AIJA AIJA (Association Internationale des Jeunes Avocats) is the only global association devoted to lawyers and in-house counsel under 45. Since 1962, AIJA has been providing outstanding international opportunities for young lawyers to network, learn and develop expertise. Giuseppe Marletta, AIJA’s Association Manager, explains how the organisation operates. Interview Rémi Dévé, HQ The Association Magazine
What does AIJA do?
AIJA currently has over 4,000 members based in over 90 different countries. It is a highly international organisation traditionally focused on Western Europe but in recent years with an increasing presence in Asia, the Americas and the Middle East.
AIJA provides a platform for rising stars from private practice, industry, governments and regulators to discuss legal developments, share experiences and network with their peers, in order to develop their profiles and practices. Many AIJA events are held in conjunction with national or international bar associations, offering our members a unique opportunity to connect, learn and share their experiences. This results in our active and enthusiastic members building long-lasting business relationships and friendships over the years.
Can you describe the challenges you’ve had to face over the last few years?
I have always found the variety/diversity of tasks facing an association manager the most beautiful part of the job, especially when it comes to working for small teams: taking care of finances, supporting the board, managing a team, overseeing events, handling egos of volunteers and board members… I am sure many of your readers can relate. Sometimes it can be too much. On the other hand, being able to contribute positively to the advancement of the association and, in my case, of the legal profession is truly rewarding. It’s not like working for a big corporation so you can see immediately the positive effects of a good project or a well-executed campaign!
I joined AIJA in 2012 and the main challenge at that time was bringing AIJA’s finances back to a decent shape after several problematic years. This required a thorough process of reviewing all our suppliers, some internal restructuring and a solid financial plan. AIJA is today not only a reputable organisation in the demanding world of legal practice, but also a rather financially solid one at that. Since spring 2016, AIJA has owned beautiful offices in a prestigious location in Brussels, with meeting spaces and work stations available for members who are visiting Brussels and meet their clients. An extra benefit that members seem to appreciate!
I also initiated and completed a new business model for our events management. We used to outsource the management of our events to a third-party service provider. After preparing a careful business plan, recruiting extra staff and a smooth transition, we have started successfully managing our events since 2014. The insourcing of our event management is not just greatly appreciated by our members but also has a positive impact on the identity of our events and our association. It is therefore attractive for potential new members to experience top services from our own competent team who knows exactly the preferences and needs of our members.
The recurrent change of elected/board members is also one of the main challenges for the association’s staff. Depending on their priorities (and personalities involved), it might be disruptive to have quick changes at President or Secretary General level. But it’s not necessarily a bad thing for association managers because somehow it gives permanent staff the “power” of continuity and the feeling of having been around for a longer time.
Additionally, AIJA members are always looking for innovative solutions and smart ways to connect and network, not just at our events. We have just launched our new website which, besides looking fresh and modern, includes a set of sophisticated features in the membership area (called MyAIJA).
What kind of the events are organised by AJIA?
There are now around 20 legal seminars and conferences held annually in different parts of the world, each attracting an average of around 120 participants, and some many more.
The largest annual event of the AIJA is the International Young Lawyers’ Congress, which typically attracts over 700 participants from around 80 different countries practicing in every field of law. The 2017 edition will take place in Tokyo on 28 August-1 September: the theme of this congress will be Artificial Intelligence and its impact on the legal profession.
What is the decision process behind the selection of a destination/venue?
Most of the time, the locations of our events are proposed by our members. We receive a proposal from a local organising committee composed of lawyers who explain why a certain location is the best one for holding one of our events. My team checks the proposal and follows up with the venue selection and negotiation of contracts.
Why are you based in Brussels? Are you looking to tap into “new” markets?
AIJA has always considered Brussels home. Now that we bought our new premises in 2016, I don’t think we’ll move soon.
We are definitely investing a lot of effort in expanding our membership to Asia. It’s part of our strategic plan and the reason why we are organising the 55th International Young Lawyers’ Congress in Tokyo later this year. Besides Tokyo, we are currently working on fostering our relationships with bar associations and other legal organisations in China, Hong Kong, Korea and other important jurisdictions in Asia. Where markets are expanding and commercial transactions are taking place, you need lawyers, so Asia is now the place for us to be!
Can you share your insights about the latest trends within the association community? In what ways do you feel “connected” with other associations?
Undoubtedly, our strongest connection is with associations working in the legal sector. There are about five associations of lawyers and bars working at an international level: we organise events together, share common values and see each other quite often to align our respective agendas and monitor common projects.
An important area of cooperation is the protection of the rule of law, sadly threatened in many parts of the world. This is where lawyers need to step in to make a difference! And obviously, we are stronger together.
The AIJA team is also attending a number of events organised by associations and for association executives: I strongly believe in peer education and what colleagues who face the same challenges have to teach us.