Securing conference a serious coup
The key man in bringing the mammoth International Bar Association annual bash to Dublin has found the experience ‘extraordinarily enriching and rewarding,’ writes CAROLINE MADDEN
SOLICITOR MICHAEL Greene is just back from Ibiza by way of Florence and the UK, and still sporting a dapper Panama-style hat, when we meet in Dublin Airport. However it hasn’t been all play for the former AL Goodbody partner recently. He spent about five hours each day of his sojourn sorting out the final logistical details of this week’s International Bar Association conference, which will see about 5,200 lawyers travel to Dublin from around the globe, along with more than 1,500 partners, exhibitors and support staff.
Greene, who has been involved with the IBA since attending his first annual conference in Buenos Aires in 1988, was instrumental in bringing all of this about. At his very first IBA management board meeting five years ago, he proposed that the 2012 annual conference be held in Dublin. “It was a leap of faith,” he says, “since the Convention Centre was merely a shallow hole in the ground and Dublin had little experience of running large conferences.”
Competition from potential host cities for the IBA’s yearly bash is huge, given the kudos and spending power that it brings, so making a successful bid was a serious coup. This year’s conference will be the largest gathering of bar association members and international lawyers ever. Naturally, organising an event of this size has not been without its challenges. The Convention Centre Dublin is very well laid out, Greene says, but the largest events of the conference, such as yesterday’s opening reception, have to be held in the RDS in order to accommodate all of the delegates.
And then there’s the issue of accommodation. Dublin offers about 11,500 beds in hotels which are three-star or higher. However most of the lawyers attending the conference are accustomed to staying in very high-end accommodation and the capital simply doesn’t have enough five-star hotels to meet the demand. What Dublin does offer, Greene points out, is Irish charm and hospitality, which he believes will more than compensate for the lack of five-star beds.
In fact, despite the logistical challenges of putting on an event of this scale, everything was coming together nicely until the threat of industrial action at Ireland’s main airports reared its head last week. Such action would not only have been an embarrassment, he says, but would have been extraordinarily disruptive, especially as most of the key speakers – who include a number of Nobel Laureates – have to travel here from abroad. Fortunately, the threat of strike action has been averted for now.