President's Blog, December 2023

Posted: 22 Dec 2023 by Rachael Kelsey

Another Winter Solstice wrapped… my last blog of the year, from a festive London!

It’s been an incredible year and I want to thank you all for your support and passion for the IAFL in 2023. It’s been a year in which we have made phenomenal strides. The organisation is growing, financially sound and is increasingly recognised as the ‘go to’ (copyright, William Longrigg) organisation globally in Family Law.

There are so many things that have taken place this year that could be mentioned, but two activities should be singled out, because they are activities that our Fellows do pro bono for the good of the family law community as a whole. Activities which demand dedication, time, energy and commitment. This has been a year in which we were given permission to intervene in the Constitutional Court of the Slovak Republic (many thanks to Ed Freedman, the Chair of the incredibly dedicated Amicus Committee, and Daniela Jezova our Fellow in Slovakia), and in the Court of Appeal in England and Wales (many thanks to Fellows, Jacqueline Renton and her 4PB colleagues and Jemma Dally and her Goodman Ray colleagues) and where we were granted Observer status at the Hague Conference on International Private Law at the Special Commission on the 1980 and 1996 Conventions (many thanks to Fellows Michael Gration KC, Richard Min and Fabiana Quaini for representing us there) and the Working Group on the Parentage and Surrogacy Project.

I also wanted to share a few of my personal, IAFL highlights of the year too, in no particular order, and a non-exhaustive list for 2023….

  • Welcoming Fellows from 15 new jurisdictions this year including Kenya, Zambia, Morocco, Lebanon, Jamaica, St Thomas in the US Virgin Islands, Uruguay, Oklahoma, Oregon, Iceland, Estonia, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Romania and Albania. It is so exciting to see the Fellowship grow!;
  •  The invitations to the IAFL to participate in judicial training for the first time, in Kenya and Zambia, and seeing the powerhouses behind both of those initiatives now having been invited to become Fellows; the spectacular Juliet Nyambura Gachanja, Child Justice Adviser to the Chief Justice of Kenya and Ruth Chilembo, Registrar of the Zambian High Court, Family and Children’s Division;
  • The first, in real life, Asia Pacific Chapter meeting in Bangkok! This was one of my all-time favourite IAFL meetings; the
     energy and enthusiasm was infectious, and an education programme that must be in the top three of all time. This meeting cannot be spoken of without specific mention to past Chapter Presidents Corinne Remedios and Nigel Nicholls for the passion and care that they devoted to making the meeting fly as it did; 
  •  Actually being with some of you again in person! TukTuk’ing with Anita Chan in Bangkok after years of Facetimes with one or other of us in pyjamas; going to Daniela Horvitz’s shul with her and her family in Santiago; being one of the cast of thousands fed and watered by the back bone of the South African Fellows, Zenobia du Toit, at her home in Cape Town; a particularly poignant one - being shown round Tel Aviv with Ed Freedman and having a wonderful supper with him and his wife Orna at their home; Shannon and Rob Miles adopting my son for the weekend in San Diego when he was there playing lacrosse, after Rob had given me THE San Diego tour earlier in the year, and then having the pleasure of welcoming them in Edinburgh; being with Eniko Fulop in her home town and coming away with my first piece of Romanian national dress, and, another very poignant one, having had the privilege of sloping off for a lazy lunch with Maggie Rae and Alan Haworth during the European Chapter meeting in Venice. I could go on…

I remember when I first became a Fellow that Cheryl Hepfer said to me that I would make friends who would have me to their homes, who would look after my children in strange lands and who would drop everything to be there if needed. How right she was; you are an astonishingly lovely group of people!

I’m penning this at a ludicrous hour (on the shortest day), hurtling towards the end of the year, so shall leave you to whatever client/family/cooking crisis you have on your plate. But, I do so hoping that you too will have some fond memories of IAFL locked away for 2023: some touch points with people who may practice a very different kind of law, in a very different place, but who nonetheless see you, and understand the reality of being a family lawyer.

 Here's to 2024 and seeing lots of you next year!


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