Sunday, October 14, 2007

The biggest-ever gathering of international lawyers, judges and legal experts opens in Singapore on Sunday.

SINGAPORE: The biggest-ever gathering of international lawyers, judges and legal experts opens in Singapore on Sunday.

And even as final touches are being looked into, conference host – the London-based International Bar Association (IBA) – is already discussing the possibility of opening a regional office in Asia, with Singapore as a likely choice.

Lawyers from around the world will gather in Singapore to discuss key challenges facing the international legal fraternity.

The IBA has nearly 50 sub-committees to brainstorm topics to be tabled at the week-long meeting.

These issues include cross-border transactions, challenges posed by the IT industry and intellectual property, and how the law deals with race and religion to create a harmonious society.

Delegates will also discuss the pace of development of the legal sector in developing countries.

Mark Ellis, executive director of the International Bar Association, said: "The IBA has over 198 bar associations from every corner of the world and some 30,000 individual members, so the developing world and the legal fraternity will be well represented here.

"The topics that are going to be discussed include how you enforce and continue to build the capacity of local bar associations to support the rule of law, to support commercial developments. This will definitely be an issue to be discussed."

The conference has also designated 19 October as the Rule of Law Day, with a planned symposium that has attracted much debate, even among political circles.

Philip Jeyaretnam, president of Law Society of Singapore, said: "I don't think this event should be politicised – it's not right that legal discussion and debate become hijacked by something else or people look at it and say, 'Well, we are not really interested in the legal issues of what the rule of law means and instead we have a political agenda and we would like to push that agenda'.

"Of course we know that in any discussion, people bring lots of things to the table. Different people have different motives and different views. It's fine if these take place in a proper, free-flowing discussion."

Besides the hundreds of academic papers that lawyers will be presenting at the conference, the Singapore Law Society said the IBA's meeting in Singapore is also an excellent opportunity for lawyers from big and small firms to enhance their networking processes and develop new ties.

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