Dear readers, dear AIJA Friends,
Already six months passed since I faced my first challenge as President of AIJA, namely to impeccably pronounce the names of all officers at the first Executive Committee meeting I chaired at the end of a memorable Annual Congress of AIJA in Buenos Aires. Half time! Let me share some insights on what the Bureau, our staff in Brussels and I have working on since then.
You may remember that, within the framework of the present Strategic Plan of the Bureau of AIJA, my work plan and, hence, the efforts of AIJA leadership and staff during “my” year, focus on (i) membership development, among others, by making our wonderful Association and the opportunities it offers better known to the "young youngs", (ii) AIJA’s profile in professional advocacy by supporting our Human Rights Committee it its activities and (iii) high quality services for our members. We have all put a lot off efforts in achieving these goals as well as other tasks.
I met quite a few young (and older) lawyers who expressed regrets that they had not heard about AIJA until they only had a few (or – even worse – no more) years to go before turning 45. Hopefully, this can be changed by increasing our membership development and marketing efforts with the "young youngs", i.e., law students and graduates who have not yet passed the bar exam. To this end, as explained in more detail in this edition of the E-zette, we successfully launched a cooperation with the European Law Students' Association (ELSA) in November 2013. This cooperation relates to ELSA's student trainee exchange programme (STEP). The participating firms of our members get the opportunity to employ a trainee (at terms suitable for the firm). AIJA (and the participating firms), get visibility among a group of more than 30,000 law students who are members of ELSA. We are considering ways to pursue a similar cooperation with associations and/or with universities in other geographical areas (please let us know if you have respective contacts). Another initiative in this area relates to introducing a new category of "supporting membership" for law students and graduates. We will present this project in detail to the Executive Committee at the May Half Year Conference in Zurich. Remember: This group of people may not yet have the resources to regularly attend our events. But it comprises our members of tomorrow. They should know about AIJA when they start their career in a law firm or an enterprise.
Professional advocacy is an important statutory objective of AIJA. In particular, human rights matters should be on the radar of each one of us, however young we are. We have recently intensified the cooperation with other associations in this area. Also, based on the respective initiative of our Human Rights Committee, the Bureau was able to approve, and present to the Executive Committee at our last November Half Year Conference in Luxembourg, a face-lift for SOS Avocats, incl. a new appealing logo. The updated SOS Avocats charter reflects today's mandate of the Human Rights Committee and how this mandate is funded. Remember: SOS Avocats receives allocations out of the general budget of AIJA but also relies greatly on donations of our members. Please participate in the respective projects of the Human Rights Committee and donate a few (or many) Euros, e.g., when you register for one of our events.
Offering excellent learning, development and networking opportunities is maybe the most obvious objective of AIJA. To a great extent, it is our members who create these opportunities when they organize Annual Congresses, conferences, seminars and informal gatherings. The (Extended) Bureau and our staff in Brussels are here to supervise and support these efforts, thereby both ensuring and providing high quality services on all levels, at the same time taking into account the financial means of our Association and its members. A lot has being going on in the background in this respect. With the competent guidance of our Association Manager, Giuseppe Marletta, we continued the process of reviewing and, where deemed appropriate, streamlining our relations with external providers. In particular, we wrapped up our cooperation with Judy Lane Consulting, our external professional congress organizer (PCO) successfully and in a friendly manner and started to perform the respective tasks “inhouse”. We are able to do so thanks to the expertise of both our Event Manager, Christine Masure, who started her job right before the Buenos Aires Congress, and of our Office Manager, Anne Degimbe, as well as our new database and online registration system that went live only a few weeks ago. The launch of the new database and online-casino osterreich system was a major achievement into which Giuseppe invested countless hours. Apart from the online registration tool – Have you noted that you are now able to pay for your membership and event registration fees with your American Express credit card? – you will also find a new integrated membership directory when you are logged on to our website. Remember: This directory is only worth as much as the data contained in it – please keep your coordinates up to date or let us know if they are outdated.
The above are only examples of what we all have been up to since Buenos Aires. All of us, (Extended) Bureau members and Brussels staff alike, have dealt with numerous (bigger and smaller) other tasks during the past months. We had (Extended) Bureau meetings in Rome, Luxembourg and Bruges, a normally bi-weekly call among the (Extended) Bureau, and I also had a weekly management call with our Association Manager. On these occasions, we discussed, and took decisions on, various topics, some more difficult than others. I opened many great AIJA seminars (I thank my Bureau colleagues for replacing me at those that I could unfortunately not attend) and congratulated many excellent Organizing Committees. I sometimes wished I were Captain Kirk in Star Trek (Beam me up, Scotty…). I held up the AIJA flag at the major events of IBA, UIA and ABA Section of International Law as well as at legal year opening ceremonies of various national bar associations (again, thanks to the officers who stepped in at a few of them) and other meetings with bar leaders and law firms. I travelled to Prague for visits of intriguing Congress sites and fine food tastings (you can indeed look forward to our Congress in August this year!). I purchased many pairs of nice shoes (my souvenir from each location to which my AIJA office brings me – what a great excuse for completing my collection!). I had a great evening in Brussels on the occasion of a delicious Christmas dinner with our staff and wrote dozens of personal Christmas cards to our dear Honorary Presidents as well as the leadership of other bar associations on the next day. I wrote even more thank-you letters to AIJA officers, event organizers and other colleagues and sent and read thousands of e-mails with "AIJA" in the header.
And while working on all of the above (and more), I found it simply amazing to see how much dedication, heart and hours AIJA members dedicate to making our Association what it is. It is sound proof of one of the unique points about AIJA that I stress when speaking of AIJA with other associations, law firms, bar leaders: AIJA is for members – by members. Not a single AIJA event and none of the above tasks would be possible or worthwhile, if not for our active members, my colleagues in the (Extended) Bureau, our other AIJA officers, our members who serve as organizers, moderators, speakers and panelists. I cannot say often enough how much I cherish this.
Anita Schläpfer, President of AIJA