CBA and ABA reach pact for stronger ties

As one of the world’s largest legal conferences kicks off in Toronto today, the Canadian Bar Association and its U.S. counterpart have announced a groundbreaking deal that ushers in an era of greater co-operation between lawyers in the two countries.

“The possibilities are exciting,” said CBA president Rod Snow. “The protocol underscores the growing significance of cross-border legal business between our two countries and the increasingly global nature of the practice of law.”

American Bar Association president Stephen Zack noted the two organizations have long maintained a cordial relationship. “The signing of the agreement, on the occasion of the ABA’s annual meeting in Toronto, will formalize our mutually beneficial co-operation that has been in place for the past 80 years,” he said.

The agreement includes provisions for expanded ties both domestically and internationally.

Closer to home, the deal will see the two groups work together to promote legal ethics, pro bono legal work, and legal aid. Issues such as diversity, attorney-client privilege, conflicts of interest, and access to justice will also be examined, as will joint professional development offerings.

On the international level, the deal urges the groups to work together on efforts to promote human rights and the rule of law. The associations’ international law sections, the CBA international development committee, the ABA Centre for Human Rights, the ABA section of individual rights and responsibilities, and ABA rule of law initiative are each expected to play a pivotal role on those efforts.

As noted by the ABA’s president Zack, the pact comes as the U.S. association flocks to Toronto for it’s annual meeting from Aug. 4 to 9, with more than 1,400 programs, events, and presentations scheduled. More than 5,000 lawyers are expected to attend the conference.

The co-operation agreement is expected to survive the formality of an official ABA board of governors vote, before being signed into force at an Aug. 6 ceremony at Toronto’s Royal Conservatory. The ABA’s annual meeting opening assembly will take place immediately following the ceremony, with remarks from Canada’s Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin, and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.

The ABA is considered the world’s largest voluntary professional membership organization, claiming almost 400,000 members. The CBA has about 37,000 members.

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