Once again, many CONSULEGIS members answered the invitation of member Brian Kahn Inc. to South Africa, travelling to Cape Town – or Mother City – for this year's autumn Conference. Although at first glance this year's autumn Conference was not blessed with overwhelming participant numbers, this did not diminish the success of the Conference in any way. On the contrary, with 75 participants, the numbers were in fact quite manageable and allowed for even more lively exchange with those present taking full advantage of the networking opportunities.
The unofficial part of the Conference began with the Early Arrivals Dinner on Wednesday night. This in itself provided the first highlight as almost 50% of Conference participants took part in the traditional African dinner. Not just attracted by the palate tickling delicacies, the eyes were given their fair share of delight with African dancers painting guests’ faces at their request with traditional decorations.
As usual, the CONSULEGIS Advisory Board Meeting was held on Thursday. The participants who were already there had the opportunity of familiarizing themselves with some of the city beforehand and, thanks to the good weather, were able to visit Table Mountain. In the afternoon, the Young Lawyers Group met for a first exchange. The Welcome Reception’s theme was African Carnival and guests accepted Brian Kahn’s invitation to enjoy a colourful evening with African dances, drum sessions and a wide range of delicacies – a great starting point for a successful Conference!
On the agenda on Friday was the actual reason for the journey: the Autumn Conference 2015! The Chair, Irmtraud Wendland, newly elected in May 2015, first gave a brief outline of the Board’s work. In addition to the various members’ presentations on planned meetings and conferences, Anke Brauns again took the chance to explain current marketing topics and allow a brief look into the future of the network. The undisputed highlight of the autumn Conference came after that when Albie Sachs took the podium, and afterwards many members took the chance to have their pictures taken with him. The CONSULEGIS Autumn Conference was graced by the presence of a man who is bound to Art and Politics by love and lineage; and who chose not to be trapped in history. He is one of the most influential and inspirational men in the world and a leader who substantially contributed to the foundation of democracy in South Africa - Ex-Judge and Anti-Apartheid Activist Albie Sachs. He addressed the intrigued CONSULEGIS members on the Rule of Law by narrating five intensely personal African stories staggered over various years in his and South Africa’s history. We got the same feedback many times over: that this experience alone was reason enough to make the journey to Cape Town.
The meetings of the five Specialist Groups followed in the afternoon. A visit to a traditional restaurant was planned for the early evening but there was still some ‘work on the agenda’ before dinner – a drum lesson for all the participants! Each participant tried to follow the beat of the drum teacher – with varying amounts of success! It was great fun for all though. Warmed up and in the best of moods, the group adjourned to dinner. And what a dinner – the menu, a thing of wonder for the guests, was an amazing culinary journey through the African continent. And even after this great experience at the Gold Restaurant, the colourful evening was not over by a long shot as the group moved on to the V & A Waterfront for drinks.
The next morning, work was again on the agenda and participants gathered bright and early for the Business Development Meeting. There was a lively exchange and many ideas on how to use the network more within law firms, how new target groups should be addressed, and what opportunities were on offer for the future. Following that was the sightseeing bus tour, lunch at a location with outstanding views of Table Mountain and a visit to several city attractions on offer for the international guests. After that, wine-tasting was on the program and some participants were pleasantly surprised that wine – in this case, Groot Constantia – went so well with chocolate. The vineyard was also the venue for that evening’s entertainment as well as the grand finale of the tour, with a relaxed and upbeat atmosphere. After the culinary delights had got everyone in the mood, the 5-piece swing band got everybody’s toes tapping too, many guests storming the dance floor. First of all to the sounds of the band and later the DJ and when this part of the evening too came to a close, the bus took guests back to the Taj Conference Hotel, where hospitality and individual service knows no bounds.