AGM & Spring Conference 2014 – Edinburgh

AGM & Spring Conference 2014 – Edinburgh/UK. Thursday, 1 May, 2014-Sunday, 4 May, 2014

The 2014 the CONSULEGIS AGM and Spring Conference was held in Edinburgh, Scotland, hosted this year by Capital Law LLP. We were able to welcome a total of 134 participants to Edinburgh from 1 - 4 May, of whom 95 were delegates, 25 partners and 15 guests.

Once again a small group of participants gathered for an ‘unofficial’ Early Arrivals’ Dinner on the Wednesday evening. This year, thirty diners were present what has now become a popular tradition. Despite rainy weather, this more intimate circle were able to enjoy a memorable evening at the Timberyard Restaurant.

First item on the official programme was a seven-hour meeting for board members and the MD, also on the Wednesday.

Daytime arrivals had the opportunity to explore the city on foot or by bus. By evening, everyone had checked in and the conference could officially begin. Master of ceremonies for the Thursday evening is always the conference host. After a short walk, guests received a fitting reception in front of the Signet Library to the strains of traditional bagpipes. The library was a fitting venue for the start of our days in Edinburgh. Participants were able to admire the splendid setting and spend their first hours together exchanging views, sharing up-to-the-minute news and, above all, networking. The relaxed atmosphere of the Thursday evening is always conducive to chat, renewal friendships and doing business. As an international network, CONSULEGIS combines all these features. Appropriately wearing a kilt, conference host Duncan Macintosh welcomed attendees.  Unsurprisingly, he renounced the use of a microphone as the whole audience hung on his words, which closed with the phrase “we are brave and fearless.” The CONSULEGIS Chairman, Pedro Pais de Almeida, then added his own welcome to the guests and pointed out that the organisers had paid special attention to the weather and laid on sunshine. Unfortunately his forecast was not seamlessly accurate, at least until Friday afternoon, just after the conference close.

The next day began with breakfast for all delegates followed, as always, by an unpunctual start to the AGM for 2014. First, Chairman Pedro Pais de Almeida and Duncan Macintosh welcomed the assembled delegates and guests. The Managing Director, Anke Brauns, then settled the statutory business in the record time of five minutes. The meeting passed the budget, adopted the accounts and approved the future plans with alacrity. 

After this smooth completion of the mandatory business, the Board and the Managing Director - represented by Pedro Pais de Almeida - thanked the outgoing representatives of the Specialist Groups for their past work and dedication. At the same time, he introduced the newly elected teams for the Specialist Groups to the members. Each group then introduced itself and briefly outlined its future goals.

Shortly afterwards, there was some improvisation: Anke Brauns presented the present status of the strategy approved in 2012. She ended with the telling words, “we are on the right track, but there is still a lot to do.” Just in time, Lord Wallace took the microphone and gave his impressive address on the subject of “Scotland 2014 the year of decision”. Afterwards, participants were allowed sufficient time to question his Lordship.

Next on the programme was the traditional group picture, followed by an extended coffee break for further discussion and lively conversations. After this brief refreshment, there was a presentation “Welcome to New York City” with impressive trailer showing the venue of the next conference. The future hosts explained in a few words what awaited participants at this location. We expect to welcome another impressive turnout of delegates to the autumn conference.

As the next agenda point, Anke Brauns introduced Professor Andrea Floria, who had already addressed the European regional meeting in Rome. Now in Edinburgh, he gave another introduction to the “EU Funds“ project, focusing on the advantages which might accrue for members and also for the network. In the next few weeks, the CONSULEGIS office will be supplying further information about the implementation of this project. The presentations by Professor Floria and Lord Wallace can be downloaded from the CONSULEGIS website. 

As at every conference, the Managing Director reported on the current status of the marketing activities and their implementation, and looked ahead briefly to forthcoming projects. In conclusion, Anja Wendland gave a presentation of the kick-off meeting of the Young Lawyers’ Group and reported on their progress and successes to date. She also whetted appetites for the next topics to be presented by group members.

At the ensuing lunch, participants had plenty to time to discuss the morning’s topics or approach Lord Wallace and Professor Floria directly for a chat. Around 2.15 p.m., the new leaders of the Specialist Groups had their slot and withdrew to their allocated rooms with the many participants in the groups, which totalled five. At the concluding get-together, which can now be described as a tradition, the leaders reported briefly on the preceding two hours of workshops. And, lo and behold, the sun did come out promptly at the end, and participants had the opportunity for further exploration of the city under their own steam, or to collect their hired kilts. Vast numbers of male attendees had taken the opportunity, announced in advance, of hiring kilts locally. Several reported that they found the greatest challenge to be tying their shoelaces. Decked out like highlanders of the golden age, more than 30 participants stood ready for the ride to the evening venue. But, before setting out, numerous souvenir photographs were taken - some of them ferociously dour-faced. We heard the next day that some tourists had mistaken our participants for real Scotsmen and taken photographic mementos with great glee - in blissful ignorance that the figure in the kilt was French, American or even Spanish. The original Red Bus then set out for the Restaurant Ghillie Dhu, where dinner awaited participants in a converted church.  But the highlight of the evening was yet to come. After dessert, the tables were moved aside and a Scottish band struck up the first songs to join in. Participants were briefed in advance, with impressive film material on YouTube, on what the evening held in store. Traditional Scottish partner dances were on the programme which, incredibly, hardly a kilted conference-goer could resist joining in.

At 9 a.m. the next morning, the Business Development Workshop was on the agenda. Despite the late close (or early, depending on viewpoint) of the previous evening, many attendees were unwilling to miss the workshop. Anke Brauns gave an impressive presentation of the office’s work and achievements of the past two years. Above all, most of the ideas and wishes expressed at previous conferences had already been implemented. As in the past, the Business Development Workshop tackled various themes. Questions were discussed in small groups, followed by presentation to the plenary session for further discussion. After prompting from the Managing Director, it was agreed to make some thoughts and ideas reality by the autumn conference. After two intensive hours, the last official part of the conference came to an end. Participants then went on various tours, including golf and an ‘eat & walk’ city tour. 

In the evening, it was time for the Farewell Dinner at the Royal Botanic Garden. Some participants renewed their enthusiasm for wearing kilts for the evening - an unqualified success, rounded off with the traditional handover of the flag to the next hosts. Participants got into the mood for the next conference with professional backing from Leila Saber for the song New York, New York. This made a truly perfect close to a successful conference! At this point we wish to thank Capital Law for their unstinting support and successful staging of the conference. We now look forward to seeing everyone again in New York City.

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