Monday, July 12, 2010

Le Bicentenaire du Retablissement du Barreau de Paris

Paris, June 24-26, 2010

As what may have been my first "official act" as CBA President, I traveled to Paris on June 24 to represent the Association at the Bicentennial of the Paris Bar. The Paris Bar, which was first established over 800 years ago, was disbanded during the French Revolution, and re-established in 1810 near the end of Napoleon’s reign. The Paris Bar celebrated with several events and a legal conference: Ordre et Transgression, Les Leviers du Droit et de Economie (Order and Transgression, the Legal Drivers of Progress).

I must say, French lawyers really know how to put on a party, and they know how to put on a terrific conference. Just look at the photos from the events that the Bar staged: an opening ceremony in the Palais du Justice (the civil courts) with President Sarkozy as keynote speaker, a reception at the Hotel de Ville (City Hall) with the Mayor of Paris, and a gala black tie affair at the Grand Palais, entitled "Les Nuits de Paris" (Paris Nights). (Les Nuits de Paris alone was rumored to cost $5 million Euros.)

The conference featured such prominent lawyers as Christine Lagarde, French Minister of Economic Affairs, Industry and Employment, Michele Alliot-Marie, French Minister of Justice and U.S. Associate Justice Stephen Breyer. Justice Breyer surprised me by delivering his speech in fluent French.

The conference focused on the role that lawyers can and should play in solving world economic and social problems, and advocating for change. The Minister of Justice, for example, told us that any legal order must be in rhythm with the society that it regulates. Sometimes yesterday’s laws are today’s transgressions, as is the case, for example, with segregation. She also stressed that legal culture must become an important part of our corporate culture -- and pointed out that in Europe, unlike in the U.S., lawyers within a corporation typically are not involved in setting strategy and become involved only when a problem develops.

The conference gave me an opportunity to renew the CBA’s friendship with the Bars of Paris, Hong Kong, Frankfort, Tokyo, Japan, Scotland and England and Wales. We look forward to more international programming with those Bars, including joint programming over the internet.

To access a video about the conference click on the Paris Bar Association's site here.