A short glimpse at History

The “AIJA SPIRIT”, a legend... how it all began

Once upon a time in May 1962, a group of young lawyers from different European countries were having a nice dinner during a FNUJA1 annual Congress in Toulouse, a beautiful and welcoming South-western French city. They had been attending several FNUJA congresses beforehand, and had since become close friends. By then, they were thinking of setting up their own International Association of (young) Lawyers, instead of merely remaining ...others’ guests. An appointment was made on July 1st 1962 in Luxembourg for the Constitutive Founding Assembly meeting, where they gave birth to the “UIJA”2, soon to become the AIJA 3 to avoid any confusion with the pre-existing UIA. In 1963 followed the first AIJA Congress in Geneva, which turned into an outstanding success for such a newly born association. AIJA was launched and from there, success would never miss to come along.

Future significant steps along that path included the fundamental “Declaration of Athens” adopted during the annual congress on August 27th 1966, which still defines the main objectives of the Association: “Young Lawyers of every country stand together. They intend to defend those principles which are common and which they consider to be indivisible from the notion of justice and law” (article I).

In 1976, the AIJA Law Courses were inaugurated and a turn was made with the first successful event across the Atlantic Ocean, in Quebec, where the Past Presidents’ Awards were also granted for the first time. Since then, AIJA went from “international” to “global”, and spread all over the world on every continent and in almost 90 countries.

One decade later in 1986 the Lawyers’ Emergency Defence Committee was created, defined as “the section of AIJA charged with the responsibility for ensuring protection of the right of every lawyer to practice his or her profession freely and the entitlement of every individual to legal representation and a fair trial”.

Nowadays, the Association counts about three thousand individual members and a hundred national or international collective members (Bars, Lawyers’ Associations and Unions). Its two official languages are English and French.

AIJA organizes over twenty events per year worldwide, including one annual Congress, two semiannual Conferences, and numerous Seminars. The scientific work is lead through twenty one specialized Commissions covering all areas of Law, among them a prominent stand is reserved to the Human Rights and the Future of the Profession.

As to the road ahead, the first Voice of the Profession working session organised at the 2009 Budapest Congress is undoubtedly meant to mark another fundamental step in what will be the Association History for the next decades... AIJA steers for being “the leading international association of career-building legal professionals”. At the same time, the wheel lays in what AIJA is all about: “AIJA is about learning, getting legal education, and acquiring skills that make you a better lawyer. AIJA is about networking. AIJA is about people and how meeting these people influences the course of your life” (4).

Obviously there would be an endless list of achievements to be reported here, as well as so many members and officers to be named and honoured... To that end, this “History” section of our website provides for all previously recorded memories and other published testimonies, which are so worthwhile (re)discovering!

You will find one striking common point among the Founders’ and our most renowned AIJA members’ testimonies. It is their constant praise of AIJA’ s core value: FRIENDSHIP. This is the very cement and soul of the Association. The key of its success. This is what they called back then the “AIJA spirit”.

May it last forever.

Secretary General
June 2009

  1. Fédération Nationale des Unions de Jeunes Avocats - National Federation of Young Lawyers’ Unions (a French Lawyers’ Union created in 1947)
  2. Union Internationale des Jeunes Avocats - International Union of Young Lawyers
  3. Association Internationale des Jeunes Avocats – International Association of Young Lawyers
  4. Honorary President Nicole Van RANST