the regions represented was seen as being critical to the development and retention of talent.
In the end, much like the theme of Europe day, the session was a great opportunity to meet and have open discussion on topics that go far beyond individual businesses, sectors and geographical boundaries.
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