The Commonwealth Lawyers Association (CLA) was established in 1986 when the need for an association focused on lawyers practising in the Commonwealth was identified.
The CLA was originally housed in the Law Society of England and Wales but became independent in the early 90’s when it moved to offices at 28 Russell Square, London. A further move to 17 Russell Square took place a few years later and the Association remained in Charles Clore House until 2013, when a decision was made to move the offices closer to the Inns of Court and official Commonwealth offices. CLA relocated to its present location on Kingsway in December of 2013 where it operates today.
The CLA is governed by its Council of 21 members drawn from some of the most senior legal professionals in the Commonwealth today. CLA has three Honorary Presidents who act as its advisers.
The CLA’s day to day business is led by its Secretary General and its 15 member Executive Committee comprising solicitors and barristers from around the Commonwealth. The Secretary General is the CLA’s only permanent member of staff – all other members are volunteers.
The Commonwealth Law Conference
The first Commonwealth & Empire Law Conference was held in London in 1955. An Executive Committee, comprising of representatives of a number of law societies/bar associations across the Commonwealth was responsible for the organization of the conference.
In organizing the second Commonwealth & Empire Law Conference (Canada,1960), the organizers realized that as the number of members of the Commonwealth had increased since 1955, planning decisions had to be made by the host country in consultation with the newly appointed Inter – Commonwealth Advisory Committee (ICAC) comprising of lawyers from 10 Commonwealth countries.
The representative from Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) on the ICAC raised the issue of the desirability of establishing a British Commonwealth Law Institute. This reflected the considerable and widespread view that further contacts between lawyers was desirable, and it was decided to invite the committee to consider the issue and any detailed proposals at the next conference to be held in India.
As a direct result of this, the Commonwealth Legal Bureau (CLB) was established in 1968 as a loosely knit association of bar associations and law societies.
The first Commonwealth Law Conference (5th Conference) was held in Scotland in 1977. Prior to conference, the CLB elected Mr Laurence Southwick to be the Honorary Secretary. It was also agreed that the CLB should be constituted on a more formal basis – with a Constitution setting out its powers and responsibilities. It was felt that it had done useful work in the past and would continue to do valuable work in the future as the continuing link between the bar associations and law societies. The CLB would be answerable to the ICAC and would have responsibility for the law conferences.
At the Commonwealth Law Conference held in Hong Kong in 1983, it was agreed that the CLB should be replaced by the Commonwealth Lawyers Association (CLA) and a constitution was subsequently adopted in Jamaica in 1986.
The CLA now holds a biennial conference, the last being held in Melbourne, Australia in March, 2017. The conference upholds the tradition of bringing together judiciary, lawyers and legal professionals from throughout the Commonwealth.
The Commonwealth Law Conference (CLC) is probably the most well-known activity of the CLA. The CLC is a prestigious event that brings together legal practitioners from all over the Commonwealth to debate current issues affecting practice and the profession, exchange views and experiences with colleagues and get up to date with the latest commercial products and services.
First held in 1955, the CLC has been organised on a regular basis ever since. It was initially held every five years but, as a result of their success and popularity, this was reduced to every three years. The conference now takes place on a biannual basis.
A list of the Commonwealth Law Conferences is shown below:
- 1955 – London, UK
- 1960 – Ottawa, Canada
- 1965 – Sydney, Australia
- 1971 – New Delhi, India
- 1977 – Edinburgh, Scotland
- 1980 – Lagos, Nigeria
- 1983 – Hong Kong
- 1986 – Ochos Rios, Jamaica
- 1990 – Auckland, New Zealand
- 1993 – Nicosia, Cyprus
- 1996 – Vancouver, Canada
- 1999 – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
- 2003 – Melbourne, Australia
- 2005 – London, United Kingdom
- 2007 – Nairobi, Kenya
- 2009 – Hong Kong SAR
- 2011 – Hyderabad, India
- 2013 – Cape Town, South Africa
- 2015 – Glasgow, Scotland
- 2017 – Melbourne, Australia