DAY 1
Monday
30th July

Posted by:
Vasana Vaas
Varners
Sri Lanka


Myself and my colleague flew in from Sri Lanka to Chiang Mai, Thailand as the first delegates to represent our firm Varners at the Multilaw Academy.

As excited as I was at the prospect of visiting a new city and meeting new people at the Academy, I was also nervous because I had not attended an event of this nature before. The welcome reception and the dinner on the night of our arrival allowed all the delegates to settle in by getting to know each other in a relatively relaxed setting.

The panel started day one by welcoming all the delegates before giving a short history of the academy and the growing significance of the Multilaw network. One particular aspect of this year’s Chancellor’s welcome speech that stood out for me personally was that, in her opinion, delegates were hand-picked to attend the Academy because their respective firms considered them as their future. I think this strongly captured the importance of being a delegate representing their firm at the Academy.

The day’s discussions revolved broadly around, a comparison between the civil law and common law systems together with the various aspects of conducting a due diligence exercise on the target company of an acquisition. The breakout session gave each of us delegates an opportunity to learn more about both the differences and the similarities between the legal systems of various jurisdictions.

It became increasingly apparent as the day progressed that the Academy was not merely aimed at improving and expanding one’s knowledge but also about creating lasting friendships that benefits both your professional life as well as your personal life.

The discussion shifted from legal topics to lighter topics as a number of delegates were handpicked to give prepared presentations on a subject of their choice. These presentations ranged from the pub culture in the United Kingdom to the best ways out of a Philippine airport, as well as more serious topics such as the domestic political and economic climates of particular countries, which gave us an insight into the various cultures represented by different delegates.

The first day ended with dinner at the lovely Woo restaurant Chiang Mai in the city. We were treated to traditional Thai food in a beautiful setting with the smell of Jasmine in the air. There was free flowing conversation and a strong sense of lasting relationships being developed. It was the best end to an eventful first day.

Excited about tomorrow!

DAY 2
Tuesday
31st July

Posted by:
Ignacio Pablo Milito Bianchi
Zang, Bergel & Viñes Abogados
Argentina


Today´s subject was centred around contract negotiation. Putting aside the background of the issue, I can tell you that it was a great experience to work side-to-side with colleagues from other countries and realise that, it doesn’t matter where you are from, negotiation techniques are almost the same and the client’s needs are always the priority. My team was comprised of a lawyer from Taiwan, a lawyer from Thailand and myself from Argentina. We had to negotiate the contract with a Portuguese and a Malaysian lawyer. Luckily, we all had a win-win position so, although the negotiation got tough at certain moments, we were able to reach an agreement which was satisfactory for both parties.

One of the greatest things for me about Multilaw is the fact that you get to know a lot of people from all over the world and, if you are open to it, you can really learn a lot from each other.

I think that one of the advantages of getting to write today in the blog is that, being the second day, I can already say that we are starting to understand what the Multilaw Academy is about. And it is not only about working side-to-side with people from all over the world and learning things from amazing lawyers, but it is also about making friends. Yesterday we had dinner at one of the hotel’s restaurants. We enjoyed drinking some wine and beer and ended up having a lot of fun. We’ve only known each other for two days and we are already talking as if we’ve known each other for a life time. I can guess that when Saturday arrives no one will be wanting to go back home!

DAY 3
Wednesday
1st August

Posted by:
Justine Ball
Shakespeare Martineau
United Kingdom


Culture was in centre stage on day three of the Multilaw conference as we learnt about the different cultures of the delegates and experienced, first-hand, the culture of the host country, Thailand.

I can say with a degree of certainty that this was the most hotly anticipated day of the Multilaw conference. There was certainly a buzz in the air from the start, as faculty member Henry Shi from JunHe, China kicked off the morning with a fascinating delivery on the various practices in different cultures in the sphere of business. 

For example, we discussed the importance of  a greeting,  being the first point of contact of an international relationship. In Indonesia it is common practice to kiss the hand of the person you meet and in Japan, a bow is a sign of respect and welcome. During a broader discussion, the delegates were able to share their own cultural practices with the group and the answer to a successful international relationship was very clearly, “the more cultural exchanges, the better”!

This is particularly true when engaging in international arbitrations. Faculty member Arnaud Picard from LerinsBCW, France highlighted to the delegates the importance of having an awareness and understanding of a variety of cultures in a sophisticated process such as arbitration.

The delegates’ discussions on cultural traditions and practices continued well into the lunch hour, mingled with the excitement of the upcoming cultural activities enjoyed in Thailand, including rice planting, thai cooking and umbrella painting.

Rice planting was up first, and after seeing the thai garments to be worn for this activity, I realised that this was going to make up for all of the gym sessions I had missed recently! Before we suited up, two thai representatives brilliantly presented (in Thai and English) on the process of making rice. Rice comes from the rice plant and, what some may not know, is considered to be a holy plant in Malaysia. The rice planting itself is tough work, but highly satisfying – ripping out plant roots from muddy water and replanting them in small batches. Let’s just say that I now have an even greater appreciation for the production of rice and I will not dare moan about how tough my own employment is again (or at least in the near future).



Umbrella painting then awaited us, which I treated with some trepidation given that the best piece of art I can produce is a few stick men. To my surprise, the whole experience was very therapeutic, as we painted flowers, birds and thai patterns on multi-coloured paper umbrellas. Some of the finished products by the delegates were simply amazing - there are definitely a few hidden artists in the group.



Our final activity was thai cooking, which was enjoyed by all, especially the part where we devoured the fruits of our efforts. We made “thung thong” which is prawn and mushroom in a pastry parcel.



I couldn’t imagine the day getting any better until the delegates arrived at the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar where we haggled and bartered for gifts and souvenirs to take home. The atmosphere in the market is like none you have ever experienced elsewhere in the world – people negotiating on calculators, sweet and sour and bbq aromas from the bountiful food stalls and sellers inviting you to peruse their collections of ornaments, lanterns, pashminas and spices.

 

You are right if you have guessed that our night did not stop there, as the delegates enjoyed a few of the bars that Chiang Mai had to offer.

All in all, day three of the Multilaw conference has been the perfect day to develop the new friendships and working relationships made whilst being here. So... onwards and upwards to Day 4.

DAY 4
Thursday
2nd August

Posted by:
James Harrison
Penningtons Manches LLP
United Kingdom


Day 4 of the Multilaw Academy saw new friendships put to the test in a morning of tense settlement negotiations. There was much more laughter than a typical English settlement meeting and it was fascinating to see the different styles and approaches adopted. My team included Japanese and Thai lawyers and we were opposed by Malaysian and Greek lawyers, a true mix that I have only ever experienced with Multilaw. It served as another reminder of the universal techniques adopted, but also the significance of key cultural differences that are vital to the success of any cross-border negotiation.

We also had an opportunity to share the different legal ethics in each of our jurisdictions and it quickly became apparent that while there were substantial similarities (everyone calls it a Chinese wall), there were actually key variances. It is this opportunity to identify and overcome potential hurdles that makes the Academy and Multilaw so valuable to us as delegates and our clients.

The trip to Ban Pong School was a highlight of the trip so far for many of the delegates. We were warmly welcomed by the Director, staff and students and our enthusiastic but amateur attempts at painting the new library and toilets were met with some amazing performances by some of the students and delicious local treats. It was another reminder of just how incredible the Thai people are. We were also visited by the Chair of Multilaw, Lui Ratprasatporn, who shared her own experiences of the Multilaw Academy in 2002 and how it forged the lifelong friendships and memories that we are currently building.

An action packed day was finished with a karaoke evening that could have lasted until dawn. It fast became clear that some delegates have second careers as professional singers and I was definitely not one of them. While everyone took part in the singing, it was left to a few brave / foolhardy souls to go swimming in the presidential pool. Day 4 felt like it was on fast-forward with so much crammed in. I don’t think any of the delegates are prepared for tomorrow to be the last day!

DAY 5
Friday
3rd August

Posted by:
Sylwia Duszyńska
WKB Wierciński, Kwieciński, Baehr
Poland


No one can believe it, but sadly it’s true: the Multilaw Academy 2018 has come to an end.

But we didn’t let it go without a proper send off, wrapping up the programme with some truly insightful sessions on litigation and law trial process in the civil and common law systems. The speakers - the Faculty members Arnaud Picard (Lerins BCW, France) and Christiane Campbell (Duane Morris, USA)  - took us through both litigation procedures. Besides general differences, we have also discussed specific issues that are currently getting the most attention (such as cost-consciousness, as well as the increasing importance of advanced software assisting lawyers in litigation proceedings). One of the key takeaways, however, was that in both of the legal frameworks, the true challenge lies in educating and adequately addressing any doubts of the client. This is particularly important with regard to the issue of the costs of litigation proceedings, which led us to discuss some other current hot topics such as budgeting, alternative fee arrangements and litigation funding. Having considered all of the challenges that litigators face, we agreed that essentially “litigation is an art”.

The official working programme closed with the session led by Multilaw’s Executive Director, Adam Cooke, who addressed the delegates with an overview of opportunities that the network offers to its member firms, their lawyers and their clients. We left the conference room inspired by the stories of recent successful international collaborations and eager to contribute to the numerous Multilaw initiatives. We also left with a feeling of honour having been able to participate in one of the flagship programmes of one of the most prominent global law firm networks (and certainly one of the most valued by clients - to the point where “it’s not only the client who drives Multilaw, it’s also Multilaw and it’s presence in various jurisdictions that acts as the driver for the client”).

Having officially concluded this last item on this year’s agenda, we spent the afternoon enjoying the blissfully beautiful surroundings of the Veranda High Resort and Spa, which felt so like home to us for these last few days. And it wasn’t just due to the amazing staff (whose attentiveness and attention to detail didn’t cease to amaze us), but because home is where your friends are. And - as one of the delegates put it later in the evening - we haven’t just made business contacts here this week. We have made new friends.

The Friday night dinner was all about saying a proper goodbye to those friends. It was a truly memorable one, set in the scenery of the resort’s restaurant sitting high above the ground and overlooking surrounding hills covered in all shades of lush green. With the most interesting Thai traditional music playing in the background, we tried to capture the last moments together and make just a few more memories. The highlights of the evening also included a lovely performance of a Thai dance and a spectacle, both delivered by the children from the local Ban Pong school (where we spent the Thursday afternoon, contributing our time and effort and leaving the Multilaw’s footprint for the local community (see Day 4 post). The official part of the evening ended with the delegates receiving their diplomas (we are happy to report a 100% success rate!). Last but not least, the Faculty welcomed its current member Henry Shi (JunHe, China) as the new Chancellor of the Multilaw Academy, taking over the lead from the wonderful Joanne Vengadesan (Penningtons Manches, UK).

Joanne has been dedicating herself to this initiative for over a decade with a passion that has allowed the Academy to continuously grow and become what it is now - not just a great educational and networking experience - but - most importantly - a soil for the growth of a true community.

We have all said our goodbyes with true sadness but certain that for the community of the Multilaw Academy 2018, this is just the beginning. As the new Chancellor so beautifully put it in his last night speech, “When we come together, we are the fire on one torch; when we disperse, we are the stars dotting in the sky.”

We are all leaving Chiang Mai today eager to keep this fire burning, because for each and every one of us the Multilaw Academy experience exceeded all expectations. If we were to describe it in one word, that would be:

Dhea: “eye-opener”
Christina: “difference”
Elodie: “magnifique”
Justine: “life-changing”
James: “memories”
Konstantina: “feelings”
Philippe: “unique”
Marcelo: “amazing”
Erin: “surprising”
Shinobu: “excellent”
Jason: “extraordinary”
Penrurk: “crazy”
Ran: “friendship”
Rachel: “unforgettable”
Jaroslav : “horizon-expanding”
Tu: “colourful”
Ignacio: “indescriptible”
Vasana: “educational”
Joanna: “enlightening”
Chi: “marvellous”
John: “beautiful”
Abdul: “refreshing”
Ashley: “memorable”
Cindy: “awesome”
Susana: “relationship”
Dino: “trust”
Ukritp: “impressive”
Sylwia: “wow!”
Adam: “networking”
Henry: “inspiring”
Arnaud: “perfect”
Christiane: “unifying”
Joanne: “community”
Stephanie: “multicultural”

We will never forget it. Thank you.

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