Xuejun Zhao is awarded the Best Future International Lawyer Award for her outstanding academic prowess
14 September 2019
AIJA’s Best International Future Lawyer Award (BIFLA) seeks to develop law students understanding of the global development agenda. AIJA believes that encouraging young lawyers to provide solutions to major challenges in the world is vital if we are to adequately prepare them for their future careers. The BIFLA strives to prepare young lawyers for the testing road ahead!
This year’s competition was focused on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) in line with the 57th Congress’s sustainability theme. The essay question that entrants responded to was ‘If I could change the world…how can I, as a future lawyer, contribute to a more sustainable world?’.
The 2019 winner is Xuejun Zhao. Xuejun graduated from the University of Groningen in September 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in International and European Law. Due to her interest in sustainability, Xuejun continued her studies at the same university by pursuing a Master’s degree in Climate and Energy Law.
Her essay delves specifically into SDG 13: Climate Action, where the current trend of climate litigation is analysed. The essay explores the feasibility of climate litigation, and considers the existing domestic cases, as well as the possibility of turning to the international realm.
The essay illustrates that, while the courts may be our best hope of reversing the damage done to our planet, the domestic context may not be the solution. Hence Xuejun’s essay analyses the possibility of creating of an International Environmental Court as a means of achieving SDG 13. In doing so the issue of jurisdiction is considered, in addition to private party access.
In response to her astounding achievement, Xuejen says 'almost half a year since hitting the submit button, I can safely say that entering the BIFLA competition was one of the best decisions I have ever made. During the Rome congress, I learned from (and even met!) experts in a field that I hope to break into someday, cultivating skills applicable to my future career. It was also in Rome that I found out about Loyola Law School’s generous offer, which will allow me to further deepen my legal knowledge. Entering the BIFLA competition made all this possible, and I am immensely grateful to AIJA for that!'
Xuejun was presented with the BIFLA at the Gala Dinner at the glamorous Villa Medici at the 57th Congress in Rome. Her award was honoured with an array of prizes, including free AIJA membership until 2022, publication of her essay across AIJA’s channels and an invitation to attend the 57th Annual Congress free of charge with travel and accommodation included, as well as a one-year scholarship with our prestigious sponsor Loyola Law school.
Loyola Law School, Los Angeles is one of the top law schools in the United States. Loyola is home to prominent faculty, dedicated students, and cutting-edge programs, with a strong sense of social justice. Our 18,000+ alumni network reaches across the United States and into 35 different countries and includes current and former ambassadors, high level government officials, and more than 800 partners at major law firms.
'We are delighted to sponsor this year’s award for Best Future International Lawyer. Loyola seeks to educate women and men who will be leaders in our globalised world. We look for students who will be demonstrating in their practice of law and public service the highest standards of personal integrity, professional ethics and a deep concern for social justice and society. Members of AIJA represent the perfect example of the above and the winner of the Award, with her focus on sustainability, will surely be affecting with her work the advancement of society. It was an honor for Loyola to play a small role during this year’s AIJA Congress and we look forward to welcoming Xuejun to our campus in the near future!', said Aaron Ghirardelli, Visiting Associate Clinical Professor, Faculty Director, LLM/JSD Programs, Loyola Law School.
This year, AIJA also awarded two special mentions in addition to the Best International Future Lawyer Award. The two special mentions were awarded to Rebeca Spuch for her essay on the intersection between education and the Sustainable Development Goals and Judith Creppy for her essay ‘Would legal personhood help to ensure a better protection for the environment?’. The two essays have proven great quality, as well as a good understanding of the SDGs and law.
The benefits of e-voting
20 August 2019
AIJA welcomed e-voting last year and due to its resounding success we will be using it again at the Annual Congress! We are excited to use e-voting to elect a new Vice-President of AIJA as well as a new treasurer and the partial renewal of the Executive Committee. We’ll also be using e-voting for any resolutions proposed to the General Assembly on Saturday, 7 September. Below are some of the benefits of e-voting to be experienced in Rome next month!
1. Direct participation
E-voting offers a more time-efficient and transparent way for members to be directly involved in the future of the Association. This way association decisions are made with the consideration of the entire organisation.
E-voting is an electronic system that allows members to log into a secure voting platform and cast their votes electronically within their web or mobile browsers from any location.
Voter privacy, election integrity, correctness and security are guaranteed through encryption protocols. The voting platform is provided by AssociationVoting. To ensure that the election process is secure, we:
- Use industry-standard 128-Bit SSL encryption
- Enforce one member one vote by requiring voters to identify with their AIJA Membership ID Number and email address, to ensure only one voting ballot per identifier
- Ensure voting accuracy by preventing accidental over-voting and providing a prompt error notification that requires attention before their vote can be cast
- Require voter validation of selections as a preview step before their vote can be cast.
- Maintain a detailed audit trail of voter selections and ballots cast, available to the AIJA voting administrator as the voting results PDF and also enabling validation of challenged ballots or results. Voter details such as IP address is tracked as well.
E-voting instantly collects and processes the data in real time. The voting platform can prevent accidental over-voting, as each voter is required to identify with their unique Membership ID Number.
AIJA members to vote electronically this year
15 July 2019
E-voting is an electronic system that allows members to log in to a secure voting platform and cast their votes electronically within their web or mobile browsers from any location.
AIJA adopted e-voting in 2018, with the aim to increase accessibility to its internal democratic processes and facilitate new forms of direct participation for its members.
How e-voting works
Members will first vote for the First Vice-President. This year, there are two candidates, François Barré (co-chair, National Representatives Committee) and David Diris (co-chair, Officers of the Commissions Committee). The e-voting process is as follows:
- Members receive a link to a secure electronic voting platform the first week of September.
- Vote opens on Thursday, 5 September, 13:00 CET, and closes on Saturday, 7 September, 11:30 CET.
- Members log in to the electronic voting platform using their AIJA Membership ID Number and the email address shared with the Association for communication.
- Once logged in, members simply have to choose their preferred candidate.
The debate between the two candidates will be streamed online on Thursday, 5 September, from 12:00 to 13:00 CET.
Members will also vote for a new treasurer, partial renewal of the Executive Committee, and any Resolutions proposed to the General Assembly on Saturday, 7 September. They will again log in to the electronic voting platform, but using a different link. Vote opens at 11:00 CET and closes the same day at 11:30 CET.
If members are unable to vote electronically, they can still assign a proxy to a fellow Member who can vote on their behalf. Members are invited to visit their member dashboard MyAIJA for more information.
Nasrin Sotoudeh and all Iranian lawyers arbitrarily detained should be immediately and unconditionally released
04 July 2019
On the occasion of the L5 Meeting, convened in Barcelona, Spain, on June 3, 2019, the undersigned organisations express their deepest concerns about the sentencing and continuing arbitrary detention of several Iranian lawyers, including prominent Iranian and award-winning human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh.
Attacks on lawyers have intensified in Iran in recent years. Lawyers are facing judicial harassment as a consequence of their legitimate professional activity.
The most emblematic case is that of Nasrin Sotoudeh who was recently sentenced to a shocking conviction of 38 years in prison and 148 lashes for national-security related offences [stemming from seven charges, including “assembly and collusion against national security”; “spreading propaganda against the State”; and “appearing at the judiciary without the Islamic hijab.”].
Ms Sotoudeh is known worldwide for her unwavering commitment to the defence of human rights, her opposition to the death penalty, and her courageous advocacy for the independence of the legal profession and the judiciary system. As a result of her tireless work as a human rights lawyer, Ms Sotoudeh and her family have been repeatedly targeted by Iranian authorities, and
subject to harassment, intimidation, imprisonment, as well as a ban on practising law, her profession. Prior to her last arrest in June 2018, she devoted herself to the defence of young Iranian women who have been arrested and prosecuted for peacefully protesting against the compulsory veiling in Iran.
Other human rights Iranian lawyers are being targeted. Earlier this month, Amirsalar Davoudi, a well-known lawyer representing human rights activists and other individuals detained for their social and political activities, was sentenced to 30 years in prison and 111 lashes for “collaborating with an enemy of the state through interviews,” “propaganda against the state,” “insulting officials", and “forming a group to overthrow the state.” Lawyer Mohammad Najafi, was recently sentenced to a total of 17 years in prison and 74 lashes in three separate cases for the charges of “disturbing the state” and “publishing falsehoods.” Other lawyers have been arrested or have faced prosecution such as Arash Keykhosravi, Ghassem Sholeh-Sa’di, Farokh Forouzan, Mostafa Daneshjoo, Mostafa Tork Hamadani, Payam Derafshan and Zeynab Taheri. Furthermore, even though his case is less recent, lawyer Abdolfattah Soltani should not be forgotten. He was conditionally released on November 21, 2018 after serving more than seven years in prison in Tehran. Abdolfattah Soltani is one of the co-founders of the Centre for Human Rights Defenders and has devoted most of his career to defending political prisoners.
The undersigned organisations strongly condemn the detention of Nasrin Sotoudeh and other Iranian lawyers, as well as the charges brought against them, as the charges appear to be solely related to their legitimate work as lawyers, and aimed at curtailing their peaceful human rights activities.
We respectfully urge the relevant Iranian authorities to immediately take any and all appropriate steps to annul the convictions and sentences against arbitrarily detained lawyers, including Nasrin Sotoudeh; to ensure their immediate and unconditional release; and to put an end to all forms of harassment, including at the judicial level, against lawyers in Iran.
Leaders of international lawyers’ organisations remind of the importance of self-regulation and the independence of the legal profession
02 July 2019
‘Self-regulation and independence of legal professionals ensure the trust and protection of citizens, and provide guarantees for the rule of law.’
The message comes from the Union Internationale des Avocats (UIA), the Council of Bars and Law Societies in Europe (CCBE) and the International Association of Young Lawyers (AIJA) in response to the growing deregulation movement and immediate threats to lawyers’ independence. During their latest L5 meeting, they analysed the current status of the legal profession, particularly lawyers’ safety and independence and self-regulation as an essential safeguard of the rule of law. Together, they concluded that deregulation poses serious threats to public interest and democracy. Any reform leading to deregulation risks hampering the quality and integrity of the delivery of legal services and above all, citizens’ access to effective justice and legal protection.
The meeting was held in Barcelona in June and organised by AIJA. It also included contributions from two other members of the L5, namely the International Bar Association (IBA) and the American Bar Association (ABA).
‘“No Lawyer, No Justice”. The role of lawyers and the practice of law may be changing and adapting to the current times but deregulation and loss of independence are not the solution. Our citizens and our democracies need independent and self-regulated lawyers. Regulation should focus on fostering innovation and improving access to effective justice’, says Xavier Costa, AIJA President and Partner at Roca Junyent (Spain).
During the discussions, the leaders of the three international lawyers’ organisations also recognised the role of bar associations in steering the legal profession into the future and the importance of ensuring high professional standards in the delivery of legal services to citizens.
‘The capacity of lawyers to regulate themselves and remain independent is today at stake. The role of the bar associations will be to find new ways for lawyers to show their value and ensure that the public interest remains a priority’, adds José de Freitas, CCBE President and Partner at Cuatrecasas (Portugal).
‘Lawyers are advocates for citizens. And the purpose of regulation is to protect their fundamental and basic rights to effective justice. Without the right regulatory environment, the biggest impact would be on them and their trust in the legal services market’, concludes Issouf Baadhio, UIA President and Avocat à la Cour (Burkina Faso).
During the meeting, the three leaders also issued a common statement (in English, French and Spanish) to express their concerns about the sentencing and continuing arbitrary detention of several Iranian lawyers, including promiment Iranian and award-winning human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh.
About the L5
The so-called ‘L5’ is the annual meeting held by the leaders of the main international Associations of Lawyers and Bar Associations (in alphabetical order: ABA (American Bar Association), AIJA (International Association of Young Lawyers), CCBE (Council of Bars and Law Societies in Europe), IBA (International Bar Association) and UIA (Union Internationale des Avocats). During the meeting the leaders update each other on the main developments on the legal profession and discuss how to best ensure and promote the rule of law.
For more information, download the full statement.
Ensuring sustainability through the legal profession
31 May 2019
by Xavier Costa, AIJA President 2018/2019
Sustainability can mean many things for different people. Very often sustainability is referred to under terms such as sustainable development, corporate social responsibility, resilience, sustainable consciousness, etc. What is sure – we all want it or, at least, we all need it.
My personal favourite definition comes from the 1987 UN Brundtland Commission* and says that sustainable development is ‘meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’. Generally speaking, this implies that we should care for our planet, resources and people. Sustainability goes far beyond environmental
and corporate social responsibility concerns. In business, sustainability is about better decisions, cost reduction, improving productivity, innovation, reputation, and creating a long-term positive impact on all stakeholders. Such is the case for the legal profession, too. As more and more companies consider sustainability into their business strategies, lawyers must be prepared to properly advise them. To do that, being a simply knowledgeable lawyer is no longer enough. Lawyers should be able to offer advice on legal compliance, but also strategic guidance on opportunities that sustainability can provide for companies. Whether related to environmental practices, labour standards, cybersecurity, health and safety, immigration, human rights, tax or other areas of practice – undoubtedly, every lawyer will be asked more and more by their clients to help on sustainability-related issues.
As an international association, AIJA continuously seeks to share best practices through education and training events that enable collaboration, mentorship, peer-based learning and the sharing of innovative ideas for young lawyers across the world. These events follow thematic areas that are slightly changing from one event to the other. While 2018 was all about globalisation, the main focus of 2019 is on sustainability. One of our largest events, the International Young Lawyers’ Congress will showcase in particular the ways
in which lawyers around the globe can take actions to make the business of their clients more sustainable. From 3-7 September, more than 700 international professionals from private and in-house practices, as well as government, UN experts and members of the
G20 Young Entrepreneurs’ Alliance, will join us in Rome.
In 2019 as in all years, we will not rest. Our work is far from finished. Drawing on expertise available within its membership, AIJA – in cooperation with international bar associations and other business partners such as the International Bar Association, American Bar Association, Union Internationale des Avocats, Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe, Inter-Pacific Bar Association, LAWASIA or the G20 Young Entrepreneurs’ Alliance – will continue to strengthen the sustainability profile of the legal profession and ensure that the present and future generations of lawyers are well equipped for clients’ every need. As international young lawyers, we must feel empowered and play an important role in ensuring a sustainable future for our fellow citizens and clients. We owe it to people everywhere, to our planet and to the future generations.
The article was featured in the AIJA Yearbook 2018/2019.
*Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development
The future of the legal profession - it's now
15 April 2019
by Wiebe de Vries, AIJA Immediate Past President 2018/2019
The future is now for the legal profession. With automation, artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, the rise of non-lawyers in the legal profession and the generational shift in the workforce, change is happening faster than in the past. While it’s not without challenges, law firms are slowly forging a path of their own in this rapidly evolving world.
Demystifying technology for lawyers
Many qualified experts feel that technology would replace most of today’s workforce, including lawyers. But none of these experts have come up with a widely accepted replacement to date. The approach to technology should however be different, more positive. Let’s not fear that technology could eventually replace us but look proactively at how we can integrate it into our business model.
As lawyers, we should be looking at how to make good use of it to improve our services and build trust with clients. Our solutions are no longer assessed based on our legal expertise only, but more broadly. Clients expect a greater understanding of their business, faster response time and efficiency. Often the legal aspects are only a part of the solution to clients while the rest doesn’t even involve legal knowledge. We are shifting from the day-to-day practice of law to a more business-oriented model where legal services are profoundly embedded in the business of clients. The good news: technology can help with this shift.
Even better: lawyers start to develop a positive attitude towards technology. But we’re in for the long haul. The International Association of Young Lawyers (AIJA), with the help of the Council of Bars and Law Societies in Europe (CCBE), conducted a survey among international lawyers between the ages of 25 and 45 years old. The findings reveal that compared to 2016, lawyers are less fearful of technology replacing them (decrease of 43%). They also show that almost half of all respondents (42%) are confident that their firms are taking the necessary measures to integrate tech such as artificial intelligence (AI) tools, automation or the cloud into their workflow. However, implementation of technology remains still low.
So, we could say that law firms know what they need to do. And lawyers are most definitely willing to embrace technology. But again, we don’t know yet how to do it. From this perspective, technology providers could do more for the legal profession. And there are plenty of opportunities. According to the same survey, only 3% of respondents agree that the training of lawyers is sufficiently adapting to the changing landscape of the legal market. More training seems required to adapt accordingly and ensure that lawyers know how to use the latest innovations in technology to the benefit of their clients and business.
Working with other legal service providers
As the market for technology-enabled innovations continues to grow, so does the market for non-traditional legal service providers. 86% of lawyers see this as a threat to their profession and believe that firms are more likely to employ non-lawyers to service clients in the name of cost-efficiency and making use of new technologies, according to the survey.
This can be in fact an opportunity to expand the legal service markets of our law firms. The same for interdisciplinary partnerships. There is untapped potential there. Law firms should look more at the industries that are already leading the digital revolution.
Unlocking the mystery of millennials
Another driving force of change in the legal profession is the generational shift in the workplace. Much more impatient, more demanding and keener for flexibility, millennials are here to stay. By 2025, they will account for 75% of the global workforce according to global research. Millennials will soon take over leadership positions and partnerships in law firms. But then how can law firms best manage millennials, a tech-savvy and dynamic generation?
This younger generation is generally marked by an increased use and familiarity with digital technologies. They usually seek organisations that foster innovation, develop their skills and make a positive contribution to society. These features are generally difficult to manage in law firms which are often quite heavily driven by hierarchy.
It was a very different environment in 2005 when I started. In my early days as a lawyer, hierarchy, paperwork, and – maybe - a predominant fear for change and innovation were driving the organisational structure. A four-eyes principle meant that four eyes had to read the same piece of paper and even as a trainee, we needed to sign off on every piece of (printed) e-mail, letter and fax that crossed our desks.
Happily, times have changed. We see law firms slowly but surely adapting to the latest innovation trends in the workplace. The younger generation can be a huge opportunity in this evolution process. Millennials can bring a fresh perspective and new ideas which can have a positive impact on the business and the relationship with clients.
Senior-level lawyers are here to stay for a little while, too. This is why, firms should be looking for ways to ensure collaboration between the generations and create a space for their younger lawyers to grow. Reverse mentoring, for instance, can facilitate a better understanding between the generations. Younger lawyers and their more seasoned colleagues can teach one another about the business and practice of law. This is how law firms can predict the likes, dislikes, ways of working of the next generations and ensure a thriving work environment for all their employees, regardless of their age. However, it seems that it will take some more work for law firms to adequately equip themselves for the younger generation, through such orientation and mentoring programmes or even more flexible working conditions. But I believe that we will eventually get there.
It probably goes without saying that the traditional law firm won’t stand a chance against the numerous changes in the legal profession: boutique firms allow their employees to have access to stellar legal tech innovations on a subscription now and can compete with global firms. The need for big teams to perform a due diligence or discovery is no longer there, which still is one of the driving elements of a traditional law firm business model. What is sure, firms that take a long-term perspective and proactively seek opportunities to embrace innovation will ensure their profitability and sustainability of their business in the future, both towards their clients and their future leadership. As we are so used to solving challenges for our clients, it’s now our turn to solve our own and create a more sustainable future for our profession.
AIJA calls for release of Iranian human rights lawyer and defender
15 April 2019
Prominent human rights lawyer and defender Nasrin Sotoudeh has been sentenced to a total of 38 years in prison and 148 lashes following two unfair trials. The charges against Mrs Sotoudeh stem solely from her peaceful human rights work, including defending women’s rights and her outspoken opposition to Iran’s mandatory hijab (veiling) laws.
Mrs Sotoudeh had received the European Parliament's prestigious Sakharov Prize in 2012 for her work on high-profile cases, including those of convicts on death row for offenses committed as minors. She had previously spent three years in prison after representing dissidents arrested during mass protests in 2009 against the disputed re-election of ultra-conservative president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
In an open letter to His Excellency Ayatollah Ali Hosseini Khamenei, Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, AIJA joins the international community in urging Iran to respect and safeguard human rights and fulfil its mission to implement the law in accordance with international legal and human rights standards, in light of the recent detention of Mrs Sotoudeh.
In many countries, human rights defenders still face continuous and systematic threats and abuses by government authorities. This is part of a worrying pattern rapidly developing worldwide, and which ultimately undermines the long-term stability and sustainable development of our society. The international community must take immediate actions against this ongoing intimidation of human rights advocates and make a stronger, more compelling case for human rights and rule of law – both in Iran and around the world.
Show your support
To join the global campaign for her release, you can sign the following petitions:
- Amnesty International petition
- Conseil National des Barreaux (The French National Bar Council) petition
- Observatoire International des Avocats (The International Observatory for Lawyers in Danger) petition
For more information, please contact AIJA's Human Rights Committee: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Source: Amnesty International, Centre for human rights in Iran
AIJA and INSOL EUROPE organise 2019 seminar on insolvency
11 April 2019
The legal sector will benefit from two industry perspectives under one roof at the AIJA – INSOL EUROPE joint insolvency seminar this year.
AIJA and INSOL EUROPE have joined forces to organise the seminar in Mallorca, from 13-15 June. The event will see lawyers and insolvency professionals offer multilateral views on the different issues lawyers, clients and insolvency experts can face during insolvency proceedings, under the theme ‘Make twilight a new dawn: defensive and offensive strategies in insolvency matters’.
Bringing AIJA together with INSOL EUROPE - which is the leading European organisation of professionals in insolvency, business reconstruction and recovery - is hopefully the start of a long-term collaboration. Through events, the two organisations can benefit from an invaluable platform where they can exchange on the complex area of cross-border insolvency together with their members who are highly knowledgeable about this area.
‘We’re very excited about the partnership between AIJA and INSOL EUROPE’s Young Members Group. It’s a natural synergy, as both organisations focus on helping young practitioners to network, learn and advance their careers. Mallorca will provide AIJA and INSOL EUROPE members with the opportunity to get to know each other better in a beautiful and relaxed setting, with plenty of occasions for discussion. Moving forward, we hope there will be other occasions where AIJA and INSOL EUROPE members can be brought together at our events’, say members of the AIJA Organising Committee Elaina Bailes (Stewarts), Armando Perna (Pozzi & Partners), and Philippe Sylvestre (Etude Max Mailliet).
On the schedule
Today’s world is a global marketplace, with international trade and foreign investments rapidly growing. This growth sees more and more companies developing global businesses with assets and capabilities in more than one country. Consequently, the insolvency and restructuring market has also become more international. In this era of globalisation, a lawyer with a multilateral approach to insolvency matters is able to offer the right advice to his clients, and turn crisis into opportunities or, at least, roll with the punches to limit the damage. Typically, national insolvency regulation also needs to be considered, as it’s generally internally oriented and can overlook what other regulations can provide, for instance in liquidation of assets. Against this backdrop, the seminar will seek to present tools for participants to set up the best strategies to approach insolvency from a different – and most importantly, international - perspective.
‘We opted for an academic programme including traditional panels and debates to encourage open discussions and an active participation of the audience. We’re confident that this format will shift the programme into a higher gear, with new and practical solutions to insolvency issues and plenty of international perspectives from our colleagues joining from all around the globe’, say INSOL EUROPE representatives Anne Bach (Görg Rechtsanwälte) and Georges-Louis Harang (Hoche Avocats).
Participants will be able to stay at the seminar venue, Blau Privilege PortoPetro Beach Resort & Spa, a seafront hotel close to the picturesque port of Porto Petro and the Mondrago Nature Reserve. The seminar will start with a welcome reception at the hotel on Thursday, 13 June. The social programme will also include a dinner at the Mhres Sea Club, a restaurant well known for its location and Mediterranean dining experience, on Friday, 14 June. An optional tour and a tapas dinner at the Winery José Luis Ferrer are foreseen for those staying until Saturday evening.
To find out more about the event and register, visit the dedicated webpage. Early bird fees are available until 30 April. See you in Mallorca!
Advertise in our 2018/19 yearbook
27 February 2019
4,000 yearbooks are sent to our members and supporters in more than 90 countries worldwide. Showcase the services of your law firm and profile yourself by publishing an ad in the AIJA 2018/19 yearbook.
Check out the different options and choose your preferred level of visibility.
Profile A - Personal profile
Profile B - 1/4 page ad
Profile C - 1/2 page ad
Profile D - Full page ad
€150 (+ VAT if applicable)
€600 (+VAT if applicable)
€950 (+VAT if applicable)
€1,600 (+VAT if applicable)
The curious case of lawyers - by Xavier Costa, AIJA President
25 February 2019
Human beings have a natural tendency to resist change. Lawyers are no different. Probably because we are trained to be risk-averse and more conservative than any other profession. Our day-to-day work mostly involves finding our way around difficult situations and turning these to our favour or our client’s.
Today, technology is one of the main drivers of change in the world. And it seems to be shaking up the legal market, there’s no doubt. The good news: lawyers seem to be slowly developing a positive attitude towards technology.
The International Association of Young Lawyers (AIJA), with the help of the Council of Bars and Law Societies in Europe (CCBE), recently conducted a survey among international lawyers between the ages of 25 and 45 years old. The findings reveal that compared to 2016, lawyers are less fearful of technology replacing them (decrease of 43%). They also show that almost half of all respondents (42%) are confident that their firms are taking the necessary measures to integrate tech such as artificial intelligence (AI) tools, automation or the cloud into their workflow.
So, we already know what to do. And we are most definitely willing to embrace technology. But we don’t know yet how to do it. There are so many technology providers on the market, so many different options that choosing between these can be quite daunting. This can rightfully bring some anxiety that may prevent technology adoption from happening faster. The implementation remains low still.
One way of boosting adoption can be for law firms to involve their lawyers in the digital transformation of their law firms. Sometimes this might be done through training or active participation in implementing these tech solutions, but also encouraging them to join professional networks. It is not uncommon for law firms and lawyer associations to set up think-tank groups or committees dedicated to monitoring of the so-called new law and of the legal tech solutions available. At AIJA, for instance, we seek to shape relations between our members from the legal world and tech industries. This is one of the many ways we try to contribute to a more active involvement of lawyers in the digital change. In this regard, our annual congress in Rome this year will also be open to legal tech industries willing to showcase their products and tools in front of a crowd of international lawyers from all over the globe. We invite the industry to join us there and encourage international lawyers from all around the world to come, test and bring the knowledge back to their respective firms.
Other legal service providers – a case for competition?
As the market for digital or digitally-enabled technologies – such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and blockchain – continues to grow, so does the market for non-traditional legal service providers (ALSD). 86% of lawyers see this as a threat to their profession and believe that firms are more likely to employ non-lawyers to service clients in the name of cost-efficiency and making use of new technologies, according to the same survey.
But we should remain positive. Perhaps the rise of ALSDs comes from certain unmet client demands for more efficient, cost-effective and interdisciplinary solutions. Their growth can be in this case an opportunity to expand the legal service markets of our law firms. The same for interdisciplinary partnerships. There is untapped potential there. Law firms should look more at the industries that are already leading the digital revolution.
So, there is no case for competition there or at least, it shouldn’t be. The increased availability of different services and experts should not lead to more competition in the legal marketplace but to more strategic collaborations to better serve our clients. This type of partnerships will allow lawyers to create more complete and compressive products for their clients and, without any doubt, this is good for their business.
Law firms may have to continue to move away from the traditional model focused on the firm’s capabilities and develop a more business-oriented model where attention to the client is at the absolute centre of every step in their practice. Clients are now looking for greater understanding of their business, efficiency, faster response time and best uses of technologies. Sometimes we give overall solutions to the client and often the legal part is a part of this while the rest does not even involve legal knowledge.
The business customer-centric approach, together with some solid digital proficiency, a proper international network, good management skills and openness towards innovation are essential skills for today’s and tomorrow’s lawyers. Lead to innovate or be left behind.
Article published originally at www.artificiallawyer.com
Become a specialist in International Family Law at University of Carlos III of Madrid
19 February 2019
AIJA is happy to support once again the Master in International Family Law, a programme by the University of Carlos III of Madrid (Spain). The course aims to provide expertise in all family law matters from an international perspective.
The programme consists of nine modules: International marriage, International marriage crisis, Economic asset system, Sonship, International adoption, Child protection, International child abduction, Food, International sequence.
Classes are in Spanish and will begin on 22 February 2019. For more information, visit the dedicated website.
AIJA Insider: All about the real deal in M&A – Utrecht, 4-6 April
14 February 2019
From 4 to 6 April, Utrecht will host AIJA’s seminar on ‘The real deal in M&A: All about transactions involving real estate property’. To learn more, we asked our organising committee to share some highlights and tell us more about the topic of the seminar.
Q1: What should participants expect?
Sjoerd Mol (Partner, Benvalor): The seminar promises to offer a very interesting academic programme, with the latest on transaction structuring in M&A real estate deals, due diligence, tax in real estate deals and case studies from industries such as hospitality, retail and industrial. The sessions will be held in a historical place, an old cloister that dates to 1348 and now houses the five-star hotel Karel V.
The programme will kick off with a welcome reception on Thursday, 4 April in the St Michael’s chapel of the 112 meters high Dom Tower which used to be the private chapel of the bishop of Utrecht. Participants will be invited to climb all 464 stairs to the top!
Another highlight of the social programme will be the Friday night dinner and party afterwards. We are planning a four-course dinner including drinks, as well as a DJ and GT bar afterwards at The Court Hotel. Here we can party all night long, catch up with people we know and make new AIJA friends.
Saturday, 6 April (and the last day!) will offer participants a canal boat tour to enjoy Utrecht’s famous wharves and canal houses. The day will end with a dinner in an amazing restaurant located in an old water tower.
Q2: Real estate M&A will be the main topic of your discussions. In your view, what are the main challenges in this area?
Michaela Pelinka (Partner, bpv Huegel): By nature, M&A transactions bring some challenges. One is to formulate clauses on warranty and potential guarantees in a correct manner. Careful consideration should be given especially to the characteristics that the purchased object must or must not have. Court decisions in this area are made case by case and are difficult to predict. In this case, we should also be looking at the conflicting interests of buyers and sellers.
Another challenge would be to manage the increasing complexity of regulatory requirements across different areas of public law, such as construction law, preservation orders, land use plans or land transfer law. These must be carefully considered, particularly in cases where the buyer wants to make structural changes to the property as they may act as deal breakers. Sometimes, even expert attorneys on real estate law might have to consult with their colleagues from the public law department.
To overcome these challenges, we must consider some do’s and don’ts of an acquisition in real estate:
Q3: Real estate seems to be on of the hottest sectors for M&A in the coming years. What are the main trends to follow?
Michaela Pelinka (Partner, bpv Huegel): Investors, particularly European investors, are becoming more careful as a result of geopolitical tensions. They are seeking secure, long-term revenue. Brexit has left them quite insecure about the future.
At the same time, investments into areas which have previously been considered ‘alternative’ niches, such as co-living-Projects, student residences or data centres, have proven successful, whereas more ‘traditional’ segments such as offices are showing a certain decline.
Legal tech is already a reality, and it is disrupting the way real estate transactions are being processed. The potential applications are manifold and may greatly facilitate larger due diligences.
Register to find out more.
Early bird fees until 19 February. See you in Utrecht!
AIJA Insider: Berlin to host seminar on start-ups, smart cities, tech and work 4.0
25 January 2019
Smart mobility. IP issues for tech start-ups. Updates on the application of the GDPR. Data ownership and control. Workplace 4.0 and the future of work. Smart Up Berlin is shaping up to be a promising seminar, with a wide range of topics of interest to law practitioners as well as representatives from the start-up and smart city scene. One of Europe’s most vibrant cities, Berlin will be on this occasion the host of our discussions from 14-16 March.
Smart cities need smart laws
The academic programme will kick off on Friday, 15 March with some in-depth talks on smart mobility, particularly on the exchange and control of information and data between road users, vehicles and the surrounding infrastructure.
‘It is a very exciting time to be a lawyer working in this area. It really challenges us to think about the difference between what technology can enable and what, as a matter of privacy, it should permit’, says Sven Preiss, head of legal commercial, Scout24 Group.
‘Smart mobility changes the way that we, as lawyers, think about transportation in a number of ways. For instance, smart cars transform a product into a system that relies on the maintenance of software – and this requires a continued integration of software and hardware. In terms of public transportation, the use of smart cards and other techniques to gather data on the individual’s use of transport, as well as to aggregate data to use big data increases the importance of data and threatens to impinge on individuals’ privacy – forcing transportation and town planning to consider the GDPR and data ownership’, he adds.
These changes require lawyers to work collaboratively across different disciplines – transport, planning, technology, commercial, intellectual property (IP).
IP for start-ups
The second half of the day will be dedicated to IP and ‘Industry and Employment 4.0’.
One of the topics will address the most common IP issues for tech start-ups. Starting a business is a daunting task. Some grow and achieve great success, others fail. And sometimes failure comes right from the start, particularly when a business fails to protect one of their most valuable assets – their intellectual property.
‘There are some general rules to follow to avoid such failures. First, entering (mutual) NDAs before sharing the initial business idea and creating a paper trail of all presentations and meetings. Second, talking to the people in the company about who owns the IP and again, making sure to write this down. Thirdly, businesses should register their domain names and trademark early on’, says Sven Preiss.
Work 4.0. and Labour Law: new challenges and opportunities
Another highlight of the day will be the discussions on the future of the workplace.
Today, mobile labour has become the new normal. Home office models, co-working initiatives and mobile working technologies redefine the limits between work and personal life as the workplace becomes more and more digitalised. Thanks to modern technology employees can work anywhere and at any time. Co-working spaces are rising in popularity and often, individuals can carry most of their lives and work with them on their phones.
Opinions vary as to whether this is positive, especially in relation to the different employment and labour laws. ‘Employers and employees face huge challenges when it comes to compliance with mandatory labor law. They need to find the balance between compliance with maximum working hours, employees’ personal data protection as well as industrial and health safety provisions on the one hand and offering flexible and attractive working methods on the other hand’, says Sachka Stefanova-Behlert, attorney-at-law, KPMG Law.
‘Further to this, the new personnel structures raise questions regarding co-determination and the need to strengthen the role of the works councils. Mandatory laws have often come under serious attacks for not being timely’, she adds.
Finally, who owns the data?
On Saturday, 16 March, the day will move on to revealing the latest on the application of the GDPR and data ownership, access and control.
Compliance with the GDPR can still be challenging for some organisations. While small companies struggle with allocating the necessary resources, bigger companies have more resources and at the same time bigger amounts of data to process in a compliant manner. Consumers and employees are also becoming more aware of their rights and have started to regularly file access requests and complaints with the authorities.
‘Meanwhile, who owns the data remains a difficult legal concept in most countries. There is little law governing this. Data protection laws mainly serve to protect data subjects and not owners. Trade secret rules may provide some tools, but we should reflect on whether this is really enough’, concludes Silvia van Schaik, attorney at law, bureau Brandeis.
This is just a small sample of what participants can expect to learn during the seminar. Join us in Berlin to find out more! To register, click here.
Silvia, Sven and Sachka are part of the organising committee of the seminar and/or the Intellectual Property, Technology, Media and Telecommunications or Labour Law commission of AIJA. Meet them at the seminar from 14-16 March.
AIJA Insider: Third annual T.R.A.D.E. conference to focus on trade, distribution and e-commerce
24 January 2019
Set to take place from 11-13 April in Athens, the third annual T.R.A.D.E. conference will feature an extensive programme focused on the latest legal developments in trade, distribution and e-commerce. Sessions are expected to bring practical and diverse points of view, with key presentations and discussions by high-profile professionals from private practice and in-house.
The conference will kick off on Friday, 12 April with several sessions looking at the challenges and opportunities for brand owners, platforms and resellers in a digitalised world. The ruling in the Coty case and its impact on e-commerce and the future of selective distribution will be one of the highlights of the day. This is followed by discussions on dynamic and personalised pricing, geo-blocking and legal trade (EU Regulation 218/302). On Saturday, 13 April, sessions will focus on the impact of the GDPR on distribution and franchise networks, digital transformation leading to new forms of cooperation between brand owners and resellers, and finally, optimised general terms and conditions for cross-border e-commerce.
In addition to a rich academic programme, participants will be able to explore an ancient but vibrant metropolis, Athens. A city with many cultural and culinary highlights ready for discovery.
This is just a small sample of what participants can expect. We also asked the organising committee (OC) to share more about some of the topics covered by the conference in the context of international trade. Here are the top three insights from two members of the OC, Babak Tabeshian (partner, LFR Laukemann) and Brian van Egmond (attorney-at-law, Conway & Partners).
Q1: What are the main challenges and opportunities for brand owners, platforms and resellers in a digitalised world?
Babak Tabeshian: The growth of e-commerce in the last decade significantly increased price transparency and price competition. Alternative distribution models such as online marketplaces became very powerful and are considered as key players in the retail business. Under growing pressure of price transparency and price competition, brand owners are seeking to exert more control over their distribution networks and show more presence at the retail level.
These developments have a huge impact on the business of ‘traditional’ resellers. While selling online allows for easy, worldwide market access with low investment costs, the growing (intra-brand) competition with manufacturers at the retail level and the loss of market shares to marketplaces create new challenges.
Despite growing price competition, brand owners have a lot to gain from digital trade. E-commerce allows brand owners to reshape classical distribution networks, target consumers directly, collect data to offer best possible services to their consumers, and finally, use technologies to sell for best possible prices.
Navigating clients through these challenges requires high business and technological understanding as well as the adoption of legal strategies to adapt to a fast-changing legal environment.
Q2: What are the potential impacts of dynamic pricing on distribution and franchise networks?
Brian van Egmond: With dynamic and personalised pricing being the latest pricing trends, we see that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is more and more incorporated into trade processes. These pricing methods based on algorithms enable sellers to adjust prices automatically at any moment based on specific markers set by the retailer. Objectives for setting their markers vary from offering products at a lower price than the competition, to maintaining a certain minimum level of pricing for luxury products as well as influencing price perception. In cases of AI-based personalised pricing, a certain unit is sold to a consumer at another price than another consumer, depending on what the specific consumer is willing to pay. When used in the right manner, dynamic and personalised pricing may lead to increased revenues and growth for sellers.
These new pricing methods also bring us legal challenges as they impact distribution and franchise agreements. Especially when it comes to minimum prices and competition law. Besides this, contracts between franchisors and franchisees may need to be amended or re-drafted to incorporate a mechanism of dynamic pricing. In cases of personalised pricing, challenges regarding price discrimination can be expected.
Q3: What does the new geo-blocking regulation mean for the future of e-commerce?
Brian van Egmond: The new geo-blocking regulation is a step in the right direction. It has the potential to open the e-commerce market even further by bringing down geographic barriers. Especially for services such as hotel accommodation, sports events, car rental, and entrance tickets for music festivals or leisure parks, the regulation provides more equality. Besides, there may be questions about the practical value of the regulation for these services. Buying tangible goods from other EU-countries may still be impractical in most common situations where a seller is not targeting markets of other EU-countries other than its own.
For traders, this regulation will most likely result in challenges under franchise and distribution agreements, as the regulation directly impacts stipulations regarding territorial exclusivity.
Legally, it would be interesting to look at consumer rights and see the developments there, e.g. the jurisdiction regarding consumer transactions under the Brussels I bis regulation. The future will also teach us a lot more about the enforcement of this regulation, particularly about what type of sanctions will be imposed on those violating this. Since the sanctions are left to the individual member states, a wide variety of sanctions may be the outcome of enforcement of this regulation.
Join the conference to find out more! To register, click here.
AIJA appoints new Association Manager
23 January 2019
AIJA new Association Manager, Viktória Kéri, will officially start on 4 February, succeeding to Giuseppe Marletta, who moves into the role of Managing Director, Europe with ACC, Association of Corporate Counsel.
Viktória joined AIJA in October 2017 as Events Coordinator. Since then, she has been working with the different Commissions in the association to successfully organise more than 20 seminars.
‘I am thrilled to take on this new position and further support the growth of the association internationally. Together with the Bureau, Extended Bureau and the membership, we will ensure that AIJA remains a reputable network for knowledge sharing and professional networking for international lawyers aged 45 and under.’
Viktória brings an excellent track record of international event management, as well as significant external relations experience. She was previously Communication and Event Manager for seven years at GIRP, the European Healthcare Distribution Association. During this time, she has been leading on all their conferences, workshops, networking events and company visits. She also worked with the association and its members to implement a new corporate identity and communications strategy.
AIJA would like to thank Giuseppe for his dedication and efforts in the last six years. His professionalism and commitment have been a source of inspiration for the team and members. With this leadership change, the association hopes it gains a new partner in the future as Giuseppe will be leading the expansion of the ACC European presence across the continent. He can be contacted at this email.
To learn more about the AIJA team and membership, please go here.