“If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere,” sang Frank Sinatra, the boy from Jersey, so famously about New York City. The CONSULEGIS office along with the hosting law firms of Meister, Seelig & Fein LLP and Grunfeld, Desiderio, Lebowitz, Silverman & Klestadt LLP followed his bold words, and after four days in midtown Manhattan all attendees had to agree: What an amazing success this autumn conference was! It all started with an all-time high of registered guest: All in all 166 people decided to follow the invitation: 110 delegates with their families and 15 guests with their partners. It was one of CONSULEGIS best visited conferences.
As it has become a CONSULEGIS tradition, the conference started with an early arrivals dinner on Wednesday evening. The group of 45 set out to dine at the famous Carnegie Deli. There the food was aplenty, which lead to some participants being rechristened to reflect their fondness for Pastrami. But not all were brave enough to face the famous Reuben’s sandwich, made of rye bread with lots of Pastrami (again!) topped with sauerkraut and a hefty serving of melted Swiss cheese, and left their plates half finished.
They were punished the following morning, when New York showed that the saying “it’s raining cats and dogs” holds true not only for the British Isles but for the Isle of Manhattan as well. The board members were soaking wet when they arrived at the spectacular offices of Grunfeld, Desiderio, Lebowitz, Silverman & Klestadt LLP on the 25th floor of the Citi Group building on Park Avenue where the board meeting was held. After nearly 7 and half hours they returned to the W Hotel on Lexington Avenue and checked in at the well-hidden and cosy welcome desk. There most attendees had already been greeted by the CONSULEGIS staff and provided with everything they needed for their stay in New York City. Meanwhile the young lawyers meeting took place at the offices of Meister, Seelig and Fein, LLP. Anja Bischopink and Rachel Weiss met their young colleagues there to talk about the future of the Young Lawyers Initiative.
Without much rest all attendees switched their daytime business outfits with evening attire and headed to the Upstairs at the Kimberly hotel just two minutes around the block from the conference hotel. There on the 30th floor the guests were greeted by the hosts along with a spectacular view of the lit skyline of Manhattan. The undisputed star of the evening was the Chrysler building. The hosts had prepared their traditional welcome speeches, but the spectacular Art Deco style skyscraper in the shape of a 1929 Chrysler radiator cap, that boasts the highest rest room in Manhattan with undeniably the most stunning view of the big apple in its uppermost window, stole the show from Peter Klestadt and Sidney Bluming. Yet all attendees felt welcome anyway and the reception on the open rooftop terrace set the pace and style for the following days.
On Friday morning the “conference” part of the CONSULEGIS autumn conference finally started as the attendees were led to the Citi group auditorium at 399 Park Avenue. The conference started with a short welcome speech by the chairman of the Advisory Board, Pedro Pais de Almeida, at 9.00 am. He thanked Peter Klestadt, Harold Grunfeld and Sidney Bluming for organizing and hosting this year’s Autumn Conference. Then the board report and the election process for next year’s AGM conference were introduced. Afterwards, the guests were welcomed and each presented themselves with a short speech. Two potential new members gave a short overview of their law firm:
- Al Jad: Malek Takieddine (Beirut/Lebanon) and
- Sirius Legal: Bart van den Brande (Brussels/Belgium).
Around 10.00 am, the Dr. Thomas Marx Award 2014 was the next item on the agenda. This year’s winner was Edoardo Revello from Izzi Toniatti Pini Perron-Cabus Ziliani, Milan. Mr. Revello was given a symbolic cheque as well as a certificate. The winner presented his subject “Third Party Ownership In Professional Football” to the audience, which listened to his topic with great interest.
After that the first key note speaker of the day, Mark J. Seelig, founder of UOB Eagle Rock, held a lecture titled “Investments by foreigners in US real estate”. Following his 45 minutes presentation all attendees had the chance to regain their strength during a short coffee break. Then the second key note speaker, Bart M. Schwartz, CEO of Guidepost Solutions, LLC, presented his topic: “International investigation, security, and compliance”.
Next on the agenda was the introduction of the host city of the 2015 AGM & Spring conference, from April 23rd to 26th. Josep Solsona (BAa Advocats Associats) together with Dr. Astrid Dorfmeister (Dr. Astrid Dorfmeister leagal, tax and commercial consulting) as well as Elena Bello (Dr. Frühbeck Abogados, S.L.P.) presented a short movie with the title: “See you in Barcelona”.
The following 20 minutes were dominated by the marketing topics, which had been implemented over the last few months. Anke Brauns, the CONSULEGIS managing director, gave an overview over the diverse topics and an outlook of what to expect in the following months. Then Marlies Hoecherl spoke about the lawyers exchange programme, an initiative to further relations between the CONSULEGIS law firms. After that Jeff Daar talked about the upcoming webinars that will be hosted by lawyers of the CONSULEGIS network. Subsequently, Anja Bischopink, presented the status of the Young Lawyers Initiative. At about 1.00 pm the attendees were invited by Pedro Pais de Almeida to lunch before heading back to the W hotel, to attend a specialist group meeting.
On Friday night, bull riding was to be the order of the day. The group walked over to western style restaurant Johnny Utah’s to enjoy an evening on the rowdier side of New York. Several of the attendees were brave enough to face the establishment’s infamous mechanical bull to the enjoyment of their international colleagues. Some lawyers proved to be talented bull wranglers and well equipped for a second career as cowboys or cowgirls.
Saturday morning arrived all too fast and with it the Business Development Workshop at the main Hotel. Following a short presentation of new marketing materials by Anke Brauns and an introductory overview over the tools of the SWOT-Analysis by Michael Newman, the active part for the over 60 participants began. The attendees were divided in 4 groups – for Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats – and discussed their topic before presenting the results to the entire group. Afterwards all had the opportunity to go on a guided sightseeing tour with a red double-decker bus to explore New York City. After the tour the bus dropped the group at the New York Pier, where a typical harbour cruise ship waited for the CONSULEGIS members. Following boarding, everyone enjoyed a small picnic lunch while the ship visited Lady Liberty. The cameras always at hand, hundreds of city skyline panorama pictures must have been taken on that day.
And then it was time to say goodbye – but not quite yet. The Farewell Dinner, Saturday evening’s highlight, was next on the agenda. A group of 120 people all dressed in evening attire went to the 54 Below, a retro style nightclub below the infamous Studio 54. Not only was the dinner excellent, the band set the mood for a celebratory night. Singer Alyson Williams rocked the house and made the impossible possible: 120 lawyers and their company on their feet waving napkins over their heads and dancing like there were no tomorrow. Even love found its way to the NYC CONULEGIS conference. A young colleague from Prague proposed to his girlfriend during their stay, and the lucky lady said yes. He surely was very relieved by the happy outcome.
The conference ended with the traditional “passing on” of the CONSULEGIS flag from the hosts in New York to Josep Solsona, Astrid Dorfmeister and Elena Bello, who we will meet for our Spring Conference 2015 in Barcelona.
We thank Peter Klestadt, Harold Grunfeld and Sidney Bluming for hosting this wonderful meeting and for the unique experience in New York City.
The next CONSULEGIS Spring Conference 2015 will take place in Barcelona April 23rd to 26th.