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Message from George Artley, BIC Project Lawyer, April 2021

Thursday 29 April 2021

Dear BIC friends,

I hope this message finds you all well. Who would have thought that when we all last met in Seoul, we would not be seeing each other again for so long? Virtual meetings will have to do for now, and it is via those virtual meetings – calls, webinars, and the immensely successful BIC sessions at the Virtual Annual Conference in November 2020 – that I have had the opportunity to ‘meet’ so many of you! For those of you who do not know me, I thought I would use this month’s BIC Blog to introduce myself, my role, and the work that I have been doing with members of the BIC over the past year or so.

I joined the IBA’s London office in the newly created role of BIC Project Lawyer in September 2019. As you will know, in the 15 years since its creation, the work of the BIC has expanded steadily to encompass a wide range of activities. Today these include capacity building projects with emerging bars, pioneering conferences in international trade and legal services, and legal research on contemporary global challenges facing our profession, amongst others.

The purpose of my role is to act as both a project manager and a conduit, able to oversee and coordinate the successful delivery of BIC projects, as well as to make sure that members of the BIC are kept up to date on work that is being done, and opportunities for new projects and collaboration as they emerge. I also work in close collaboration with Becca Verhagen (Head of BIC amoung the IBA Staff) here in London, helping us to ensure effective coordination between the administrative and project-focused aspects of the BIC’s work.

Before joining the IBA I trained as a commercial lawyer in the City of London, and later undertook a PhD. in legal and constitutional history at the University of Oxford. In my first four months working at the IBA I was able to travel across the globe, meeting bar leaders in Portugal and Indonesia, as well as liaising with potential project partners in Germany, and meeting BIC Officers at the IBA’s annual conference in Seoul. Then came Covid!

The pandemic has not stopped us though. During the Virtual Annual Conference, the BIC hosted a number of successful events that I was able to assist with and appear on, including sessions on the impact of Covid on bars and law societies (see a the report that I put together on these issues here), how climate change is affecting our members, as well as a showcase session on wellbeing in the legal profession. The BIC ITILS and Regulation Committees are continuing to focus on the issues of climate and Covid this year, with reports and events planned on the impact of these catastrophes on the work of regulators around the world, so watch this space.

Perhaps the biggest project I have been assisting the BIC with to date has been the presidential taskforce on attorney wellbeing, which is co-chaired by Deborah Enix-Ross (BIC Vice-Chair) and Steven Richman (BIC Senior Officer). Established in 2019 by former IBA President Horacio Bernardes Neto, the main work of the taskforce so far has centred around two global surveys of individual attorneys and legal institutions. These surveys, which gathered responses from 186 bars, law societies, and law firms, confirmed existing suspicions that the culture and practice of law can often have a negative impact on mental health and wellbeing of those working within it.

Following the publication of the headline survey results, which can be found on the taskforce website here and via this press release, we are now working with our taskforce members around the world to help raise awareness of these issues, and to break down the stigma and taboos surrounding discussions of mental health in the legal workplace. We will also be working on a full report, due in October 2021.

Not all of my work is purely projects-based; some of it involves strategy as well. I am currently in the process of working with the officers of the BIC to see how we can improve the coordination, communication, and capacity of the BIC when it comes to its project work, with a particular focus on what the core activities of the BIC should be, and how it can engage more closely with its members to achieve these aims. We want to make sure that you are aware of the resources we have to offer, the work we are doing, as well as to hear from you about what it is that you value from your membership of the BIC. Some of the most important workstreams emerging for me at the moment involve countering the increasing number of attacks that we are witnessing on the independence of the profession, including on the Rule of Law itself. We need to come together as an organisation to defend our profession with the full weight of our global membership behind us, something I am sure you all feel passionately about.

For now, I look forward to meeting many more of you virtually over the coming months, and cannot wait until we are all reunited in person again.

Kindest regards,

George Artley

BIC Project Lawyer