Marie-Anne Birken is the General Counsel of the EBRD and will be the Keynote Speaker at the CEELM 2015 GC Summit.
In preparation for the conference CEE Legal Matters spoke to her briefly about the subject of her speech: Inspiring Legal Reforms.
We are honored to have you join us at the 2015 CEE Legal Matters GC Summit. Why did you decide to attend?
MA.B.: First, the geographical focus was important since CEE is a very important region for us at the EBRD. I like to reach out to the legal community and don’t often get the opportunity to speak to lawyers working on the ground in the jurisdictions in which the EBRD operates.
The other aspect is that the event promises to draw in very senior lawyers and my hope is that my message will be shared by participants with their legal teams. It is really hard to bring senior lawyers together since they tend to be really busy so I was happy to have the opportunity to address so many of them in one room.
You mentioned engagement with the legal community as part of your mission. Can you elaborate?
MA.B.: It comes down to the mission of the EBRD whereby we try to have an impact in the jurisdictions where we work. Yes, first and foremost that tends to be impact through the projects that we finance, but we also get involved in policy dialogue to bring about reforms. We do this through our diagnostics and technical assistance but also through outreach that includes inspiring local stakeholders to engage in legal and regulatory reforms. Through these policy efforts we support EBRD’s mandate of fostering transition towards an open-market oriented economy and the promotion of private and entrepreneurial initiative in our countries of operation.
As the Keynote Speaker at the GC Summit, you’ll be discussing the role of GCs in inspiring law reforms. What was the source of inspiration for the topic for you?
MA.B.: It originally stems from my personal experience, in particular my experience working as a private practice lawyer in Vietnam, back in 1995. It was a fascinating experience since I was working on complex transactions but much of the local legal framework at the time was under-developed and we had to go beyond the scope of simply applying existing laws and regulations but actually get involved in developing them.
You mentioned that you worked as a private practice lawyer at the time. Are lawyers within law firms better positioned to implement such legal changes?
MA.B.: No, I wouldn’t say that. In-house lawyers would have similar opportunities when supporting their businesses. Later on in my career as an in-house counsel at Barclays I was responsible for a number of jurisdictions in Africa and I had similar opportunities to support legal development. I find it fascinating – and rewarding – to see how much the legal certainty that we were helping to create helps markets develop through increased foreign investment.
Without giving away the punch line of your presentation, what is the main message you are keen on conveying to peers in CEE and why?
MA.B.: My key message to lawyers is try to find opportunities to get involved in legal reform, for example through legal networks or trade associations. A lawyer’s role can be so much more than supporting clients – internal or external. I am keen to meet participants at the conference and – who knows, in the future we might be working together on supporting the legal framework in their countries!
Registration for the 2015 CEE Legal Matters General Counsel Summit is closing on Tuesday 11 pm. Register for the event here now!
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