NYSBA’s Global Reach Takes Center Stage at International Section Conference in Tokyo

By Joan Fucillo

December 17, 2019

NYSBA’s Global Reach Takes Center Stage at International Section Conference in Tokyo


By Joan Fucillo

NYSBA is reinventing itself as a bar association that serves all lawyers, whether they are around the corner or across the world. Throughout the association, there is a heightened emphasis on building a global community and expanding and improving digital tools so all NYSBA members are never more than a click away from their colleagues and all the services NYSBA offers.

The early results of this comprehensive effort were on display Nov. 5-8 at the NYSBA International Section 2019 Global Conference in Tokyo. It was NYSBA’s largest International Section event ever and featured a massive outreach effort by NYSBA leadership to connect with conference-goers and the leaders of Japan’s largest law firms and bar associations, including the nationwide Japan Federation of Bar Associations.

“Lawyers around the world are more interdependent and deeply connected than ever, and we must act upon that,” said President Hank Greenberg. “It is incumbent upon us to reach out to all our colleagues to build relationships and deepen our mutual understanding. This conference was an opportunity to communicate NYSBA’s vision of the future of the law and of lawyers: The world needs lawyers everywhere to come together.”

Building connections with law firms and bar associations

In addition to attending conference events, Greenberg held productive meetings with managing partners and leaders of some of the largest law firms in Japan, all of which have many lawyers who are admitted to the bar in New York or have degrees from U.S. law schools. Greenberg and these Japanese legal leaders discussed the need for lawyers worldwide to develop and maintain strong connections and emphasized the utility of a global organization where lawyers can come together.

One of the firms had opened a New York City branch and others were contemplating doing so. Greenberg offered NYSBA as a resource to help establish their New York homes. All looked forward to collaborating on future endeavors.

Greenberg also met with leaders of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, the umbrella organization for all Japanese bars, as well as three major bar associations in Tokyo: the Tokyo Bar Association; Dai-Ichi Bar Association and the Daini Tokyo Bar Association.

Differences, diversity and inclusion

Greenberg lauded International Section Chair Diane O’Connell and conference co-chairs Ed Lenci, Miriam Rose Ivan Pereira and Tsugu Watanabe for their outstanding work.

O’Connell said that Greenberg’s outreach efforts were much appreciated by the 200 conference attendees and the lawyers he met with privately. She noted significant conference achievements that will expand NYSBA’s global presence including the formation of an International Section Chapter in South Africa and the launch of the Asian Bar Council, which brings together all of the section’s chapters across Asia into one overarching entity, becomes a steady point of contact for participants and is open to any NYSBA International Section member.

As NYSBA increases its connections with international lawyers and asserts a greater global role for itself, there is a need to help lawyers understand each other’s differences, noted O’Connell.

“The theme of the conference was ‘A World of Many Voices, United in Our Diversity,’ and this was the first time our conference focused on diversity and inclusion in the international legal community,” said O’Connell. “The potential for substantive and cultural misunderstandings, or an unintentional insult or violation of protocol, are real issues in cross-border lawyering.”

“Diversity is humanity,” she said, adding that diverse groups are more creative than homogeneous ones. “An environment of inclusion will help the legal community to provide better legal structures and services.”

The meetings, plenaries and panel discussions, including a plenary with representatives from 11 arbitration centers, an international mock arbitration and advocacy workshop, and a plenary on how to behave in a foreign court, wove in the conference theme.

Friday’s human rights plenary tackled diversity and inclusion head-on, discussing cross-cultural challenges and the laws and other legal developments associated with the LGBTQ+ community, marriage, gender and religion in Asia, the United States, Europe and Latin America.

“The conference theme was very much front and center throughout the meeting,” said Co-chair Ed Lenci. “The International Section is the ideal medium for this dialogue.” He noted that the 2020 Global Conference in London, Oct. 14-16, will expand on the theme.

Speakers and other highlights

Hon. Kunio Hamada, former Justice of the Supreme Court of Japan and founding partner, Mori Hamada & Matsumoto, Tokyo, and Chargé d’Affaires Joseph M. Young, U.S. Embassy in Japan, gave keynote addresses. Yutaro Kikuchi, president of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, welcomed NYSBA to Tokyo during Wednesday’s president’s reception. BARBRI International representatives were on hand to speak with lawyers about qualifying to practice in other jurisdictions, including the U.S.

Growing interest

Greenberg noted a growing interest in the Asian legal community to connect with New York and NYSBA. At the Third Department admissions ceremony in June 2019, of the 142 foreign attorneys admitted to New York practice 41 were from Asia. For the first time, NYSBA joined the International Bar Association’s September conference in Seoul, holding a successful membership drive and a reception that attracted 100 conference-goers.

“There is a consensus in the international legal community that New York law is the gold standard and that lawyers around the world benefit from a New York connection,” said Greenberg. “NYSBA is uniquely situated to serve them.”

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