Report on IPBA Annual Conference

By Takuya Murao

This is a report on the IPBA annual conference held in Hong Kong from May 6th to 9th, 2015 which 7 members of our law firm attended.

 1 What is IPBA

IPBA is an acronym for Inter-Pacific Bar Association which is an association of lawyers who practice in the Asia-Pacific region.  The annual conference of IPBA has become a big event held once every year in a region in the Asia-Pacific where lawyers gather from not only the Asia-Pacific region but also from other regions around the world including regions such as Europe and South America.

Members of our firm have been attending the IPBA annual conferences since the Kyoto conference in 2011 and every attendance has been a valuable opportunity for us to meet and interact with lawyers form other regions.

2  About the Annual Conference

It has already been mentioned that the annual conference is a big event held once every year, but one may wonder what is actually being done at the conferences.  I would like to introduce to the readers a general, no, an ideal way of spending a day at the annual conference in Hong Kong.

(1) In the morning, you force your not-yet-awaken body to head to the IPBA breakfast hall from your hotel.  Even in the mornings, it is still tough to be in a suit in Hong Kong where the Discomfort Index is at a high level.  At the breakfast, you wake yourself up gradually by engaging in a conversation like “Did you sleep well last night?” with a lawyer from China who happened to sit next to you.  May it be because they are still in their dreams, the people attending breakfast are scattered around in the room.  After breakfast, you attend the Maritime Committee session and hear talks by lawyers from South Korea, Hong Kong, and Singapore on the recent movements in ship finance in each country.  After the 1 hour and a half long session, there is the coffee-break.  While you are having a bite on your cookie in the resting area set up next to the session rooms, you reunite with a lawyer from Canada whom you met and became friends with at the last year’s annual conference and chat with him for a while as you rejoice your reunion.  After the coffee break, you go back to the Maritime Committee session.  This is the end of the morning hours.

(2) You head straight to the lunch hall after the session.  At lunch, you happened to sit next to a prominent cross-border lawyer from Japan.  You take the opportunity and ask him every detail about his business know-how.  After lunch, you participate in an excursion with the Environmental Law committee to visit the “Zero Carbon Building”, a project building run by the Hong Kong government, to experience and learn on site about an experiment on practically-zero carbon-dioxide emission building.

(3) This is the end of all sessions for the day.  You look at your watch and it is already 5pm.  However, it is not exaggerating to say that the actual annual conference begins here.  This is because the dinner party which is the main event of the annual conference is coming up.  Every year, the host committee put their prestige at stake and prepare parties with variety and creativity, and this year, the dinner party is being held at the Hong Kong Jockey Club.  The whole racing track can be viewed from the deck of the venue and the attendees can even place bets on the races held that day.  This reminds you of when you shed tears at Tokyo Racecourse after you placed your precious cash on the horse named “Earnestly” for the sole reason that a bird was “twee”ting when you woke up that morning, but false confidence that “I may win in Hong Kong” makes you buy a betting ticket.  Of course, you lose.  As you watch the races from the deck, you engage in a conversation about horse racing with a lawyer from South Korea who has also bought a betting ticket.  At dinner, with the help of a little bit of alcohol, the conversations tend to get more casual.  Having a glass or two with various groups of people, you get tipsy and start to feel good.  3 hours after the party has begun, the party comes to an end.  The clock is pointing to 10pm already.  After walking back to the hotel with your shaky feet, you fall straight to sleep…

This is the most ideal way of spending a day at the annual conference.  At the annual conferences, the attendees are expected to interact with lawyers from other countries and it can be said that this is the main objective of the conference.  I hope you got a feel of the atmosphere.

3  Presentation by Yosuke Tanaka

At the Maritime Committee Session of this annual conference, Yosuke Tanaka delivered a talk on the revisions of the Japanese Maritime Law (Commercial Law).  In the presentation, Yosuke Tanaka commented on the background of the recent movements toward revision that there have long been calls for revision due to the fact that many parts of the provisions of the law no longer matched the actual practice because the Japanese Maritime Law has not been amended once since its enactment, and explained that drastic revisions will be made such as the addition of new provisions on combined transport contracts and on definitions of key phrases and concepts which did not have definition clauses before the revision.  A lot of questions were asked from the audience and it was easy to see that the revision on the Japanese Maritime Law was drawing a lot of attention from practitioners from other regions.

4  Visits to Law Firms in Hong Kong

We took the opportunity while we were in Hong Kong to visit law firms in Hong Kong who we have close relationships with.

To name a few, we visited W.K. To & Co, where Shohei Tezuka went on an exchange internship program organized between the Japan Federation of Bar Associations and Law Society of Hong Kong (please see our 170th column “Report on Internship in Hong Kong”), Fred Kan & Co, where Arthur Cheung, a lawyer from Hong Kong who we accepted as an intern in our office for the same program belongs, and Tsui & Co and Reed Smith where our law firm has a close relationship with in our maritime practice.

5  Remarks

The greatest benefit of attending the IPBA annual conferences is, of course, expanding the network with lawyers from overseas, but also to be exposed to the energy and ambitions the overseas lawyers have and get highly motivated toward improving our services.  Our firm will continue to strive to provide our clients with high quality services using the network and knowledge we gained through this experience.