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President's Blog

Posted: 11 Aug 2015 by William Longrigg

I promised in my last ‘blog’ posted on 3 June that this one would be shorter because it would be posted soon after the last one. The organisation for the Sicily meeting – and a lot of other stuff as you will see - has rather taken over so apologies that you have had to wait 2 months for this update!

The major event since the last blog is, of course, the meeting of the US and Canadian chapter held in Quebec City. I travelled out there on Monday 8 June so that I could attend the Hague Symposium on Tuesday 9 June before the executive meeting and the beginning of the conference on Wednesday 10 June. This was an incredibly well attended symposium. The point of these symposia is to attract local lawyers who are not necessarily IAML fellows and this worked very well here. I told someone at lunch I was from London and he asked ‘London Ontario?’ so it was definitely a Canadian-oriented session! Having said that, we had a virtual presentation from the Secretary General of the Hague Conference Christophe Bernasconi who is very well disposed towards IAML and who said as much. He brought us up to date with developments in the 1980 and 1996 Hague Conventions and talked us through some other Hague initiatives. The speakers were all excellent and everyone agreed that this day was a great success.

Indeed, this was a superb meeting generally. Joy Feinberg and Pierre-Hugues Fortin did us proud. I had not been to Quebec City before; it is stunningly beautiful. Many of the buildings date from the 18th century, with some from the 17th century and it sits on a steep hill above the St Lawrence River which leads to the great lakes. It is one of the oldest cities in North America and part of the historic district is a UNESCO world heritage site.

The weather was (apart from one day) excellent and all those who had not been there before were charmed by the city.  The meeting hotel, the Auberge Saint-Antoine, was great value and fitted the bill perfectly. Apart from the city orientation tour, we visited the fabulous Montmorency Falls, the Governor General’s residence, the Plains of Abraham and the Old Port District. We had a superb President’s Reception and dinner in the Petite Séminaire Chapel, a wonderful and ornate 19th century church. Look under past meetings on the website for some amazing photographs. The excellent educational programme, masterminded by Joy and CLE co-chairs Sally Oldham, Arnold Rutkin, Meighan Harmon, Thomas Wolfrum and Sarah Boulby, included sessions on pre-nuptial agreements, sociological aspects of co-habitation, challenges of multi-jurisdictional divorces and pensions, restitution under the Hague Convention and guidelines for judicial interviews. Many of these papers are posted on the website.

Joy and Pierre are to be congratulated on what was a wonderful meeting in every way. Like Seville, this is going to be a really hard act for me to follow in Sicily.

Back from Quebec City on the morning of Monday 15 June and straight into the office. I felt rather sleepy in the evening meeting of the Forum of Family Arbitrators chaired by IAML fellow, Grant Howell!

Friday 19 June, London fellow Maggie Rae and I had breakfast at the Royal Overseas League with Indian fellow Ranjit Malhotra who will be assisting with the New Delhi meeting in September 2016. Maggie is running the education programme.  We discussed a number of issues, and found a great deal to work on. Ranjit very kindly offered to host an evening in New Delhi for the IAML delegates at the meeting.

At breakfast we bumped into IAML Fellows, Susie Thorn and Anne Berger who happened also to be staying at the Royal Overseas League in advance of the conference of the ICCFR (The International Commission on Couple and Family Relations) which was taking place in Berlin over the following weekend.

Thursday 25 June saw the second of the events on Sharia law held at Kings College London organised jointly between Paris family lawyers CBBC, Kings College London and IAML.  The previous event had concentrated on children issues and this time the issues were more to do with divorce and finance. The speakers were Tim Scott QC (who had so ably assisted IAML with the intervention in the UK Supreme Court case earlier in the year), Charlotte Butruille-Cardew, Grant Howell and Ayesha Vardag. We were also very lucky to have a Supreme Court Judge from Paris, Cyril Roth.

Friday 26 June – I had a very useful meeting with Rachael Kelsey and Suzanne Kingston to plan the strategy day in Sicily which is to take place on Tuesday 8thSeptember, the day before the delegates arrive. The executive committee members have all agreed to arrive a day early for this important meeting.

Much of the next two weeks was spent dealing with the Sicily meeting and following up from various discussions in Quebec City. This included working on the briefs for and the choice of the branding agency to help IAML with the rebranding in advance of launching our much-needed new website, all of which had been discussed at length at and after the executive meeting in Quebec City. The group dealing with this was immediate past president Cheryl Hepfer, president-elect Nancy Berg,  treasurer Tom Sasser, secretary Rachel Kelsey, vice-president Mia Reich-Sjögren and me

While these discussions were going on I attended, with a number of other IAML fellows, a conference in Cambridge on Friday 10 and Saturday 11 July on “ The Future of Registered Partnerships” and IAML was the co-sponsor with London family law chambers Queen Elizabeth Buildings. It was masterminded by IAML associate fellow, Jens Scherpe who is a fellow of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge and another academic, Andy Hayward from Durham University. It was a great success. For our relatively small financial contribution, IAML had a great deal of air time. Three IAML fellows chaired sessions – Isabelle Rein Lescastereyres from Paris, Tim Amos QC from London and European Chapter president Mark Harper. The audience consisted mainly of academics from around the world but there were also plenty of family law practitioners. This is exactly the sort of publicity that we need: a large group of influential people realising that we have a particular interest in and international knowledge of these family law issues. One matter discussed was whether in England and Wales there is any point in continuing with civil partnerships now that we have same-sex marriage, and in particular whether civil partnership should be available for opposite sex couples. There was a divergence of opinion and it was fascinating to hear from people from around the world how their countries look at these issues.  The academics were really interested to hear about IAML. For more information about this conference see www.family2015.info .

After a quick trip north for my elder daughter’s university graduation, I flew to New York on Thursday 16 July to meet with the group mentioned above for the rebranding discussion.  Rachael Kelsey and I had three meetings with youngish New York lawyers (who are not IAML Fellows but whom we felt could benefit from knowing a bit more about us) before the rebranding work began.

We had chosen a branding agency called Red Rooster which has done a lot for non-profit organisations. So for the whole of Friday 17 July, we worked with them, telling them about IAML, talking about who we are and what we want to be, looking at different designs and talking about a potential name change. This was an incredibly useful and extremely interesting exercise and it was extraordinary how well we worked together as a team. This was commented on by the Red Rooster facilitators. We were very lucky that New York fellow Susan Moss  lent us the main meeting room in her office. Her colleagues scarcely batted an eyelid when huge pieces of paper were taped to the glass walls for us to gather round and discuss.

The following day, we were lucky enough to be able to use the office of another New York fellow, Alton Abramowitz, for our debrief of the previous day, which included a presentation from our new association management system provider, Membee. We also discussed at length the potential name change from International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers to International Academy of Family Lawyers and worked through the pros and cons.  In Quebec City, as you will know from the email I sent to all fellows on 22nd July, we discussed the question of a name change for IAML and the Executive Committee will be asking the Governors in Taormina to vote on that change of name. This is of course an important step which needed a great deal of consideration.

Back to London on the Sunday after a fascinating, very useful and bonding few days!

On Monday 20 July, Joanna Yiannitsarou and I had a long meeting with Sarvin Warden who is our agent in India helping to organise the New Delhi conference in 2016. I just about managed to get my head around talking about India even though my head was full of arrangements for Sicily and rebranding and quite of lot of client stuff too! There was a lot to discuss and at least the hotel contract in now signed. We are planning post-meeting trips to Agra, Jaipur, Udaipur and further afield for those who want to explore fabulous Rajastan.

A quick break to stay with friends in Portugal from Wednesday 22 July gave me an opportunity to consider at leisure the responses to the email I had sent out about the name change from IAML to IAFL.  I was delighted that they were overwhelmingly positive. Many thanks to all of you who contributed to the discussion.

On 27th July Joy Feinberg circulated an email attaching the journal of Alicia Haripershad, the third IAML sponsored University of Cape Town student to win the opportunity to stay with and work with an IAML fellow in a jurisdiction of her choice. The first student, Linda, had gone to Joy in Chicago; the second, Wela, to Bill Gucksman in LA; Alicia chose Kathy Farmer in Chicago. Just reading the journal of her time with Kathy, everything she experienced professionally and personally and the bonds that developed, was very engaging and also moving. Joy, Bill and Kathy and of course their families (and colleagues) have given so much and made an enormous difference to the lives of these students and enabled them to experience something more than special. This scheme was set up in 2012 by IAML together with UCT. I would like to see more of these schemes and Joy Feinberg is taking on the mantle of running this for IAML. The UCT scheme runs alongside the Cambridge University scheme and the US Chapter scheme. It would be great if we could aim to extend this to perhaps India and other areas of the world. I am proud to say that Alicia had a number of generous hosts to choose from and anyone interested in being a host should contact Joy.

Shortly after our return from Portugal, I had a wonderful dinner with those organising the education programme in Sicily, namely Helen Ward, Johan Sarvik and Fredric Renstrom. It was great that the Swedes had come over for 3 days to finalise everything with Helen Ward. Max Meyer from Sydney is also closely involved, but more geographically remotely.

The preparations for Sicily have now got to the stage where they take up several hours each day. At the time of writing this “blog”, there are 278 people due to attend the meeting. This is an extraordinary number and includes 23 first timers. Sicily somehow seems to have captured the imagination of the fellows and I hope the meeting will live up to their expectations. As Joanna, Donna, Sarah and I work on this, together with our agent in Sicily, Tobias, the excitement is growing. The great numbers mean a certain amount of reorganisation, but what fabulous problem to have!

I hope to do another blog prior to Sicily but Joanna is currently away for the first week of her two week holiday in Greece, Donna will be away next week and I will be away on holiday the week after that, so there is rather a lot to do!


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