We are living in extraordinary times. I send you my sincerest greetings and profound wishes that you and your families are safe and well.
As international lawyers – servants and agents of the global economy – we are witnessing our economy being closed down with unprecedented speed. In an extremely brief time, our lives and ways of working have been completely transformed.
The way that lawyers and law firms everywhere have rapidly responded to such a range of new challenges – to yourselves and your clients – has my deepest admiration. This profession should be enormously proud of itself and its people, who have achieved this while also wrestling with accompanying health and societal anxieties.
I am sure we all share the sense that we are only just beginning to understand and respond to all the consequences of our new environment. It is already clear that every specialism of law and facet of justice has been affected – from the operation of courts to the defence of fundamental freedoms and the rule of law.
Our constituencies, committees, excellent officers and superb staff – all of whom I would like recognise here for their dedication and skill – are already at work to find ways to guide members through this challenging period; guidelines are being written, papers drafted and webinars and podcasts planned. A webinar by the IBA Law Firm Management Committee on Covid-19 crisis management attracted a large audience last week, and you will see more early fruits of this work soon. If you have any ideas in your specialism to contribute, please raise them with your committee leaders. As always at the IBA, it is the power of our collective effort and members’ generosity with their expertise that will provide us with so many valuable insights for the new road ahead.
I also give you my commitment that during these difficult months the IBA will continue to honour its founding purpose of advocating for, and defending, the rule of law. The challenges in this mission were already profound, but now we are seeing governments taking new powers to deal with the emergency. We are all aware that such powers have sometimes been taken without full legal or democratic scrutiny, or without returning to it within rigorous timetables – we intend, with your help, to be part of that scrutiny. This global pandemic clearly demonstrates that every one of us shares a common humanity in this closely integrated world. We will continue to work for greater justice and the full protection of rights.
We hope that we can all enjoy each other’s company again before too long. Let us all work together to return to that revived global life and to continue to be proud of the contributions the IBA makes through you, our members. Keep safe and well, and let our hopes conquer our fears.
Horacio Bernardes Neto
President, International Bar Association