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Advancing the Rule of Law in 2021 and beyond with the International Bar Association

December 27, 2021 (5 min read)

By Nigel Roberts | VP Global Associations, VP & Secretary, LexisNexis Rule of Law Foundation

When I was first asked to write a short blog on our relationship and history with the International Bar Association (IBA), my initial thoughts took me back to the 2005 IBA Annual Conference in Prague. I haven’t missed once since. I then remembered that my first annual conference was actually 12 years earlier in New Orleans in my role as a sales manager for Butterworths. That was the year I relocated to the United States with my family, having previously worked for Butterworths in the UK since 1984.

Needless to say, much has changed over that period of time--the profession, the business and the legal landscape--but in essence, lawyers attend the IBA Annual Conference for the same reasons they always did: to network with colleagues from all over the world, keep up to date on current developments and emerging trends in the law, and leverage opportunities for their own business development. As the world has become more and more global, increasing numbers of lawyers have expanded their practice into international law. The IBA is the leading organization for international legal practitioners, with a membership of more than 80,000 individual international lawyers, and some 190 bar associations and law societies spanning more than 170 countries.

For those not familiar with the structure of the IBA and similar legal industry organizations, it has a permanent staff, with headquarters in London, but much of the work conducted by the association is led, and executed, by hundreds of volunteer officers, lawyers who are willing to provide their expertise and their time to give back, and help shape the future of the legal profession throughout the world.

It was 2006 when my work in earnest began with the IBA. At the time, LexisNexis was just like any other legal services vendor, with a booth at the annual conference. That was about the extent of our engagement. I think it’s fair to say our current relationship has totally changed since then. We took the time to meet with the leadership, to better understand the IBA and how we could support its mission. LexisNexis legal team members and business colleagues engaged in their own time, on various IBA committees, supported projects, and as peers, earned thought leadership speaking opportunities. Some eventually were appointed committee officers. This didn’t happen overnight, it was a long term multi-year strategy developed with the guidance and full support of the association’s senior leadership.

At the same time, we were taking the initial steps in establishing our serious commitment to advancing the Rule of Law. My first recollection was providing our support and participating in a joint IBA/American Bar Association (ABA) Rule of Law Symposium in Chicago. Since those early days, we’ve never looked back, collaborating with the IBA and other groups to develop programs to create awareness on the horrors of human trafficking, partnering with the IBA Rule of Law Forum, and with the IBA Human Rights Institute. This year, LexisNexis employee volunteers provided their time and expertise to help develop a training manual on addressing sexual and gender based violence within the criminal justice system for lawyers and judges in Pakistan, and we’re leveraging our core business assets, our people, survey tools, analytics and visualization, to support a long term IBA gender survey on the legal profession. The project, launched in March 2021, will provide a blueprint for achieving gender parity in law leadership by 2030.

As a result of our efforts, we are now regarded as a true partner of the IBA, as opposed to merely a vendor. Sure, our financial sponsorship is important, and we’ve achieved and enjoyed great results over many years from our booth presence at the annual conferences. Orchestrating and coordinating our presence across the business and geographies every year, is a huge privilege for me, and I believe a special and rewarding event for our sales, marketing, content, product, legal and other colleagues from across the globe who attend. Given the pandemic, that’s been on hold for the last couple of years, so we’re looking forward to Miami in 2022.

As I thought more about our relationship, the history and our collaborative efforts, I think these were significant in helping to lay the groundwork for what has since become our corporate mission, to advance the Rule of Law across the globe. Two initiatives were especially meaningful for me. The first began is 2008, when I approached the IBA Young Lawyers Committee with the idea of establishing an award to recognize a young lawyer not only for their professional excellence, but for their commitment to giving back to the profession, the community and the Rule of Law. The inaugural honoree, a young lawyer from Pakistan, had to travel 20 miles from his remote location simply to be able to access the Internet, in order to provide pro bono legal advice, to people in need. A subsequent honoree, from Brazil, had successfully advocated for women only railway carriages, after numerous assaults and attacks on women. To date, we have honored young lawyers from Pakistan, Brazil, Uruguay, Spain, USA, Jamaica, Singapore, Turkey, Japan, Iran, Korea and the UK, all with equally compelling and humbling stories. Some have subsequently mentioned how the award changed their lives and their careers, and the award presentation is now a significant part of the annual conference.

The second began in 2013 during a visit I was making to the IBA offices in London. After my scheduled meeting, mention was made about work the IBA was doing on a prototype of an app, designed to capture photographs and video footage of human rights abuses, and I was invited to “take a look.” As they say, the rest is history and in 2015, the eyeWitness to Atrocities app was launched.  We partnered with the IBA to provide a secure repository and data encryption for the photographs and video collected through the app. This collaboration is a great example of LexisNexis partnering with a key organization and leveraging the same technology with which we secure confidential material for our clients, to support our mission to advance the rule of law. In 2018, in part from evidence captured by the app, two individuals were convicted of torture and murder in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Click here for more on the eyeWitness to Atrocities app.

The journey to date has proved to be extremely successful, and meaningful, for both our organizations. Not only are we doing good, and supporting the professional bar, but I would argue all of these efforts also help to enhance our reputation in the legal community. Long may it continue!


To learn more about the IBA, visit their website.

Click here to learn more about the LexisNexis Rule of Law Foundation, its partners and its projects.