The IBA’s Annual Conference: an insider’s perspective

In October 2015, Dawn Carlisle took part in the International Bar Association’s Annual Conference in Vienna. She tells us about the event and what she gained from it.

Dawn, what did you gain in terms of knowledge at this conference?

It is safe to say that I was busy from breakfast to bedtime during the whole week I was there!

During these 5 days, I was kept at the forefront of what goes on globally, not only in terms of the law itself but also on the state of the markets. We had in-depth discussions around the European legislation and cross-border legal issues worldwide.

I belong to the IBA’s Real Estate Committee, so I had the opportunity to gain invaluable knowledge that was specific to my area of expertise. I took part in workshops where we discussed some the most interesting and knotty topics in the area of commercial property. For example, we exchanged notes and learned how different jurisdictions and cultures deal with complicated rent review mechanisms in their regions, and discussed methods to deal with various challenges. We discussed how the global investment and development markets are currently fairing, and what factors are affecting them.

There were also a number of indirect IBA initiatives on offer (i.e. events organised by IBA member firms), which I had the opportunity to attend.

At no time during the conference did I have a feeling of ‘having heard it before’, as has been the case at other events I have attended. There was not a dull moment during that week.

What about networking opportunities?

All the attendees wanted to maximise their time at the conference, so networking was taken very seriously and the organisers made it very easy. As an example, the lunches were served as a buffet; there were no tables to sit at, which allowed people to work the room. And as you were queuing to be served, you could easily strike up conversations with the people in front and behind you.

The opportunity to meet people from all over the world and to make new and build existing relationships was great. During one particular workshop, I was sat with representatives from Ukraine, Ghana, Italy, Ecuador, France, Russia and the Netherlands! People came virtually from every corner of the globe.

I met many contacts who I already knew. This gave me the opportunity to catch up with them, and to strengthen bonds that had already been established. Colleagues from our international network Interlegal were also present. I have also made new contacts, which I am looking to building upon and establish commercial relationships with.

What were the highlights of the event?

It was a pleasure to attend some of the networking events in wonderful historic buildings such as the Art History Museum, the Natural History Museum and the old Stock Exchange building. These enchanting places were excellent for networking, as they provided a good conversation point.

The conference also featured some very prestigious speakers, such as Fatou Bensouda, the International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor, and José María Aznar, Spain’s former Prime Minister.

Finally, I particularly enjoyed the workshop on negotiation skills that I attended. Featuring a cultural expert and a mime artist, it imparted valuable information on body language (how being able to interpret the subtle body language of your opponent can give you a certain advantage during negotiations) and on cultural differences when conducting business with other countries. By way of example, the expert explained that the Dutch are the most direct in conversation, making it impossible to misunderstand what they’re saying. With the Japanese, it is imperative to build trust before you can expect to be given any work, which means having at least 3 dinners with them! It was a little worrying to learn that what the English say has to be “decoded”.

We got the opportunity to engage in role play, and two lawyers shared their very interesting experiences of negotiation disasters!

The workshop was both enjoyable and incredibly insightful. I can say without the shadow of a doubt that it was the best and most useful seminar that I have ever attended in a long time.

In short, this was an event not to be missed?

Absolutely. Bear in mind that, for some of the attendees, this represented a substantial undertake and investment in relation to their economy, so this is testament to the value of the conference.

I have gained invaluable knowledge, which will be feeding into my work in commercial property. I have also been able to cement the relationships our firm has with other lawyers globally; should our clients need a service anywhere in the world, we can direct them to a particular lawyer and work with this person to fulfil the clients’ needs.