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Message from Paul Mollerup and Merete Smith, Co-Chairs, Bar Executives Committee, May 2021

Wednesday 19 May 2021

Dear Friends,

In 2003 Peter Schwartz wrote a book called “Inevitable Surprises”. The title is catchy, and the book is still a really good read. Schwartz was subsequently ridiculed for having ruled out another major financial crisis while in fact his point was that the world was set for a long period of economic growth due to the underlying factors of globalisation and productivity.

In the book he talks about our focus on global warming, which is bound to get more attention over time, and he then points out another inevitable surprise in the chapter called “Plague and Denial”: “We are facing the inevitability of another global plague”. This he wrote in 2003 amid a number of other very precise and pertinent changes and events inevitably facing us all – simply because the preconditions were already in place.

What has all this to do with being a Bar Leader or the CEO of a Bar Association or Law Society? A lot.

Despite all the evidence that events like Covid-19 were bound to happen, we were all in denial in the sense that we did not see it coming. Covid has had, and still has, a significant impact on activities all around the globe. It also impacts to a large extent on the rule of law, the practice of law and access to justice. The rule of law issues are many ranging from human rights, data protection, the right not to be vaccinated and draconian measures imposed by governments under the guise of curbing the epidemic. The access to justice issues are just as many. One of them being access to legal representation, access to a fair trial and in general access to the courts.

On Friday 28 May, we at the Bar Executives Committee are hosting a virtual session focusing on access to the courts during covid. We will be hearing from colleagues from around the world about how courts have been able to operate, or not operate, during covid, how the health and safety of the parties has been protected, or not protected, how digital or virtual court proceedings have been a success, or not a success.

One of the questions that remains with us all is: “Were we prepared?”. Were we, the lawyers and Bars, prepared, were the courts prepared? Were we agile, flexible, adaptable and all those other modern buzzwords? Was regulation in place to even allow for a change of procedures when it comes to court cases? Was there, or should there be, a transparent method of prioritizing cases, e.g., between criminal cases and civil cases, or is that entirely left to the discretion of the individual judge or court?

And of course, the question of what we have learnt for next time, and whether we will go “back to old normal” or revert to a “new normal”, where some of the takeaways from this crisis will stay with us in the years to come?

We look forward to an interesting session on May 28, and we also invite you all to write to us about other interesting topics that we as Bar Executives should be addressing as part of the BIC. We look so much forward to being together again in person, but until then we are keen to host virtual seminars to address many of those topics that affect us all as Bar Executives, come hell or high water, or covid.

Please click here for the latest issue of the Bar Executives Exchange newsletter with further details of the programme. (page 6).

For Member Organisations to register their Bar Executives Officer for the programme, please reach out to Rebecca Ruler at rebecca.ruler@int-bar.org.

Best wishes,

Paul Mollerup
Co-Chair, IBA Bar Executives Committee 

Merete Smith
Co-Chair, IBA Bar Executives Committee