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American Bar Association

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Cite as: December 2015 89 (12) LIJ, p.86

ABA conference 2015

The US event brings together international leaders of the profession.

The annual American Bar Association conference is an opportunity for the LIV to create and renew relationships with international law associations, and gain an insight into global issues affecting the legal profession.

The 2015 conference was in Chicago from 30 July to 4 August and, as is LIV tradition, the president-elect attends to help identify and inform the next year’s policy platform. With almost 400,000 members, the ABA is well placed to attract high-level international interest and participation, and to showcase and explore the challenges facing the legal profession and the justice system more generally.

The goals of the ABA – to serve its members, improve the profession, eliminate bias and enhance diversity, and advance the rule of law – mirror those of the LIV. The conference, and associated exhibitions, aim to advance those goals.

The ABA conference enables the exchange of ideas. It showcases CPD educational events and there is the election of governors to the ABA board and the confirmation of executive office-holders, as well as meetings of the numerous ABA sections. There is also a large exhibition of providers of services to the legal profession.

I attended seminars on diversity, civil rights and the rule of law. I also attended an impressive wrap-up of important decisions by the US Supreme Court 2014-2015 and preview of pending Supreme Court cases.

The conference remains a good place to meet international leaders of the profession, and this year’s distinguished guests included presidents of law societies from Canada to Korea.

Topics at a valuable roundtable included the civil side of access to justice, the impact of innovation and automation on legal services, the intersection of law and politics and whether the legal profession is really in decline.

These highlighted the different ways various jurisdictions deal with these issues (from little regulation in Germany to over-regulation in England and Wales).

It was interesting to observe that some jurisdictions were eagerly awaiting benefits for lawyers and the public when they were permitted to practise by way of an incorporated legal practice – a structure operational in Victoria for more than a decade.

The conference was also an opportunity for the US legal profession to recognise some outstanding contributors. I was privileged to attend the Pro Bono Publico Awards where five outstanding lawyers or legal departments were recognised for their valuable and selfless contribution to improving access to justice in refugee, immigrant, poverty and disability law. It was a reminder that, when practised well, we are part of a noble profession.

Steven Sapountsis is the LIV president-elect.


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