With IBA support, Cuba’s lawyers prepare for new business era

The International Bar Association (IBA) today announced the launch of a tailored training programme to prepare Cuba’s lawyers for a new era of legal practice. Designed in conjunction with Cuba’s National Organization of Collective Law Offices (ONBC), the programme will address the urgent need to fill the knowledge gap of Cuban lawyers unfamiliar with the workings of commercial contracts and cross-border transactions. The programme will cover four core practice areas – international sales, corporate M&A, intellectual property and arbitration. It will begin on 25 February 2016 and conclude November 2016. Participating lawyers who successfully complete the programme and pass the final exam will be awarded an IBA Diploma.

Fernando Peláez Pier, a past President of the IBA and an early proponent of collaboration with Cuba’s legal profession, commented: ‘Cuba has an extremely active legal profession, excellent professional training, but limited or no experience in international transactions. The country’s traditionally closed economy and ban on private practice has limited the majority of Cuba’s lawyers to working for state-run entities on solely domestic transactions. Over the past five decades, lawyers have focused mainly on civil law, criminal law and disputes, with only a small group having had the opportunity to participate in international transactions or represent foreign companies’ businesses and interests in Cuba. The IBA training programme will alter the paradigm.’

Although the launch of the training programme comes amid a recent thawing of US-Cuba relations, the groundwork for the initiative began a number of years ago, specifically when Cuba’s current President, Raúl Castro, started to introduce economic reforms.

IBA Executive Director Mark Ellis remarked: ‘Training lawyers to engage in international commercial transactions is even more urgent now since the normalisation of US-Cuban relations. There’s an eagerness between lawyers in Cuba and the IBA to engage jointly in this ground-breaking training programme.’ He added: ‘When Raúl Castro introduced certain changes in the Cuban economy, it was then that the IBA proposed to re-establish contact with the relevant bodies that oversee the legal profession in Cuba and explore the possibility of contributing to the development and training of lawyers in the commercial   areas of law.’

The programme will be conducted at the ONBC’s resident training centre in Havana and will be attended by 40 lawyers from law firms across the island. The composition of the tailored programme, created in consultation with the ONBC, drew on an existing IBA distance-learning LLM programme and is supported by ILAC, the International Legal Assistance Consortium.

Ariel Mantecón Ramos, President of the ONBC, predicted: ‘The IBA training will stand our lawyers in good stead to practise law in a new era for Cuba’s economy. Our country is currently witnessing a reform of its economic model, driven by an agreed roadmap. This resolution will have a strong impact on foreign investment and on our relationship with issues outside of the economy, but this process will need to be accompanied by the law and the legal profession.’ He added: ‘The impact of this course will be seen in its ability to prepare our lawyers to confront this new legal reality by exposing them to topics in which they have only been able to gain partial expertise up until now. It will be a very positive experience for them.’ 

Impressed by the ONBC’s commitment to the programme, Dr Ellis remarked: ‘The ONBC stipulation that the programme include an element of assessment at conclusion, demonstrates a full and clear understanding of the very important role the legal profession will play in the transformation that is occurring in Cuba.’


Notes to the Editor

(1)    The ONBC was established in 1965 and today oversees the practice of 187 law firms in Cuba.

(2)    The International Bar Association(IBA), established in 1947, is the world’s leading organisation of international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. Through its global membership of individual lawyers, law firms, bar associations and law societies, it influences the development of international law reform and shapes the future of the legal profession throughout the world.

The IBA’s administrative office is in London. Regional offices are located in: São Paulo, Brazil; Seoul, South Korea; and Washington, DC, US; while the International Bar Association’s International Criminal Court and International Criminal Law Programme(ICC & ICL) is managed from an office in The Hague, the Netherlands.

The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute(IBAHRI) works to promote, protect and enforce human rights under a just rule of law, and to preserve the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession worldwide.


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