Home Happy New Year from the Washington Foreign Law Society

    Happy New Year from the Washington Foreign Law Society

    The President of the Washington Foreign Law Society, Ms. Giuliana Canè, issued the following letter to members, subscribers, and friends of the Washington Foreign Law Society.

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    Dear friends of the Washington Foreign Law Society,

    We hope this note finds you all in the best of health and spirits notwithstanding the strenuous challenges of the past several months. The Board of Governors wishes to extend to you and your families warmest wishes for a Happy New Year.

    As a difficult year ends and a new one begins, we would like to take a moment to pause and reflect upon how our Society has had to change and adapt in order to respond to such an unprecedented moment in our history. Faced with the impossibility of hosting our regular gatherings and events, the Society was forced to suddenly and abruptly switch gears and migrate to a purely digital environment, where our discussions could carry on from the safety and security of our own homes.

    As all of you know all too well, new formats always generate unexpected challenges. However, despite the complexities, we are proud to say that the Society has been able to meet the moment with resilience and creativity. By transforming challenges into opportunities, we can confidently say that our 2020 programming – both on and offline – has been a success in terms of both offering and participation.

    Out of the 13 programs offered over the past twelve months, 12 were organized after the onset of the pandemic as webinars. Our online programs attracted over 850 virtual participants, with viewers tuning in from all across the globe: from the United States to Brazil, from Italy to Hong Kong, from Lebanon to Bangladesh, thus expanding the outreach of the Society in ways that would have been impossible under ordinary circumstances. Overall, our 13 events engaged over 1,000 individual participants last year, taking into account in-person attendees, Zoom participants, and YouTube views of panel recordings.

    Below are some of the highlights from this past year (links to the recordings of online events are provided for your convenience should you wish to watch any of them):

    • 2020 Annual Gala: Honoring Meg Kinnear. In our only in-person gathering of the year, the Washington Foreign Law Society awarded the Harry LeRoy Jones Award to Meg Kinnear, Secretary-General of the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes. The event was an overwhelming success, attracting 135 attendees and leading to a record fundraising effort for the Society. We hope to maintain such a high level of engagement at our next in-person event as well, as soon as the circumstances will allow for one.
    • Redefining Career Success in Times of Uncertainty. The WFLS premiered its online offering with a webinar on career development in COVID-times. Donna Jones Daley, lawyer and Executive Coach, spoke about worries and fears that may be triggered as a result of the pandemic and provided advice on how to best embrace change and navigate the ongoing crisis.
    • Discussion of Judge Stanley Sporkin’s Career and Legacy. A discussion on the career and legacy of Judge Stanley Sporkin – former Director of SEC Enforcement, General Counsel of the CIA and judge on the US District Court of the District of Columbia – attracted almost 200 viewers. The event was moderated by Mark Feldman and touched upon Judge Sporkin’s involvement in crucial developments in US law and policy, such as the foreign bribery investigations initiated by him which ultimately led to the adoption of the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
    • Discussion on Foreign State Immunity in U.S. Courts. A panel of three former State Department Legal Advisors and a former Chief Judge of the US District Court for the District of Columbia explored questions raised by the 1976 Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act – the law that governs civil actions brought against foreign states and state-owned enterprises – in view of recent judgments and upcoming Supreme Court cases involving the statute.
    • Jazz and Conversation with Judge T. Michael Peay. Judge T. Michael Peay, a member of the Administrative Tribunal of the Organization of American States, delighted our audience with an evening of live jazz and anecdotes about his extensive career as a negotiator of international agreements and Assistant Legal Advisor at the State Department.
    • Dissecting Monasky v. Taglieri: The U.S. Supreme Court’s new standard for Habitual Residence under the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention. Three family law attorneys discussed the significance and consequences of this noteworthy Supreme Court case, focusing in particular on the Court’s holding that an actual agreement between parents is not necessary to establish an infant’s habitual residence.
    • WFLS Series: Issues and Trends in International Anti-Corruption Law. Part 1: From Watergate to Biden — 43 years of international anti-corruption efforts since the birth of the FCPA. The WFLS also launched its first online program series, which will address issues and trends in international anti-corruption. The first instalment of the series, featuring Pascale Dubois and Lucinda Low, focused on the origins of the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and of the international anti-corruption movement generally and what trends to expect in the future.

    Subscriptions to our mailing list also increased by around 13% since the previous year, a sign that our programming was appreciated by viewers both old and new and that the offering was successful in generating broad interest, despite having to compete with a rich and increased offering worldwide. As the Society is mindful of the strain and hardship that the pandemic has caused to many, all programs were offered to our viewers free of charge.

    Finally, while our Society may have been forced to remain physically distant, we have nonetheless tried to maintain our distinctive penchant for events that promote networking and personal connections. In addition to our traditional programs, we therefore added virtual conversations with distinguished Board Members of the Society, which offered a window into their personal and professional history while providing an informal forum for discussing career choices and experiences. Last year’s “Conversation and Cocktails” series featured WFLS Board Members Elissa Alben, Melissa Johns, Antonia Tzinova, Mark Agrast and Rosa Celorio. The Society is thankful for their kind contribution and looks forward to organizing more such conversations in the coming months.

    We are grateful to all our members and subscribers for your continued support, and we look forward to engaging with you next year as well. Remember to check our website and to follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn for the latest updates on programs and initiatives. We are always open to ideas from our audience on events or topics for discussion: do not hesitate to contact us at mail@wfls.org or fill in this survey if you wish to make a suggestion. Some of our best events were the result of our supporters’ ideas and hard work.

    Best wishes to all for a happy, prosperous and healthy 2021.


    Giuliana Canè


    Washington Foreign Law Society



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