A family celebration….The new President reflects on this year’s conference
One week following the conference, where we were supported in unprecedented numbers by our members, I find myself reflecting on the Conference and considering how it characterised so much about what we value as members of the ILA family, being:
- our focus and love of the law. It was fitting that the weekend kicked off with a vibrant and entertaining Academic Forum chaired with flair and focus by Professor Sarah Worthington Q.C. Following the decision to host the event in Cambridge, Stephen Davies Q.C. had the foresight to promote the Academic Forum and we welcomed 65 (academics and practitioners) to a number of thought provoking presentations on Friday. Whilst the ILA has hosted academic gatherings previously, none have been as ambitious or perhaps have had the degree of planning and focus as this one. This year we included a competition amongst young academics for an opportunity to present a paper at the forum. The standard of entry was exceptional and the deserved winner, Natalie Mrockova (DPhil candidate, University of Oxford (Balliol)) gave an inspirational talk entitled "Designing insolvency laws for transition economies: The Case of China". All felt enriched by the experience and agreed that the concept should be a blue print for future academic gatherings. We were privileged to have amongst the numbers, Professor Sir Roy Goode CBE QC Emeritus Professor of Law, University of Oxford and Professor Jay L Westbrook Benno C. Schmidt Chair of Business Law, University of Texas School of Law both of whom had travelled (Professor Goode returning from Australia in time for the event and Professor Westbrook from his home in Texas). Indeed it was fitting that Professor Goode was with us because it reflected my personal journey into insolvency/restructuring as when I came to do an LLM, I studied at the Centre for Commercial Studies at Queen Mary College (and the Centre was founded by Professor Goode). In the interview with Professor Goode at the main Conference (which was one of the Conference highlights) he listed the founding of the Centre for Commercial Studies as the outstanding achievement of his career. Given everything else he has achieved, that is saying something! Professor Goode also reminded us (during the interview) that one of our challenges is not to treat our profession as purely a business: and that neatly leads me on to my second reflection.
- the collegiatility and supportiveness of our members. I can testify to this both from the period that I have spent as a member of the ILA Council and as co-chair (with Peter Cranston) of the Technical Committee. I also know it because in my preparations for the Conference, I have been supported by many of the members of the Technical Committee and those on Council who suggested speakers, twisted arms and generally supported me in putting together what I believe all agreed was a very informative programme. It is the selfless giving up of time (which is at such a premium) in a world where we are constantly measured which really does endear one to the ILA. This supportive environment was reinforced by the "gang" of ILA past presidents who attended the Conference including Ian Fletcher, Hamish Anderson, Stuart Frith, Laurence Crowley, Louise and John Verrill, Peter Horrocks, Chris Mallon and Peter Cranston: some of whom have been involved since the ILA was founded 24 years ago and so further proof that the support is far from transient!
- the quality of the presentations. The main Conference was chaired by Mr Justice Vos who not only provided some well observed comments about but (much to the enjoyment of the delegates) did so in a spirit of levity. All of the speakers delivered probing and challenging presentations on topics which are at the vanguard of the development of insolvency and restructuring and it was tremendously encouraging to see some of our more junior members of the bar and the solicitor's profession deliver such impressive papers. There is no doubt that the cri de coeur from many of those who spoke (not only those from the U.K. but also practitioners and judicial representatives from Europe) was for an engagement on the challenges in the international insolvency/restructuring arena given the proposed changes to the European Insolvency Regulation as well as the implications of the Rubin decision.
- the many causes we have for celebration. We have Professor Goode's impending milestone birthday, Professor Ian Fletcher being appointed an honorary QC, one of our speakers at the Conference, Jeremy Goldring, recently taking silk and the support from the Judiciary to chair the conference. In addition, we were able to extend our gratitude to the two Council members who have retired (Justin Bickle and Stephen Davies Q.C.), extend a welcome to two new Council members (Jeremy Bamford and Adam Plainer) and express our thanks to both Nigel Barnett for all he has done for the ILA over the past 12 months and to those who attended both the (reinvigorated) Academic Forum and the Conference. For all those accolades it was fitting to close our Conference in the stunning surrounds of the Fitzwilliam Museum by toasting the many successes and thanks to members of our ILA family. Long may we be able to do so.
So as I sign off with some initial reflections on the Conference weekend, I want to highlight the focus for my Presidency. I am delighted to be working alongside Philip Hertz as my Vice President and our sponsors (US Bank). Our focus will be very much on building on what the ILA does so well, focussing on building our international membership, working more closely with our academic members (so that they can raise our profile with talented students) and of course increase the flow of younger members to the ILA. I have been overwhelmed by the encouragement and support of members to date and both Philip and I look forward to serving you over the next 12 months.