Activities of the Foreign Affairs Committee
The Foreign Affairs Committee is a constituent organ of the National Council of our Bar charged with handling its international relations with foreign partners. As an activity undertaken on behalf of the whole community of attorneys at law in Poland, the Committee also provides assistance to the Regional Bar Associations in developing their international projects, in particular:
- it provides representation in international organisations of lawyers on behalf of the National Council,
- it maintains multilateral and bilateral contacts with foreign Bar Associations,
- it supports international projects of the Regional Bar Associations,
- it prepares case studies, investigations and other material for the use of the Bar,
- it coordinates the flow of information about the international activities between the National Council and Regional Bar Associations,
- it organises study visits, conferences and seminars for members of the Bar both abroad and at the national level with the participation of foreign speakers and experts.
Supporting Regional Bar Associations in their international projects
In 2009, thanks to the initiative of the National Council, Regional Bar Associations were given an opportunity to join the European Bars Federation (FBE), an organisation gathering together local and Regional Bars and focusing on facilitating mutual contacts between lawyers in different regions of the European Union. At present, the following Regional Bar Associations are members of the FBE: Wrocław, Szczecin, Warsaw, Poznań, Olsztyn and Zielona Góra. In September 2011, Wrocław was the first Regional Bar Association in this part of Europe to host the FBE Congress dedicated to new technologies and social media. Aleksandra Siewicka from Wałbrzych Bar Association was elected to the position of a Chair of the New Technology Committee of the Federation; in 2015 she was replaced by Izabela Konopacka from Wroclaw Bar Association. In the same year Artur Wierzbicki from Poznań Bar Association was elected as the Chair of the FBE Human Rights Committee.
Regional Bar Associations are also engaged in the activities of the European Association of Lawyers (AEA-EAL). Currently, two Polish attorneys at law hold the position of the Vice-President and the Secretary-General of the organisation. Over the past years, a number of seminars, conferences and meetings took place in Poland, being coorganised by the AEA-EAL and Regional Bar Associations of Szczecin, Poznań, Warsaw, Olsztyn, Gdańsk, Kraków and Białystok.
The Foreign Affairs Committee facilitates the interaction between Regional Bar Associations and their foreign partners, it informs them about any upcoming international events and it provides access to information about any European funding available for international projects.
Upon the initiative of the Foreing Affairs Committee, a number of Regional Bar Associations have become involved in the Eastern Partnership Project, providing, among others, scholarships to lawyers from the East, thus enabling them to participate in events organised or co-organised by our legal community. In addition, certain Regional Bars declared various other forms of support, especially for the mistreated Belarussian lawyers.
In 2013, the Committee prepared a study visit to the European Institutions and to the Court of Justice of the EU for the best performing attorneys at law trainees, while in 2014 and 2015, it opened competitions for the Regional Bar Associations for the best international project.
At present, the priority of the Committee is to include the widest possible range of attorneys at law in our international activities, for example by promoting strong participation in conferences organised jointly with the European Lawyers Association in Poland, and, when it comes to trainee and young lawyers, in practical seminars, workshops and trainings on the European law, law firm management and soft skills, as conducted by leading European specialists. Recently, such workshops have been held in Warsaw (organised in cooperation with IBA in 2012) and Kraków (2014).
We also provide attorneys at law with opportunities to participate as experts and speakers in various international events.
Multilateral and bilateral cooperation
The multilateral cooperation is carried out primarily, but not exclusively, within the framework of international lawyers’ organisations: the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE), the International Bar Association (IBA), the European Company Lawyers Association (ECLA), the European Association of Lawyers (AEA-EAL) and the Federation of European Bars (FBE). Furthermore, the Foreign Affairs Committee supports multilateral cooperation of the Regional Bar Associations not only within the FBE, but also through independent projects. An example of such support are three multilateral projects carried out in 2014: a project by the Opole Bar Association in partnership with Bar Councils from Serbia and Hungary or a project by the Warsaw Bar Association, which involves cooperation with Bar Council from Spain.
In May 2011, Poland hosted a special event – the Summit of the Presidents of Bars and Law Societies from around the world, which was combined with the meeting of the Board and various committees as well as working groups of IBA. This extraordinary and prestigious event was aimed at, inter alia, supporting the Polish legal professions in a dispute over the draft law on state legal exams. The conference members clearly stressed that the provision of legal services and legal protection of citizens is not possible without a guarantee of independence and self-governance of lawyers, strong professional ethics and independent disciplinary judiciary.
The bilateral cooperation involves local Bar Councils from European and non-European countries, and its aim is to share experience and exchange information about various achievements of the global legal community in different areas. To this purpose the Foreign Affairs Committee organises study visits and seminars for attorneys at law. In 2006, 2008, 2009, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 we held visits to the European Institutions, which were carried out in conjunction with visits at the hearings before the European Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights. In 2009 and 2012, seminars with French advocates were held in connection with the merger of legal advisers and advocates in France as well as the reform of the French Bar pupilage. In 2010, a meeting was held with representatives of the Bar Council of Spain as well as the Catalan judges on the topic of computerisation of the legal community and the justice system. Furthermore, in 2011, a conference on legal traineeships and continuing training systems was held with the Scottish advocates and solicitors, and in 2013, a meeting was organised with lawyers from the Nordic countries on the topic of large law firms (alternative business structures) and the electronic flow of documents between the courts, prosecutors and lawyers. Also in 2013, a seminar was held with Russian lawyers, which has resulted in establishing contacts with the Federal Chamber of Advocates. Finally, in 2014, a conference with the representatives of the Austrian Bar was held on the subject of legal assistance expenditure insurance system and social security of advocates in Austria. In 2015 reprezentatives of Regional Bar Associations participated in seminars on future of legal services as well as in number of international events such as the Conference of Presidents of Bar Associations from Central Europe, the Opening of the Legal Year of England and Wales, the Annual Assembly and the Conference of the European Association of Lawyers or the 10th Anniversary of independent legal profession in Georgia.