WLN Board annual report25 September 2017
The Work of the WLN Board
The last year has been busy, with some significant changes in the way WLN is run and exciting decisions that will affect our future development. This note aims to summarise what’s been happening in WLN, which has been a very time-consuming period for the Board.
Since August 2016, we have welcomed into the network:
• Falcq Advocaten (Eindhoven, The Netherlands) – led by our old friend and former chairman Wim Weijers and his partners Frank Linders, Maarten Blommaert and their expanding team;
• Themis Studio Legale (Reggio Emilia, Italy) – led by another old friend of WLN, Domizia Badodi together with Paola Prati and their partners;
• Sánchez Stewart Abogados (Marbella, Costa del Sol – Andalucia, Spain) – led by father and sons Nielson, Lorenzo and Sebastian Sanchez-Stewart
All these firms will be represented in our conference next week in Kraków, Poland and we are excited to have them contribute to the future of WLN.
Candidates for membership - in addition to the above, we have active discussions underway with (non-WLN) colleagues from several more countries – including for example Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, Costa Rica, Kazakhstan, Malta, Mexico, Singapore & Ukraine. Each such discussion involves a due diligence phase – including consideration of answers to our recently updated Pre-Admission Questionnaire (thanks to John van Loo for help with that) and visits to candidate firms by a Board member or trusted WLN member. Subject to the further, usual process of getting to know enough of our membership, we hope therefore to be able in the next few months to welcome into WLN several new members.
On a related matter on about 5 October 2017, I shall be attending (on WLN’s behalf, as a guest) the conference of ASEAN Law Alliance, a network of 10 law commercial law firms from ten countries across south-east Asia, with a view to seeing how we might work more closely together.
We are still seeking membership solutions actively in Denmark & Norway. Our US colleagues in Raleigh and Philadelphia continue to help us reach out to future friends in north & central America. Should you have any good connections to help us move these areas forward, we are interested to hear from you.
All in all, there is plenty to get done in the area of membership – but please be assured, that we will seek at all times to strike the right balance, between really knowing new members well, and increasing WLN’s geographical footprint. We all value the depth & quality of WLN’s ‘internal’ relationships; we believe that it adds real value to our client service on cross-border tasks; and we do not intend to sacrifice this, merely for the sake of rapid but possibly shallow growth.
February 2017 saw a major departure for WLN, in staging our first conference in Delhi, India. Our perfect hosts were WLN members, India Law Offices, where managing partner Gautam Khurana and his fantastic, cheerful team organised highlights beyond our own conference day, including:
- A "Corporate Matching Programme" event co-hosted by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and ILO;
- A round table and B2B session with PHD Chambers of Commerce; and
- A social programme with visits to the unforgettable Taj Mahal & Red Fort (Agara) and the Lodhi Gardens (Delhi), Bollywood dance lessons and much more.
Even 7 months later, I know that all the WLN members who took part in the Delhi conference are grateful to our friends at ILO for making us so very welcome!
The Delhi conference perhaps in some small way also changed how we see the world. On which subject, it is right to note that, thanks to John van Loo, we were all made aware of the remarkable work of Médecins Sans Frontières India (MSF - Doctors without Borders) in Delhi. As a result, we asked our members if you would like to support MSF’s work financially and we are grateful to all who donated in the meantime for your kindness. MSF has asked us to thank you too. Perhaps we might repeat this idea in future?
Upcoming WLN conference dates, reminder:
- Spring 2018 - Dublin, Ireland (1-3 March 2018). You can already book your hotel & flights and we are working on the business programme. For more details of the hotel booking arrangements and a little more information in the Members’ Area, see: http://warwicklegal.com/conference/150/wln-spring-conference-1-3-march-2018-dublin-ireland
- Autumn 2018 – Raleigh, North Carolina, USA (late Sept 2018). We hope to announce firm dates very soon.
WLN Management review
As you will recall, in early 2016, a major change was embarked upon, when WLN decided that I should become Managing Director on a more professional footing. My main field of work would be the expansion of the network (the basis for further business development between members) and management consulting (support regarding day to day business and decision making processes) for our manager, Helle Hyleberg.
Unfortunately, at the end of March 2017, we said farewell to our wonderful and very popular WLN Manager, Helle Hylleberg who had recently relocated back to Denmark and decided to re-join the teaching profession. Helle contributed in so many ways to WLN, since she joined us in early 2015. She took forward a programme of modernisation, helped us to transfer our conference bookings online, made sure that the Board and WLN Next were well supported, checked out our conference arrangements and, generally, made sure that I did not get into any more trouble than was strictly necessary. This, with a smile and a manner that can only be described as enthusiastic and infectious. We have missed Helle’s contribution over the last few months, but we are delighted that she will be our guest in Kraków in order to say a more formal farewell.
Helle’s departure set the Board thinking about how WLN should be organised going forward. We carried out a full review of where we are, what the Board does and how we want to develop. We discussed this all as a Board and with several WLN colleagues, as a result of writing to Liaison Partners. The Board is grateful to those candidates who offered their services in different ways. Our review took about 3 months, during which time we considered ideas ranging from like-for-like replacement through to a complete restructuring of the Board.
The upshot of our management review was a series of decisions:
- John van Loo has agreed to “step up” to manage WLN jointly with me. In the immediate term, you may have heard that John is leaving the partnership of his firm, Labré Advocaten in Amsterdam at the end of 2017. His Dutch partners are, I am glad to report, supportive of the idea that he should continue to have a leading role in WLN.
- We are not replacing the WLN Manager role in the immediate future.
- John and I will actively manage WLN, working closely with the rest of the Board, and occasionally outsourcing tasks to WLN members or outside suppliers.
- The Board has carefully considered the financial implications of these changes. The Board is satisfied that the overall effect will be neutral to WLN in 2018, with a sense that it might all possibly work out a little cheaper.
- Other WLN Directors continue to have specific areas of interest and responsibility in WLN’s work and I shall update you on this shortly in a separate note.
The Board is keen to retain and draw upon John’s long-standing, deep knowledge of WLN and its members. I am very much looking forward to having John alongside me, as we seek to forge new friendships internationally, support our existing members and develop our services. We hope you will support these changes and John as he adapts also to his new role!
Opposite this note, you will find a copy of the 2016 WLN abbreviated accounts as filed at Companies House in the UK. The Board receives regular copy monthly management accounts which, although not formally audited, help to give us a close sense of our position as we go forward. Please note that Raffaele Torino is the Director with particular responsibility for WLN’s finances. Raffaele, John & I are all happy to answer any questions you may have in this area – so please don’t hesitate to ask.
Please note that WLN is still funded on a very low-key basis. Our sources of income are but two: annual membership subscriptions and, sometimes, a net profit balance from our conferences. We operate as a not-for-profit body. All of which means we have to remind you please of the need to pay your WLN bills promptly. We simply lack the administrative resource to chase unpaid bills and when we do that, it costs us a disproportionate amount of time. Which is not to deny that we make the occasional mistake on the face of a bill.
One tip – if you want us to send invoices to a particular person (e.g. your accounts department), please send us their contact details and we can check that our records are up to date. That would fix most of our (thankfully few) problems in credit contrl much faster!
The entire Board is concerned to ensure that the WLN Next group is actively supported in the way that members have indicated they want. We have been disappointed that recent meetings of WLN Next have been poorly attended and are actively considering ways to improve that. At this stage, the Board would like to thank especially Susanna Grichtmaier (Germany) and Alberto Lama (Italy) for their ongoing efforts, all contributors of articles to our website, and thanks also to Réka Katona (Hungary) and the entire team at Squarra & Partners for hosting the successful meeting of WLN next in Budapest (April 2017).
The Academy aims to educate, entertain and raise the standards of our knowledge as lawyers internationally in areas of relevance ot our clients & the work we do for them. Our lead director in this area is David Elvira, supported by Raffaele Torino and others. The Academy was launched in Barcelona in Sept 2016 with a review of corporate law and will continue its work in Kraków later this week.
WLN shareholder agreement book project
About the end of 2017, we aim to publish a new book on shareholder agreements and voting rights agreements. Covering some 15 or more jurisdictions, this project has been led by Carol Gurioli (Bureau Plattmer, Bolzano, Italy) and sponsored at WLN Board level by Raffaele Torino. Carlo will update us in Kraków but it is quite some undertaking – involving an agreed skeleton, chapter authors, a review process and collaborative cloud sharing. We are deeply grateful to Carlo for his energy and persistence and look forward to seeing the final product soon!
WLN social media
We update our website regularly (at least weekly) with for example conference preparation updates, amended content pages, news items from members and articles of various sorts, from members and guests. Typically we get about 750-1,000 visits per month – from over 500 different visitors. We feel that this figure could rise, if we had more regular content to add from our members – so how can your firm contribute?
WLN’s group on LinkedIn recently exceeded 750 members / followers, many of whom are clients and colleagues from the wider world. We monitor how many views our articles get – and whilst this is variable, I can tell you than a few have been viewed nearly 3,000 times. A typical English language article will be seen (an “impression”, as they call it) between 700-2,000 times and most non-English articles attract a smaller audience of just a few hundred. We are very keen to promote the work, skills and team membership of all our WLN members and to feature interesting, relevant guest articles. Please let me know if you are interested to contribute. Feel free just to send me material for a reaction or feedback!
Find us also on Twitter: @WLNadvocate and #WLNadvocate.
Other WLN Board activities
Not all our work fits neatly under the above headings. One example is our ongoing Quality Assurance quest, which for example takes the form of updating our membership documentation, feedback and other forms. It also comprises assisting in occasional quality or service complaints that can arise, when members work together on client tasks. I am glad to report that there were no major examples of such problems since mid-2016. But they say that pride comes before a fall; and we therefore remain vigilant and look constantly for areas of improvement. We are happy to hear from you with any suggestions.
I said early last year that the next 3-5 years could be genuinely exciting for WLN. I remain of that view. WLN continues to be a network of and for its member firms, seeking to enable you to better support and nurture your clients.
If you have any questions, you know where to find us:
Stuart Miller, WLN Managing Director
John van Loo, WLN Managing Director