CLA News / CLA President Peter D Maynard’s June report


June has seen the launch of a raft of members only Committees which will all consider a focus on training. We have experts who can provide training and also lawyers who want to receive it.

Whilst the launch of the Committees has been a key development this month, my travel diary continues to be busy.  Among recent travels, I went to Ghana, The Gambia and London.

Accra, Ghana 24 – 30 April
Through the careful help and planning of our Council Member Justin Amenevour, I met with the Ghana Bar Association at a special meeting at their impressive headquarters. subsequently, I had lunch with Yaw Acheampong Boafo, President of the Ghana Bar Association and his team. In response to the question “What would make the CLA even more attractive to lawyers in Ghana?”, the response in a word was “training”. There is a demand for high quality continuing professional development. Lawyers want to obtain certificates in areas such as mediation and advocacy. Young lawyers wish to learn new skills and not so young lawyers wish to retool in areas such as AI, law firm technology and appropriate dispute resolution.

I also met long-time CLA members Justice Nene Amegatcher, Sam Okudzeto and others. Esine Okudzeto, Deputy Managing Partner, Sam Okudzeto & Associates, the daughter of Uncle Sam (I call him Don Sam in the Spanish way) Okudzeto and an extremely able lawyer in her own right. I spoke at length with them about the CLA.
In addition, I attended a conference of FraudNet, a group of anti-corruption lawyers with whom I am associated, and encouraged them to join the CLA and in particular the Public and Administrative Law Committee, which intends to cover the field of anti-corruption.

Visiting Ghana was a kind of homecoming, not only because my DNA analysis indicates that I am to a large extent from Africa including Ghana and several other countries but also because of connections through family and friends. Friends I have known for more than half a century, and other contacts arranged a very productive meeting with several prominent human rights, family and commercial lawyers as well as the Attorney General of Ghana, Godfred Yeboah Dame. They were aware of the CLA and promised to intensify their engagement with the CLA and to attend CLC Malta. Professor Ernest Kofi Abotsi of the University of Professional Studies Accra is already active in the CLA. As a result of the visit Dr. Osei Bonsu Dickson, Director Legal, Ministry of National Security Ghana, and others joined the CLA

I had spent time as a 16 year old in Ghana with my late uncle and aunt. The visit was also the homecoming in that sense. Sylvia Nti, Barrister & Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Ghana, actually took me to the old homestead at 74 Farrar Avenue, Accra where I reminisced about the great time I had there during my teen years. Although the house is rented to tenants, it still looks much the same as it did many years ago.

In conclusion, I expect that there will be a strong demand for training opportunities that our committees such as the ADR committee can provide. In addition, I anticipate that we will be able to attract lawyers and indeed sponsors for our events and projects.

Banjul, The Gambia, 22-28 May
With the kind help and hospitality of our Council Member Salieu Taal, I attended several events of the Gambia Bar Association such as discussions regarding a West Africa Bar Association, the Law Ball and retirement dinner for the Doyen of the Gambia Bar, Sourahata B.S Janneh, who had served for 52 years Hon. Life President Santhaan also joined us. The theme of the well attended dinner was “The Role of Legal Practitioners in Defending and Upholding the Rule of Law”. We made courtesy calls upon the Chief Justice, British High Commissioner, the Attorney General, the Solicitor General and other public and private practitioners and firms to encourage them and the lawyers under their supervision to join the CLA. I also attended the annual conference organized for the week by the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) under the theme “Zero Tolerance for Unconstitutional Change of Government”. I was there on the kind invitation from the Hon. Justice Edward Amoako Asante, President of the ECOWAS Court of Justice. It was a gathering of about 600 judges, lawyers, and civil society NGOs of the fifteen states of ECOWAS at which the CLA was introduced and recognized. I invited them to join the CLA now and to come to CLC 2025 Malta.

London, Meeting with the Secretary-General Baroness Patricia Scotland May 30, 2023
In London, we had a very successful, high level, comprehensive meeting with the SG Baroness Patricia Scotland who had agreed to meet with us upon my request during the Goa CLC. Our delegation included John Almeida, co-convenor of the Pro-bono Advice and Assistance Panel, Mark Stephens, VP for Europe and Past President, Santhaan Krishnan, Hon. Life President and me. The SG was accompanied by six heads of the relevant departments and projects within the Commonwealth Secretariat. I explained the work we are doing in the CLA and raised four areas of cooperation:

1. Raising funds by the CLA to carry out its work;

2. Election observations;

3. Model contracts for infrastructure, energy and mining for small states to be able to negotiate with big multinational corporations on equal terms;

4. Pro bono mediation.

Far beyond my expectations, not only did the Secretary-General agree that she and her staff would assist in those areas, but she also went much further to indicate that she intended to deepen the cooperation with the CLA as a partner of the Commonwealth Secretariat and that she expected to implement systemic change in this regard that would endure now and after the conclusion of her term at the end of next year. More information would be provided on this in due course.
Each of the relevant department and project heads then spoke about specific areas such as generative artificial intelligence (AI), Chat GPT and the impact on the legal profession and judicial decision making, cybersecurity, and the widest buffet of specific topics which we can develop with them now and in the future. It was suggested also that the CLA Committees may have approved events at Marlborough House.

London, Meeting with Luke Murphy, President, Australian Law Council on May 31, 2023
In London, I also met with President Luke Murphy and Acting CEO Margery Nicoll of the Law Council of Australia. Luke and I had previously engaged in a very productive discussion in Goa even before the CLC began and promised to catch up again in London. He and Margery were very positive and optimistic about working with the CLA.

They indicated that now is a good time for our committees to contact the Law Council and their committees to arrange specific events. We discussed in detail the impact of AML initiatives on lawyer-client confidentiality and the current preparation of a response by the Law Council of Australia. A major challenge is the education of government officials and the public about the importance of such confidentiality and finding the right balance. This is an area that the Public and Administrative Law Committee might pursue soon with the Council and draw on the wealth of cases and experience across the Commonwealth.
We also discussed the cooperation of the Corporate and Commercial Law Committee with the Law Council of Australia’s Business Law Committee, Climate Justice and the work of Fiona McLeod AO SC, Mark Woods and Honorary Life President Ron Heinrich AM which is so highly appreciated in the CLA.
It is expected that all of the committees and projects may find ways to cooperate with CLA institutional members such as the Law Council of Australia. Interested committees and projects should act quietly.

That brings us back to the topic with which I started, training. The CLA Online Institute and E-Library is considering advocacy training, and the ADR committee is examining how to deliver training and a certificate in mediation to CLA members. Other committees and projects should consider how they can follow suit.

Peter D Maynard KC

President, Commonwealth Lawyers Association