On April 14th, 15th and 16th, the European Association of Lawyers invited its members and supporters to study and networking days in Poland.
The stay began on Saturday at noon with a warm welcome by the Warsaw Bar of Legal Advisers (lawyers practising their activity in the field of commercial and business law) before a trip with some fellow Polish colleagues to the wonderful Masurian Lake district, former Eastern Prussia. Our Polish friends were most agreeable and entertaining. The trip has been very cheerful, not mentioning the beautiful landscape outside: marvellous hills (leftovers of former glaciers), beautiful lakes and pins and birches forests as far as the eye can see. What a breathtaking view! The Masurian region counts no fewer than 2,700 lakes, a paradise for sailing sports lovers.
At our arrival in Olstyn (Allenstein in german), the participants were accompanied to their hotel, and welcomed by the Dean of the Olstyn Bar of Legal Advisers, the Council Bar and a most curious audience about Europe, the functioning of the European Institutions, the lobbying activities etc. Their curiosity was as impressive as their happiness to welcome foreign colleagues. Later on, the television and the press followed. The participants have eventually been invited for a walk around the beautiful Olstyn’s old area. A medieval castle towers over the city and is rumoured to have been Copernicus’s living and working place for several years. This fantastic day ended with a delicious dinner in a beautiful restaurant built on the lake.
The next day was devoted to a long trip of the above mentioned region with our fellow polish colleagues. It began with the visit of the ‘Wolfsschanze’, an impressive set of bunkers, absolutely invisible thanks to a veil covering the buildings (invented by a Belgian) and indestructible where Hitler and his generals used to stay and where the failed attack of von Stauffenberg took place.
The trip continued to a baroque pilgrim church, Swieta Lipka, a Jesuit monastic place, with a gorgeous three-bay basilica, considered as one of the most beautiful baroque specimens in Poland. This church is particularly famous for its magnificent baroque organ built in 1721. We were fortunate enough to be welcomed in this place by an organ concert. What a beautiful place!
Lunch took place in Ryn, in a former Teutonic castle, just next to one of the numerous lakes of the Masurian region.
The next day, Monday April 16th, was devoted to a study day about “The rules of ethics of the legal professions at the beginning of the XXI century”. This seminar was co-organised by the Warsaw Bar of Legal Advisers and the European Association of Lawyers. It took place in the premises of the Warsaw Bar of Legal Advisers and could easily welcome the 200 participants. The perfect organisation, which left nothing to chance, guaranteed the participants a warm reception and their comfort throughout the day.
The opening of the seminar was assigned to the Chairman of the Arbitration Court at the Polish Chamber of Commerce and former minister of Justice and Attorney General, Mr. Andrzej KALWAS. The floor was then given to Mr. Maciej BOBROWICS, President of the National Council of Legal Advisers, Mrs. Elisabeth HOFFMANN, President of the European Association of Lawyers, and Mrs. Maria SLAZAK, vice-president of the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE hereafter).
The first panel was devoted to the following question: Can the profession of public trust exist without ethics? Mr. DE BAERDEMAEKER, Chair of the Society of French and German speaking Bars in Belgium (OBFG) gave a remarkable opening lecture distinguishing moral and ethics, recording that public trust and lawyers’ independence are essentials, that ethics, including lawyers’ and courts’ trust is an obligation of the rules of law. Mr. DE BAERDEMAEKER mentioned that the Belgian Lawyers’ oath includes the obligation to accept one’s term in all conscience and concluded his speech with three judgments of the European Court of Justice regarding the entire issue of ethics.
Mr. SCHERMANN, Honorary President of the Confédération Nationale des Avocats (National confederation of French Bars), put an emphasis on globalisation and its consequences on our profession to conclude that our services are of a particular nature and are not really part of a competitive market. He drew the participants’ attention to the French deontology rules that have been the subject of an executive order: the pressure from national and European institutions, always willing to impose rules and measures, is strong. He also underlined several differences about deontology rules in EU member countries: the quota litis pact is recognised in some countries, especially Eastern European countries, some national orders accept an association with other professions etc.
The second panel was devoted to a European Code of Ethics of the legal profession. Mrs. Lucy Dupong, former President of the Luxemburg Bar and Chair of the CCBE Deontology Committee, detailed the working methods of the CCBE and the differences remaining in the field of deontology in the EU member states. The Code of Ethics of the legal profession drawn up by the CCBE should be amended but the road will be long and difficult.
Mr. Pawel SKUCZYNSKI, President of the Institute of Legal Ethics in the Department of Law at Warsaw University, later on made a difference between the professional rules that came from a French heritage and those, much different, of the United States particularly securing very close boundaries with the client that exclude, as a matter of fact, the principle of the lawyer’s independence. However this is compensated by very strong professional rules. He regrets that European traditions are disappearing.
Mister KLADKA mentioned that Poland did not adopt the CCBE Code yet.
The study-day ended with Mr. KALWAS’ concluding speech, pleading for deontological rules, determined by the profession rather than by the State.
Our Polish colleagues, whose hospitality is proverbial, were truly marvellous hosts and the organisation of the seminar, with topical and high quality speakers, was well received. Finally, on top of everything else, the seminar was the occasion to make new acquaintances and to visit some Polish regions whose beauty will never be forgotten.
The European Association of Lawyers organises several times a year seminars and congresses in different European countries with the support of the European Commission. They emphasise European and/or international issues with high-class speakers. These meetings allow the participants to keep up with changes in European law.
This is the key reason why EAL’s General Assembly decided, in June 2011, upon special membership fees, particularly interesting for young lawyers.
The next EAL congress will take place in Berlin in October 25th, 26th and 27th 2012. The two main topics will be the proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on a Common European Sales Law and a modern system of European insolvency law. Speakers from the European Commission will be invited to explain the current situation and the Commission’s intentions. High-class specialists and professors will debate. The congress will take place in the heart of Berlin in one of the most prestigious hotel and will end with a boat tour on Saturday afternoon.