President's Blog, April 2024

Posted: 23 Apr 2024 by Rachael Kelsey


Greetings from Edinburgh - spring has sprung and we’re enjoying the longer days after a dreich* few months. Or maybe I am feeling it because I am just back from beautiful (and warm) Thessaloniki, where the European Chapter held their latest Introduction to European Family Law meeting. It was a fabulous few days - 97 participants, the vast majority of whom were younger lawyers from across Europe (widely construed). Our fellow in Thessaloniki, Kostas Rokas, arranged for us to be hosted at the Faculty of Law at Aristotle University, and organised a wonderful series of dinners, which allowed us to get to see the city, in between some first-class education. These meetings, the brain child of past President William Longrigg, started in 2015 and have been incredibly successful for the European Chapter - raising the profile of the Academy, allowing us to provide unique, international family law education to lawyers across Europe and providing us with a way to identify and nurture future talent for the Chapter. Watch this space for Autumn 2025.

*dreich is Scottish for dreary / bleak

Annual Meeting, Boston

Only 43 sleeps to Boston (and 4 days to book at the early bird rate)!

Many of you have already booked and it’s going to be an amazing meeting where we will try out some new things, alongside the format you know and love. You have consistently given us feedback that the education is incredibly important to you, so we have extended the education time a little and, following a developing feedback theme in recent years, there will be more opportunity for interaction. In addition to some plenary sessions, we will have three concurrent sessions that you can sign up for. One will be live-streamed to raise funds for the Hague Conference and also have a group work component, and the other two sessions will be limited to 30 participants and follow a facilitated discussion format. More detail to follow in the coming days.

As well as registering, you can give some thought to whether you might be able to offer some financial support for the meeting, and the work that we are doing at it. There are still a few sponsorship opportunities left for the meeting itself and we will be supporting the Boston based Volunteer Lawyers Project (VLP), who offer pro bono support to individuals and families from lower income households across the Greater Boston area. When I met Geraldine Gruvis-Pizarro, the Director of Advocacy and Pro Bono last year, we talked about what IAFL might be able to do to support the work that VLP is doing in their Family Law Unit. We’ve been a bit creative and have organised our education programme so that they can use space that otherwise would be left empty to train local volunteer lawyers and we will also have a fun activity for you, which will involve us putting together bags that VLP can give to their vulnerable clients, when they have to attend court. Geraldine spoke very movingly about the practical challenges that many of their clients have, who are often very vulnerable and who lack basic things that we take for granted. We are intending to buy some good quality messenger bags, which we will fill with useful necessities, and which the VLP team can give to their clients in advance of court hearings. We want to raise some money to allow us to buy things for the bags, like tissues, pen and paper, and, if we get enough money, data and T (travel) cards. We’re then going to ask you to bring some good (neck)ties that you don’t use any more, and maybe buy a small bottle of perfume or aftershave at duty free, or a lipstick, so that we can also give the clients a treat, as well as something useful.

The other exciting new initiative that we will be launching in Boston is the IAFL Early Career Award: the judging panel have met and reviewed the 33 applications received, with a winner and 2 runners up identified. Our plan had been to make one Award, but we were so blown away by the quality of all applications that we are being brave and committing to make three Awards, so we now need do some fundraising! The recipients are invited to attend the meeting as our guest and they receive a contribution towards their travel costs. Our vision for this Award is to encourage the brightest and best lawyers from around the world and who are younger in the profession to stay in family law and contribute to our mission to improve the practice of law and the administration of justice in family law throughout the world. Preference was given to lawyers in lower and lower-middle income jurisdictions and we hope that the education and networking opportunities will be valuable for the recipients. We are particularly grateful to 4PB who are sponsoring one of the Awards, and Pennington Manches Cooper are donating 10 copies of the brand new Edition of the Blue Book* to be auctioned off at the meeting, with all funds received going to support the Award. We are hoping to get funding for one more. If you might be able to do that, get in touch with Annie (, or consider yourself warned that I might be in touch to try and persuade you!

Happy News

Many congratulations to Fellow, Heather Apicella from Florida - last week she was brave enough to marry a fellow Fellow, one Thomas Sasser. Join me in sending them love and best wishes for a long and happy marriage!

 *for those of you have not come across the Blue Book, it is a wonderful resource, providing information about family law in (now) 62 jurisdictions around the world. It was created, and has been edited, by Fellow, James Stewart, who has worked assiduously to support the Academy and our work around the globe. The first edition was launched at the IAFL meeting in Crete in 2012 and in this, sixth edition there are 62 jurisdictions represented, with many of the chapter authors being IAFL fellows (many of whom are now fellows, it has to be said, because of encouragement from James!). Congratulations to James and the team at Thomson Reuters for all their work.

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