Jonathan Warne, partner at Nabarro LLP is the UK jurisdiction representative of the Inter-Pacific Bar Association (IPBA).

In this article Jonathan shares his experiences of being an active IPBA member, as well as highlighting ways to get the most out of this international association.

What is the IPBA?

The IPBA is an international association of business and commercial lawyers who reside or have an interest in the Asia-Pacific region. The IPBA is approaching its 25th year and currently has around 1,400 members from 65 jurisdictions worldwide. Many members are from the Asia-Pacific region, but by no means all, as there is a good spread of jurisdictions.

How long have you been a member of the IPBA?

I have been a member of the IPBA since 2011 which has involved me attending the annual conferences in New Delhi; Seoul; and, most recently, Vancouver. In 2014, I was appointed as the UK jurisdictional representative of the IPBA for a 3 year term, taking over from Roger Best of Clifford Chance.

What attracted you to the organisation?

Like many UK firms, we have seen a growth in work in the Asia Pacific region. In my case, I have been involved in various matters involving parties from a range of Asian jurisdictions including Japan, Hong Kong, mainland China, India and Singapore. The IPBA provides a great opportunity to meet private practice and in-house lawyers from Asia-Pacific and lawyers from elsewhere with a particular interest in the region. It combines a vibrant professional programme with a genuinely friendly atmosphere.

What do you enjoy about the IPBA?

I have been a member of a number of international lawyers’ organisations and what makes the IPBA stand out is the genuine warmth and inclusive approach of its members. This makes it easy to build relationships and new members are encouraged to get involved – whether through contributing articles to regular newsletters or speaking at the annual or mid-year conferences. Whilst the IPBA is a sizeable organisation, the conferences remain on a scale that is manageable and provides an opportunity to get to know fellow members. By way of example, the 2014 annual conference in Vancouver had 684 delegates attending from 48 jurisdictions.

A particular highlight of attending an IPBA conference?

One of the highlights of every conference is the gala dinner and social gatherings arranged by the host committee. Each committee makes a lot of effort to put on special events which usually include a cultural theme. This has ranged from lawyers riding elephants through to appearing on a Korean film set. Needless to say nobody takes themselves too seriously.

I am also very much looking forward to this year’s annual conference in May as it is a celebration of 25 years of the IPBA and is being held in Hong Kong which is a fantastic location.

Is there a junior lawyers’ group within the IPBA?

Yes – there is a junior lawyers group and at each annual conference there is a “junior lawyers’ night out”. As is typical with the IPBA, more senior lawyers are also welcome to join but I have always headed back to my hotel at a sensible hour!

Tell us about the UK division of the IPBA.

I took over as the UK jurisdiction representative in the Spring of 2014. We currently have around 35 members in the UK – so there are still plenty of opportunities for others to get involved and I am confident that the UK membership will continue to grow, so now is the time to get in early! In December 2014, we hosted a joint event with the Law Society discussing the following Asia-Pacific topics:

  • Tom Dodd (Head ASEAN Department, Asia Pacific Directorate, Foreign & Commonwealth Office) speaking on “The opportunities and the challenges posed by the rise of Asia and the UK government response”.
  • Stephen Denyer (Head of City & International, Law Society) speaking on “The liberalisation of the law in the Asia Pacific region and opportunities for English law firms”.

In addition to ad hoc seminars, members are encouraged to contribute to monthly newsletters and of course to attend and actively participate in the annual conference. Additionally, there is liaison at a European level with a view to organising more pan-European IPBA events.

How do UK lawyers join the IPBA?

Membership is currently open to all qualified lawyers (private practice solicitors; in-house; and barristers). The current annual charges are Yen 23,000 (c. £135). As an IPBA member you:

  • Can attend the annual conference at a discounted rate.
  • Have access to regional conferences and seminars.
  • Have an opportunity to network with other IPBA members.
  • Receive a quarterly IPBA journal (with an opportunity to contribute content).

 The IPBA annual conference for 2015 takes place in Hong Kong between 6 - 9 May 2015. Details are available on the IPBA website.