Canada: A Week To Remember In Prague

Last Updated: September 6 2013
Article by Glenn Zakaib

About a year ago, then DRI President-Elect Mary Massaron Ross, advised that the Spring 2013 Meeting of the DRI Board of Directors would take place in Prague in the Czech Republic. Her concept at that time was to combine the European venue for the meeting with a roundtable on arbitration issues and the annual DRI international seminar. Working with the DRI ADR Committee, DRI International, along with now President Massaron Ross, advanced the arbitration discussion from a roundtable event into the Global Arbitration Summit that was held on June 12, 2013. In conjunction, DRI International began its planning of the Hot Topics in International Dispute Resolution Seminar, the fifth conference of the committee since its formation. That event took place on June 13–14. After the dates had been set, both committees, with the help of Law Institute members Paul Lavelle and Mike Aylward, began the hard work of vetting suggested topics and putting together a premier faculty. For those of you involved in planning seminars, you will know the dedication and efforts seminar planning requires. With back-to-back seminars and a board meeting to follow, the time and efforts were more significant than normal and it is a tribute to the staff at DRI that all three events were carried out with such ease.

Arriving in Prague to recover from the effects of a long flight and adjust to the time difference, I was amazed at the beauty of the city, its architecture, and the many cobblestone streets and sidewalks. To think that Prague, only the week before the conferences, had been under threat of a significant flooding disaster didn't seem real given the bustling streets and active commerce. When the rain ended and the sun rose on the morning of June 11, it was evident that the efforts all on the steering committees had made for the conferences would be worthwhile. Prague's famous landmarks and the outstanding DRI programs scheduled that week brought together the leaders in international arbitration and the litigation community.

DRI's first Global Arbitration Summit featured faculty members from around the globe, including John Beechey, Chair of the ICC International Court of Arbitration, who provided the keynote address on the state of international arbitration. The summit allowed for a forum for audience interaction as panels addressed the current and future state of global arbitration, how arbitration affects our clients, and how we prepare for the future. One could not help but be impressed with the wealth of knowledge of our faculty and the conference registrants. Thanks to President Mary Massaron Ross for her vision and perseverance to have DRI host the summit on global arbitration and to all the steering committee members who worked so hard to bring this event together. The summit proceedings were recorded for the future benefit of all members of DRI.

Thursday and Friday were hosted by DRI International and its chair, Dieter Hofmann, and vice chair, Pat Armstrong. When the European members of the International Committee held their fly-in meeting in September of 2012, the overwhelming theme was to provide a conference focusing on dispute resolution issues and to ensure that the format for the conference allowed opportunities for interaction with the audience and networking among peers. The steering committee for the conference took these recommendations to heart and organized a conference format not typical of most DRI conferences we attend in North America. Networking breaks were expanded to 30 minutes and a networking lunch was provided to allow faculty and registrants of the conference to interact. It was evident that this format was successful as discussions between panel members and the audience carried on during breaks and lunch, allowing opportunities to meet and learn from one another.

The seminar commenced with a presentation on the developments in alternative dispute resolution by Professor Christopher Hodges, Ph.D., from the University of Oxford. While we had expected there to be developments in collective redress in the EU near the time of the conference, the collective redress panel that followed had to address breaking news in the EU and in France on recommendations for the introduction of collective redress throughout the EU member countries, as well as new legislation in France both announced within a day of the conference. Added to the discussion were developments in England and Russia on collective redress issues.

A key feature of the annual conference is the panel of in-house counsel who provide their insights into managing cross-border litigation and how outside legal counsel can better serve the needs of their clients. This discussion was followed by a discussion on recent trends in International Financial litigation led by DRI International Chair Dieter Hofmann.

The June 14 sessions were equally fascinating as we started the day with a discussion and demonstration regarding presentation of expert testimony at trial. This demonstrative panel provided the audience with insights into the differences between the common law systems in North America and the UK, where counsel conduct the examinations, and the completely opposite approach in Switzerland, where the presiding judge controls the proceedings and the questioning of the expert witness. Our expert, Mark Berenblut, who has had experience testifying in multiple jurisdictions, provided his insights into how experts and counsel can address these differing systems.

Our seminar concluded with a panel presentation addressing legal concerns for product manufacturers who face cross-border litigation and featured Laurent Geelhand-de-Merxem, General Counsel Europe for Michelin. In addition to addressing the regulatory and litigation concerns of manufacturers in a global economy, the panel provided insights into how manufacturers can make their legal team a profit center and discussed the issues looming on the horizon.

Where do we go from here? DRI International's plans for next year's conference will begin shortly and all members of DRI are encouraged to submit a theme, ideas for discussion, and proposed venues for the next conference to Mr. Hofmann and Ms. Armstrong. DRI International's annual conference presents a tremendous opportunity to meet, discuss, and network with international dispute resolution practitioners, in-house counsel from around the globe, and clients with international concerns. We benefit greatly from the involvement and participation of our fellow members in DRI and expect next year's conference to be an even greater success.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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