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More than 3,100 lawyers and judges from 120 countries are converging on the San Francisco Marriott this week to learn about developments in specialized areas of law and discuss the intersection between global issues and the legal profession. And judging by the abundant business-card-passing going on in the hallways, they’ve clearly come to the International Bar Association’s annual conference to network. “A lawyer, too, is a politician,” said Akpodiogaga Emeyese, a legislator in Nigeria’s Delta State House of Assembly who attended the conference Monday. “I use the conference to interact with people, talk about human rights issues, discuss what lawyers can do to ensure good governance,” he said. “I take the international ideas and see how it could be applied to [our local] government.” Timothy Hughes, director of marketing and public relations for the IBA, notes that for a firm with clients in another country, “the cultural understanding is as important as the legal understanding.” Hughes calls the 17,000-member IBA “the global voice of the legal profession.” This is the first time the group’s annual meeting has been held in San Francisco. It touches down in countries around the globe; it last came to the United States in 1997. Representing about 20 percent of the attendees, the U.S. delegation this year is the largest ever, Hughes said. Lynda Marshall, a partner at Hogan & Hartson in Washington, D.C., arrived Monday to speak on the “do’s and don’ts” of terminating distribution contracts. She hasn’t given such a talk to an international audience before, she said, but didn’t seem worried. She’s one of two people from the United States on a panel that will have each person speak to their own jurisdiction, she said. The more than 120 sessions on tap this week reflect the times, such as Thursday’s “Combating terrorism: the challenge facing states,” and a Friday debate on topics including the practical impact on international practitioners of the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley Act. In addition to reacting to international legal developments, Executive Director Mark Ellis said, “As an association we feel very strongly that we need to be leading the discussion on issues that are not only important to the legal community, but to the world community.” A task force from the IBA’s business law section, for example, hopes to find ways to resolve the problems it attributes to conflicting rules of professional conduct and practice regulations in different countries. At a forum this morning, attendees are scheduled to debate recommendations addressing obstacles to cross-border legal work the task force plans to make to legal professional groups. The conference has its share of recreation, too. There are “quite a few parties,” Hughes said, plus a hot air balloon trip, two evenings at wineries, and a closing dinner aboard a boat cruising the bay. The only noticeable glitch in the conference so far is the absence of the Bermudan delegation, said Hughes. “There were lawyers from Bermuda who were hoping to come, but were trapped by the hurricane.” The conference runs through Friday. For the program schedule, visit www.ibanet.org. Single-day registration is available in person on conference days beginning at 8 a.m. at the San Francisco Marriott, 55 Fourth St.

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