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Past Presidents celebrate the ILA's 25th birthday

11/03/14

Amidst the splendour of the Caledonian Club the ILA celebrated its 25th birthday.  Despite the challenges of a London tube strike, 20 past presidents (as well as the current president) gathered to toast the ILA, to reminisce, to celebrate its growth and success and to discuss the challenges and the opportunities.  The gathering included 6 of the 9 founding members: one of whom, Ian Fletcher, kept order by performing the role of the Master of Ceremonies.

For those who have served the ILA since 1989 it was a time to reflect on the genesis of the ILA which was very much driven from the Law Society and its ability to award licences. Whilst it is an enduring truism that "out of small acorns, strong oaks grow", with the 1986 Insolvency Act, the big corporate failures of the early 90's, and the thirst for a private forum to debate complex evolving issues, the ILA and its founding members recognised that their vision fed a thirst for an opportunity for likeminded lawyers to congregate and debate.  Thus past presidents recalled memorable annual conferences in Gleneagles (1992) (Peter Horrocks "gifting" to the ILA the menu from that conference dinner) attended by Lord Hoffmann and the conference at the Lygon Arms in the Cotswolds (1995) attended by Lord Millett.  Both of these conferences were considered to have set the standard of the ILA annual conference where members of the Judiciary were welcome (and embraced) to debate the topical issues:   all delegates accepting the rules of 'Chatham House'. 

Ian Fletcher having reminded all of the early journey of the ILA then invited our current president, Rita Lowe, to toast the association.  The president began by reflecting on how the ILA had (since she became involved in 2005) developed.  The ILA now had a secretariat, 2 PSL's, a website, new classes of membership (including in particular, associate, judicial, overseas and academic membership), a bursary scheme (the ILA Debbie Phillips Bursary) and is considering a post graduate bursary.  All this infrastructure and development had been set up alongside the (often unsung) heroes of the ILA being the Technical Committee who convened weekly and all past presidents acknowledged the excellent, market leading and topical technical updates prepared by the Technical Committee and sent to members.

Hamish Anderson (2nd president of the ILA) gave the response to the President's speech.  He acknowledged the long and successful journey, the energy and dedication given by many, the quality of the technical output and some of the early decisions (including to remain independent from R3) which defined the identity of the ILA. 

All gathered then debated the challenges and the opportunities of the ILA to remain relevant as only then could the ILA attract new members.  It was acknowledged that whilst, we are working in a "global village" there was a real (and necessary) opportunity (and need) to promote this relevance amongst the younger members of the profession.  These opportunities could be a mixture of social and technical, enabling professionals to build relationships which, if successful, would reduce barriers and assist in securing consensual solutions for clients.

The past presidents debated into the evening how despite the quality of the technical bulletins the ILA faced the ongoing pressure to ensure that those technical bulletins are produced on a timely basis, the opportunities of social media to reach new member and further need to increase opportunities (nationally) for like-minded people to gather. 

All acknowledged the pride they feel in the ILA, the privilege it was to serve the ILA, especially as President, and their desire to ensure the torch keeps burning for the future of the ILA.

All in all, the gathering of presidents past and present was a fitting celebration which reflected the supportive and collegiate approach of the ILA, its Council and its membership.  Long may it continue!

The photo gallery from the event can be viewed here.