Welcoming remarks at the International Legal Assistance Consortium (ILAC) Annual Conference were made by the Law Society President, Christina Blacklaws, who highlighted the importance of safeguarding the rule of law as a way of building robust justice systems and securing the independence of the legal profession and the judiciary.

President Blacklaws also remarked on how important it is to establish strong partnerships to support the rebuilding of the justice system globally. ILAC President, Elizabeth Howe, in turn expressed her appreciation to the Law Society for hosting ILAC’s Annual Conference and commended the Law Society’s contribution to the rule of law. This was followed by a noteworthy intervention by David Steven, leader of the Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies, who stated: “Without justice, people and societies fail to reach their full potential”.

At the joint ILAC-Law Society Public Seminar, in her opening comments, Baroness Kennedy stated: “legal professionals are the protectors of the rule of law and human rights”. Professor Stefan Lindberg identified current trends and said that we are in a third wave of “autocratisation” within large influential countries in the world, with a toxic polarisation of the media, attacks to civil society organisations, and a gradual erosion of democracy. IBA Executive Director Mark Ellis remarked that many jurisdictions are openly attempting to close civil society space through legislative enactments in areas such as freedoms of assembly or association, which is having a detrimental impact inside those countries. President Blacklaws focused her presentation on the status of gender goals in the legal profession: “we need to collect and document women’s history because if we don’t it will disappear. Our legal profession also needs to reflect the society it serves to ensure access to justice”. ILAC Director Agneta then went on to say: “the judiciary must be scrutinised for increasing accountability, but we should not forget that the executive can also use this justification to interfere with the judiciary”.

The night ended with a reception at Temple Church, kindly hosted by the Honourable Society of Inner Temple. Inner Temple Sub-Treasurer Greg Dorey welcomed all ILAC delegates and remarked on the historical significance of Temple Church in celebrating Magna Carta and its legacy. He also said that the UK legal profession has a great deal of expertise and knowledge to offer, on a pro bono basis, to other jurisdictions around the world. ILAC President Elizabeth Howe expressed her appreciation to Inner Temple for hosting the reception and welcomed the close collaboration from British solicitors, barristers and judges in upholding the rule of law worldwide.