One of the perks of being Clio’s lawyer-in-residence is travelling across North America. I get to meet and talk with lawyers from bucolic towns like Scranton, Pennsylvania to lawyers practicing in large metropolises, like Chicago.
Last week was different from any event I have previously visited. I was fortunate to attend the Annual Conference of the International Bar Association (IBA), as part of promoting Clio’s international expansion plans. The event was held in Boston, but felt like a visit to the United Nations.
Over 6,000 delegates from around the world attended the IBA conference. The United States and United Kingdom had the largest number of attendees, followed by a surprisingly large delegation from Nigeria.
The conference consisted of five days of lectures. Each lecture was three hours in length and covered topics related to this year’s theme, human rights, with sessions on legal means of deterring human trafficking and an argumentative session on anti-sodomy laws still on the books around the world. Many other topics of interest to lawyers operating in a global business environment were presented as well.
It should be no surprise that I found the session on software-as-a-service (SaaS) to be especially interesting. Lead by Christopher Millard, Professor of Privacy and Information Law at Queen Mary University of London and Lee Van Blerkom, AGC at Amazon, the panel combined practitioners and general counsel from Salesforce and HP to discuss both sides of SaaS contracts. It was interesting to hear what each side of a SaaS contract considered essential or superfluous.
The highlight of the conference for many attendees was a lecture at Harvard Law School. Over 1000 delegates traveled across town to hear Professor David Wilkins give a lecture entitled, “Preparing for the future – changes in structures, technology and regulation.” A clarion call to the legal profession, Professor Wilkins challenged the crowd to adapt to new technologies, new client demands and a growing need for global, principled regulation of attorneys. His stirring speech was followed by critiques from a panel of international judges and regulators. Everyone on the panel agreed that the legal profession is in a time of profound change, but disagreed on the scope of Professor Wilkins’ solutions. When the IBA posts materials from this talk, I would highly recommend viewing them.
A packed meeting room awaits Professor Wilkins of Harvard Law
There were three differences that made this conference stand out from ones I have previously attended on behalf of Clio. First, the scope and breadth of lectures far exceeded many conferences. With three hours in which to delve into topics, panels and lecturers were able to cover detailed points that I consider very useful. For example, the section on sharing of data moved beyond a discussion of regulation to detailed examples of contract clauses
Second, after a full day of breakfast meetings, six hours of lectures and a lunch meeting, the conference continued late into the evening with many social events. Each committee and many law firms and visiting associations, threw lavish social engagements. Most of these were invitation-only affairs. I was fortunate to attend several. These social events seem critical to the success of the IBA conference. Many international relationships are being built and maintained as lawyers met every evening. I believe the socials at IBA Boston to be invaluable for law firms working in international settings. They build cordiality and outreach between many different countries and areas of law.
IBA Delegates network at Boston’s Museum of Fine Art
Lastly, it was great seeing Clio through international eyes. Clio is beginning an expansion of our international capabilities. Clio already has devoted users in over 50 countries, but this wass first time I have met many of them personally. Attorneys are using Clio in the United Arab Emirates or Fuji. They have different ideas on how to use Clio. It was fascinating to see how they adapt the product to their needs. Trust accounting can be handled differently in other countries; but Clio is able the challenge of these uses. We gained invaluable feedback on how to build an even stronger version of Clio for our international users.
The IBA is a welcoming organization and I am glad to be a new member. I am looking forward to further interacting with the international legal community at the Inter-Pacific Bar Association meeting in Vancouver, next May and the IBA’s next Annual Conference, being held in Tokyo in 2014.