WLN Dublin - the "We Made It" conference12 March 2018
WLN conferences usually involve some stories to tell - sometimes about great speakers, lively debate or nights out to remember. The suspicion is, we'll be calling WLN Dublin 2018 the: "We Made It" conference. At least those of us will, who were not grounded by Storm Emma, a snowstorm rarely seen in Ireland and compared only to events in 2010, 1982 and 1947.
Delegates were faced with trying to reach Dublin before the airport closed - and even the challenge of getting from there to the city centre as traffic halted. Sadly, many were halted by air traffic at their home airport, or worse still in a sense, where they connected (several stopped in London). But thankfully, everyone was safe and warm amidst the confusion of cancellations and delays.
We owe a massive debt of thanks to all the team of our hosts at Noel Smyth & Partners for taking great care of us in difficult conditions - and especially to Marie Dwan for all her background organisation, to Fionnuala Bermingham for personal airport collections and to Ronan Hannigan for juggling our speakers and to the entire NS&P team for generally keeping the faith!
By the time we gathered for dinner at the Conrad Hotel on Thu 1 March, Dublin was in a code red shutdown. We were 27 strong instead of over 50. Unbelievably, on our first evening, not a single pub was open to console us! Yet our group was positive and cheerful.
Our business programme changed due to the loss of several speakers, but those who made it braved the weather, brought great material to discuss and found an audience reduced in numbers but not in enthusiasm. Particular thanks go to:
- Aloysius Wee, Chairman of ASEAN Legal Alliance (Singapore) for his presentation on the work of ALA and its member firms in 10 countries and for helping to describe the future strategic co-operation between WLN and ALA;
- Svetlana Kovalska from Moore Stephens (Kyiv, Ukraine) for talking to us about the complex challenges ahead for e-government in Ukraine;
- Randy Whitmeyer of Morningstar Law Group (Raleigh, NC) for revealing not only details of our next conference but a new video initiative to engage with contributions from all WLN member firms;
- Declan O'Reilly of Ireland's Criminal Assets Bureau (Dublin), who held all our attention about the work of the CAB and current issues of enforcement of compliance standards internationally;
- Tony McGillicuddy (Dublin), a barrister who linked the previous presentation to the complex legal world arising from recent EU Directives in anti-money laundering and how in particular we are challenged by issues unique to bitoin and cypto-currencies;
- David Elvira, WLN Director (Barcelona) for leading the WLN Academy with Declan & Tony's contributions;
- Aidan McNally of Teeling Whiskey Distillery (Dublin), who had the tough job of explaining the rapid expansion of investment in the industry and had to control us while a couple of examples were tested - purely for illustrative purposes;
- Úna Tighe (Dublin), a barrister who gave us an excellent tour d'horizon of the new GDPR, related risks to lawyers in private practise and compliance;
- Michael Mulcahey (former Lord Mayor of Dublin) and Robert O'Reilly (Director of Cicero Group, Dublin), who comprised a thought-provking panel on the thorny issue of Brexit and the position of Ireland and the EU.
Despite the weather putting paid to large parts of the originally planned social programme, we were able to make it on Fri 2 March to the Old Storehouse, where we squeezed together for traditional Irish food, folk music both modern and old, with a demonstration of Irish dance and great all-round craic. It may have been winter outside, but the warmth of our hosts and the group was real and uplifting.
For my part, this was not the conference we had planned - but even so, it will provide some lovely, enduring memories. We were so sorry to miss many friends, who were travelling from great distances but were frustrated by the weather - for example, our new member colleagues from Sao Paolo made it as far as London but no further. The loss of delegates and speakers made for huge changes to the timetable and social programme.
But we got to experience that rare phenomenon of a capital city in near-silence. There were free boxes of cake from Bewley's! And the characterful response of all our delegates to such adversity was impressive - your engagement, patience and good humour will abide in my memory. By the time it came for us to travel home, the snow was thawing and the pristine white was turning to grey slush. As quickly as the storm came, it departed - a sort of a perfect metaphor for any conference.
So, thank you one and all. We made it.
And before we know it, we'll be gathering again, so mark your cards and prepare to travel at least a day or so early:
- Next main WLN conference: Raleigh, NC, USA (20-22 Sept 2018) to be hosted by Morningstar Law Group
- Note: client event early on Thu 20 Sept.
- Programme to follow soon.