The ABA's Section Of International Law 2006 Spring Meeting: Leading The Discussion For Global Practitioners

Editor: Mr. Byowitz, would you tell us something about your professional background?

Byowitz: Following graduation from New York University School of Law in 1976, I worked in Washington, DC for seven years, much of which was with the Antitrust Division of the United States Department of Justice. By 1983, I was a senior trial attorney in the DOJ with substantial antitrust merger experience. M&A was a core practice area in which Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz was already pre-eminent, and they needed to add another antitrust attorney, which represented a perfect opportunity. There is no better firm in the world, then or now, for this practice.

Until the late 1980s, the only jurisdiction that one worried about in terms of antitrust enforcement as a bar to a merger transaction was the U.S. That has changed dramatically in the intervening years, starting with Canada's amendment of its Competition Act in the late 1980's, the adoption of the Merger Regulation by the EU in the early 1990's, and a whole host of antitrust and merger control rules across a variety of other jurisdictions since then. As a result, the lawyers in Wachtell Lipton's Antitrust Department must be familiar with many foreign antitrust laws as well as maintain relationships with the best competition practitioners around the world. The development of my practice in this area is what prompted me to become active in the American Bar Association Section of International Law in the first place.

Editor: Obviously your practice area has been profoundly affected by globalization.

Byowitz: Absolutely. Many other areas have been just as affected. If you mention IP, people immediately think of China. If you talk about outsourcing, India immediately comes to mind. The ABA Section of International Law has some 60 committees, almost all of which are concerned with the impact of globalization on some substantive area of the law - international litigation, international mergers and acquisitions, international family law, and so on. Many of the remaining committees are regionally-based committees such as Europe, the Middle East, China, Asia/Pacific, etc.

Editor: The convergence of your antitrust practice and globalization has led you to hold many positions with the ABA Section of International Law. Can you tell us about this aspect of your career?

Byowitz: I had developed some expertise in the antitrust aspects of international M&A work when in 1993 I was recommended to the then Chair of the International Section, who was looking for someone to head their international antitrust committee. I was able to expand the membership of that group and, subsequently, was asked to join the International Section's Council, which is its governing body. Over time, I took on other responsibilities, chairing several of the International Section's divisions, and ultimately being named Vice Chair of the Section and then becoming Chair-Elect. My term as Chair of the Section will end at the conclusion of the ABA's Annual Meeting in Honolulu in August.

Editor: What is the mission of the ABA Section of International Law?

Byowitz: The Section of International Law is that part of the American Bar Association that is uniquely focused on the international arena, and its mission is to serve as the gateway to international practice for the profession. Among other things, the Section serves as a forum for the discussion of the issues and as a place where practitioners - from law firms, corporations, the academic world and government - may extend their international networks. Of the close to 14,000 members, a substantial number are U.S. lawyers in practice abroad or non-U.S. lawyers who are eligible to join and participate in the Section as what we call international associates. Another aspect of our mission is to advocate for international legal policy and for the rule of law around the world.

Editor: Putting together a conference like the recently concluded Section of International Law's 2006 Spring Meeting in New York is quite an undertaking. What does the Section seek to achieve with this?

Byowitz: The International Section hosts two large meetings every year. The Spring Meeting alternates between New York and Washington, DC, while two of the last three Fall Meetings have been held in Europe. The purpose of these events is to provide our members with cutting-edge, expert sources of information on matters of public international law and transnational business law, globalization, progress in the rule of law, corporate citizenship in the global arena, and so on. We also offer unparalleled networking opportunities for lawyers focused on international matters.

Editor: What benefits do the registrants get from attending these meetings?

Byowitz: One very important benefit is continuing legal education, or CLE, credit, which is required in most states. Our meetings typically feature world class expert speakers and cover a wide array of programs in core practice areas of the Section. We frequently have multiple programs in each of the following areas:

international dispute resolution (litigation and arbitration);

international capital markets and financial issues;

international trade, customs, export controls, economic sanctions, and related issues;

international regulatory matters;

international transactions;

international legal practice issues; and

public international law.

Our recent 2006 Spring Meeting in New York, which was our largest ever, had more than 70 CLE programs split into these seven broad areas. As I say, these meetings also provide excellent networking opportunities for those engaged in or who want to know more about international practice.

Editor: How many international practitioners attended this meeting?

Byowitz: We were very pleased. There were 1,350 participants in the Spring Meeting from almost 50 countries, making it our largest meeting ever by about 300 people. Each of our last two Spring Meetings attracted about 1,050 people.

Editor: There were several high profile speakers at the meeting. How did they contribute to program?

Byowitz: One of our core missions is to advance the rule of law and provide a forum for the discussion of important public international law issues. We invite distinguished speakers in order to raise awareness, stimulate thinking and encourage participation.

Judge Thomas Bergenthal of the International Court of Justice spoke about the important role played by international courts, something that is not well known in the U.S., even on the part of lawyers. His remarks were carried on CSPAN, and a rebroadcast of the program would be well worth seeing.

Former U.S. Attorney General Benjamin Civiletti addressed a number of important U.S. legal issues with international dimensions, including immigration reform.

World-renowned primatologist Jane Goodall spoke, and there is just not enough I can say about her. Jane spoke about her extraordinary career beginning with her mentorship by Dr. Louis Leakey and her current efforts to reach the youth of the world with a message of engagement and hope.

Charles Osgood has had a unique career as a radio and TV personality and brought a special perspective to the program.

Editor: What were the other highlights of the meeting?

Byowitz: There were many. It was a pleasure to walk around the meeting and receive all of the positive feedback. Among the programs that were particularly well received was one put on in conjunction with the Association of the Bar of the City of New York on combating international terrorism. The speakers included former Illinois Governor James Thompson, Chairman of Winston & Strawn, who subsequently served as a member of the 9/11 Commission, and Donna Bucella, Director of the U.S. Terrorist Screening Center at the Department of Homeland Security. We also had the full appellate body of the World Trade Organization appear together on one of our panels, the first time this had ever happened anywhere.

Just prior to the 2006 Spring Meeting a delegation of 45 ABA and International Section leaders participated in our ABA Day at the United Nations. I had the privilege of co-chairing the delegation with ABA President Mike Greco. The agenda included substantive meetings at the U.N. in the morning where we met with Nicholas Michel, U.N. legal counsel and Undersecretary General of the Office of Legal Affairs, Christopher Burnham, the Undersecretary General in charge of management, Shashi Tharoor, the Undersecretary General for public information and David Harland, Chief of the Peacekeeping Best Practices Unit. Our luncheon speaker was Mark Malloch Brown, the new U.N. Deputy Secretary-General, who reports directly to Kofi Annan. In the afternoon we met with officials from the U.S. Mission to the U.N., including Deputy Ambassador Alex Wolfe, where we discussed the ABA's policy supporting U.S. involvement in the new U.N. Human Rights Council.

Editor: What Section awards were presented at the Spring Meeting?

Byowitz: We presented three at the Spring Meeting. The Louis B. Sohn Award for Public International Law was presented to Judge Thomas Bergenthal who, among other things, co-authored a book with Professor Sohn. This is an award presented from time to time to someone who has made a distinguished contribution to the field of public international law over a long period of time. In addition, we presented the Mayre Rasmussen award to Aaron Schildhaus, one of our Section leaders. This award honors an international practitioner who has encouraged women to engage in international law careers or otherwise advanced opportunities for women in international law. Aaron, who has mentored many women leaders in our Section, is the first male recipient of the award. Finally, our International Human Rights Lawyer Award was presented to Soraya Gutierrez Aguayo. It is given to a distinguished foreign human rights lawyer who has suffered persecution as a result of his or her professional activities. In making the presentation, the award committee stated:

The award, in addition to being an important recognition for those who defend human rights in Colombia, would also send a strong message concerning the lack of public protection for lawyers in Colombia as well as impunity for human rights violations in the criminalization of dissent. The ABA's recognition of the important work that Ms. Gutierrez has done will go far in promoting the work of the defenders of human rights in Colombia and giving them recognitions that will assist in protecting them from further prosecution in Colombia.

Editor: As you know, our publication is directed at corporate counsel. Would you tell us about the involvement of corporate counsel at the Spring Meeting?

Byowitz: Of our close to 14,000 Section members, 1,255 are corporate counsel. Many of the speakers on a variety of panels at the Spring Meeting were corporate counsel and, indeed, many programs were focused on issues faced by corporate counsel. In fact, we had a special corporate counsel program track which featured programs on:

Hot topics in international securities listings

International outsourcing

Fighting global corruption

Anti-money laundering

Managing international M&A transactions

International litigation to enforce corporate social responsibility

International developments in corporate governance (with particular coverage for privately-held entities)

Two programs on expanding operations internationally

International tax enforcement

Developments in international white collar criminal enforcement

What corporate counsel should know about trade remedies

What corporate counsel should know about dispute resolution rules

In addition, I am glad to report that a number of corporate counsel will be joining our Council, including Laura Stein, General Counsel of Clorox, P.D. Villareal, Associate General Counsel at Schering Plough, and Mary Ann Heinz, General Counsel of Corn Products. Corporate counsel are one of a number of constituencies that we seek to serve and an increasingly important one with the globalization of American business.

Published May 1, 2006.