News & Updates

A United Nations of Law Firms

John Clarke

Published byJohn Clarke

17th November 2021

A United Nations of Law Firms

I’m writing this on the flight back from Vienna to London, following an Avrio conference – Avrio being one of the international networks that WJM belong to. I admit to a soft spot for Avrio, having attended meetings since 1990, been a Board Member for 5 years – and President for another 5. Writing that makes me feel old!

I’m sure that some of my colleagues – and perhaps even some of our clients – think these sort of trips are “jollies” – but they aren’t, honestly. Trust me: I’m a lawyer after all! So, what benefit do they bring to WJM, its clients and contacts?

I believe – strongly – that it brings better experienced lawyers. We tend to get too focused on what we know, but these meetings open our eyes and ears to what we don’t know. And that’s important when business is becoming more and more international.

A few examples:

- We have Scottish clients doing great work in mainland Europe. But their first venture out of the UK is a big step: bad enough trying to understand Scottish lawyers (!) let alone those in Portugal or Denmark, say. That’s when I find it really helpful to introduce them to someone we have grown to know over the years: yes in the conferences, but also in the (obligatory, you’ll understand) meals and post-meal conversation in the bar. Put it this way: if your business has an issue in another country, do you want that dealt with by someone who is entirely new to you or by someone where you have a “warm” introduction – such as remind of him of that time in Poland…. If nothing else, the ice is broken

- I’ve got an interesting case just now where a contract that is subject to French law is written in English. Do you remember Donald Romsfeld’s famous speech, including the bit about “unknown unknowns”: at the time, I thought that idiotic but – sorry, Donald – you were right. I know (roughly) what words written in English mean in a contract subject to Scots, English or US law. But what do the words mean in French – and were there any terms implied into this contract without being expressly stated? That’s where a French colleague has been so helpful.

- Lastly, I had an interesting conversation about choice of law: which counts and which law should deal with disputes. I know, I know: “interesting” might not be the word that comes to your mind. But if things go wrong in a commercial dispute so that some sort is dispute resolution is needed (and please, please get in touch with us before writs start flying), you probably want those heard in a place that is efficient; neutral; and not too expensive. That’s why my discussions about dispute resolution in the Netherlands was so interesting.

Just a few examples, and there are many more. We’ve invested in Avrio, and it’s there to help you as much as us. So, get in touch: particularly, in Zoom time, it is so easy to get a colleague on line to ask those questions that are troubling you or us.

Finally, the tourist plug. Vienna really is beautiful and interesting. And if you go, get a tour of the UN building: all those things I didn’t know

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