Bar Council Mission to Brazil

26 March 2015

Daniel Sternberg

Daniel Sternberg

Chairman of the Bar Council's Young Barristers' Committee

A group of barristers including the Chairman of the Bar, two QCs, a full time mediator, five juniors and a practice manager took part in the Bar Council's mission to Brazil in March 2015. I was lucky enough to be one of their number.

Our programme took us to São Paulo, Rio and Recife. In each city we held meetings with groups of local lawyers to understand their concerns and explain how the bar can work for them.

Once the basic differences between barristers and solicitors were explained along with the fact that Brazilian lawyers can instruct the bar directly, we held productive discussions on issues ranging from ADR to tax law, international criminal co-operation and combatting corruption. The ongoing Petrobras scandal erupted with demonstrations across Brazil on our first day, with an estimated 1 million protestors flocking to the street outside our hotel prompting many last minute amendments to our prepared seminar notes!

Mediation is now compulsory in many claims issued in Brazil. Both mediation and arbitration are growth areas in a country where it is not unusual for civil cases to take over 10 years to conclude.

A particular highlight was a panel seminar in São Paulo on the Magna Carta following an introductory lecture by the Chairman. The British Consul, the Chairman of the Bar, two constitutional experts and Jose Eugenio Soares, 'the Brazilian David Letterman' (whose first question was to query why he was on the panel) discussed the relevance of Magna Carta as a foundation of liberty in a country younger than the charter itself.

Everywhere we went we were welcomed by our Brazilian hosts who seemed genuinely interested to understand how the bar works and what it has to offer. I recommend young barristers with an interest in developing an international practice should apply to participate in the outgoing exchange programme and/or next year's mission. Whilst it takes time and energy, the benefits to the Bar of forging links with a fast growing nation cannot be underestimated.

Particular thanks must go to Chika Muorah at the Bar Council and Frederico Singarajah of 1 Gray's Inn Square and UKTI Sao Paulo for all their hard work in organising the mission and making it a success.