A report on the Spring Conference which has left European delegates enthusiastic over their first visit to Edinburgh

 Last November, I wrote in the Journal fresh from attending the European Young Bar Association (EYBA) International Weekend in London. The EYBA is the pan-European body that represents more than 300,000 young lawyers across the continent.

At that time, excitement was building back home – Scotland had just been chosen to host the EYBA’s next international event, the Spring Conference, and the Scottish Young Lawyers’ Association was beginning to knuckle down to plan and design what we wanted to achieve when Europe’s young lawyers arrived. There followed an intense period of pulling together our ambition and aims for the conference. We wanted to deliver a progressive, outward-looking conference, with a focus on Scottish heritage and culture, while highlighting to our own members the opportunities that an international outlook can bring.

The results were delivered over the weekend of 13-15 March, when the SYLA put on a packed programme of educational and social events involving more than 300 young lawyers from Scotland, Europe and across the globe. In total, 17 different jurisdictions were represented, including Italy, France, Germany, Netherlands, Russia and the USA.

In the best tradition, Scottish hospitality was part of the story. Whisky tasting, Scottish fare and ceilidh dancing featured, together with education on the unique heritage of the Scottish legal system. Over the weekend, the delegates had the opportunity to explore Parliament Hall, the Advocates’ Library, the Signet Library and the Court of Session. They were also especially privileged to be welcomed by the Dean of Faculty, who led a private tour, and to hear from Lord Armstrong, who gave an absorbing address on the history of Scots law and the courts, from the bench of court 1.

The centrepiece of course was the conference – an all-day affair, challenging and questioning what it means to be a young lawyer in Europe today. From social media to career development, from corporate social responsibility to delivering major international commercial infrastructure projects, the debate was lively and engaging, and allowed young Scots lawyers the opportunity to gain insight into a more international perspective on these issues. The star of the day was perhaps Richard Susskind, a figure many from the continent would not have had the opportunity to meet in person before. Commanding and prophetic as ever, Richard challenged the attendees to think much more radically about how our profession will look in a few years’ time.

The conference concluded with a keynote address from Christina McKelvie MSP, who whetted the Europeans’ appetite for discussion on all things referendum-based. For young Scots, it was hard during the weekend to escape the volume of Europeans who wanted to discuss the question with us – none of us, I think, had appreciated quite how keenly the youth of Europe is engaged with, and attempting to be informed on, the independence debate.

It wouldn’t have been an SYLA weekend without a social media record for posterity – you can catch up on the full conference discussion on Twitter, hashtag #syladoeseyba

In a magical conclusion to the weekend, the WS Society welcomed the SYLA for our annual Spring Ball, allowing both our members and the EYBA the opportunity to marvel at the beauty of the Signet Library. Three hundred young lawyers from across the globe all joining hands to sing “Auld Lang Syne” is a special memory that will stay with many of us for years. The conference brought fellowship and community to the fore. It encouraged the Scots attending to extend our horizons beyond the Scottish jurisdiction. For the Europeans, it fostered increased awareness and understanding of the Scots legal heritage and what the modern Scottish profession can offer Europe.

It was, for us, a special and uplifting weekend and one we are glad we had the opportunity to deliver. On behalf of all of the SYLA committee and all those young Scots lawyers who attended the events, our thanks are due to the profession, speakers, hosts and sponsors for the overwhelming encouragement and support we received in this, the SYLA’s 40th year, to host the EYBA Spring Conference.


Thank you from Barcelona (the next stop!)

Elisabeth Batista

I am Elisabeth Batista, executive officer of the European Young Bar Association (EYBA) and the Barcelona Young Bar Association. I had the pleasure and opportunity to attend the Spring Conference, which took place on 13-15 March 2014 in Edinburgh, Scotland.

The three days were intensive, in which the attendees not only learned about legal aspects, but also were able to become more familiar with Scottish culture. Specifically, on Thursday 13, all attendees were welcomed at the historic Signet Library, home of the WS Society, an incredible place surrounded by full bookshelves, and where I was able to make the first contact with our Scottish colleagues and to meet the other participants.

On Friday 14 March the day commenced with the scientific programme, involving, among other issues, the importance of social media for the legal profession (its function, its use depending on whether it is for private or professional life, deciding what to explain within social media, learning how to send messages properly, the dangers associated with social media, etc). Another topic of discussion was the professional development of the young lawyer, and how to be efficient within the legal profession. The second portion of the conference dealt with specific legal topics, such as how arbitration proceedings work in Scotland, a comparison with the arbitration proceeding existing in London, as well as the importance of the Scottish arbitration proceeding at an international level. More broadly, the discussion covered various international views on corporate social responsibility and the perspectives of young people within Europe.

Overall, the scientific programme was complete, since there were not only sessions with legal content exclusively but also with practical advice that can be applied to work in the legal profession.

The day ended with a nice dinner at the Hilton Hotel, where we had the opportunity to taste different Scottish whiskies and to try some traditional Scottish dancing with a band playing live music. Finally, we went to Lulu’s disco, where we kept on dancing and having fun together.

On Saturday 15 March we were delighted to attend a private tour of Parliament Hall and had the honour to hear a talk from Lord Armstrong, judge of the Supreme Courts of Scotland, who gave us a brief summary of the history of Scottish law, how the court system in Scotland works, and his stance on the current situation in Scotland from a political point of view, in relation with the Supreme Court. We also had a talk from the President of the Scotland Law Society, Mr Bruce Beveridge, who received us wearing a kilt, the traditional Scottish dress for special occasions, and explained to us what life is like for Scottish lawyers, and the importance of the pro bono work, among other interesting topics revolving around Scotland’s legal system.

The Spring Conference closed at the Signet Library by joining the SYLA’s Spring Ball, which was an impressive dinner party, providing an atmosphere that was both formal and friendly at the same time.

To finish, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of my colleagues from the Scottish Young Lawyers’ Association, who I know made a huge effort to organise the conference, which was excellent. And I would especially like to thank my colleague Fiona McAllister, for having asked me to prepare the present article, as well as all the other Scottish colleagues, who organised such wonderful Spring Conference, specifically: Emma Boffey, Laura Wylie, Deborah Russell and Audrey Junner.

The next stop will be in Barcelona, where the Annual General Meeting shall take place from 12-14 June. The programme is almost complete and we hope that this meeting will be, at least, up to the standard that the Spring Conference 2014 has set.

Thank you very much.

When Europe Meets The Kilt

Geoffrey Deliége

It was my first time in Edinburgh and in Scotland. I was really happy to make my travel arrangements for this EYBA meeting, as I had wished for so long to discover this romantic destination, and I have not been disappointed.

The European Young Bar Association Spring Conference centred on the theme “Progression in the Profession: The Young European Lawyer”. For a continental lawyer, it was interesting to hear those distinguished speakers and to discover a very market-oriented approach with which, perhaps quite naively, Belgian lawyers are less acquainted. Discovering other perspectives is also what EYBA meetings are all about.

Again, I realised that, like Monsieur Jourdain in Molière's Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, I had been doing pro bono and corporate social responsibility for several years by several involvements, in complete ignorance of its name. It is so much part of our profession to help and to be able to offer our time for a good cause when we have the leisure and the privilege to do it. It is fine and important to be conscious of the social role we can and we must play. We certainly must promote it. However, it should not become a substitute to legal aid, as there is a difference between charity and the precious rights of social security (this precision has more to do with our Belgian Minister of Justice than with the speeches I have heard).

And then, I am so grateful to this Scottish colleague (whose business card I forgot to ask, I’m afraid) who advised me to wear a kilt already for the traditional ceilidh dancing, whisky tasting and dinner. I was the only foreigner wearing one. Belgian avocats are used to wearing a black gown, but are less accustomed to a tartan skirt... One needs a moment to feel at ease, but the overwhelming Scottish hospitality made me feel at home and gave me the strange impression that kilts were really what fitted me best. Dancing with charming colleagues from Scotland and all around Europe improved that impression and nearly convinced me that I was maybe not such a disaster on the dance floor in the end. But then, I had tasted a few fine whiskies too, so I could not be sure.

After this enchanting Friday night, Saturday started with an appointment on Parliament Square, with a proud bagpiper playing in the background. We discovered the prestigious centre of the judiciary in Edinburgh with Mr James Wolffe QC, Dean of Faculty of Advocates, and Mr Bruce Beveridge, President of the Law Society. Lord Armstrong gave us the honour of a glimpse of the history of law in Scotland as well. It was great to hear that, in the past, many lawyers used to study also in the Netherlands and in Italy before starting their practice in their homeland. The European Young Bar Association would have found quite naturally its roots in Scotland too!

The Scottish national dress was again the rule for the Spring Ball which took place in the superb Signet Library. The live band was truly extraordinary and we had great fun.

During conversations with Scottish colleagues and at various occasions during the speeches, the question of Scotland's independence was raised. Coming from a country where some also think about their independence, I have some views on the matter. The Belgian context is quite different though and not comparable. My feeling has been that the Scotsmen who were talking about it understood that it would be an adventure with its risks, but I quite sincerely felt that all of them would be proud to take up the challenge. I wish the best for the people of Scotland and hope they will make the best choice for their future. Be it as it may, I hope that Scotland, independent or in another form, will remain firmly attached to its strong European bounds.

Edinburgh is certainly one of the best EYBA meetings I have had the chance to attend. It will remain an unforgettable experience! Thank you, Scotland, Edinburgh, Fiona McAllister and her team, Catriona Headley and our Scottish colleagues! And, last but not least, many thanks to the kilt! We'll meet again.

The Author
Emma Boffey is Vice President of the Scottish Young Lawyers’ Association This year marks SYLA’s 40th anniversary. A birthday party is planned for 29 May 2014 in Glasgow, to which all former and current members are invited. Further details will be released shortly. Meantime, save the date for #sylaturns40 Best regards, Elisabeth Batista Executive officer of the EYBA and Barcelona YBA   Geoffrey Deliége is a Belgian avocat. His office is in Spa. He read law at the Université catholique de Louvain (Belgium) and at the Università di Bologna (Italy). He has been elected President of the Conference of the Young Verviers Bar (East Belgium). www.jeunebarreau.be and www.avocatdeliege.be
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