Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Going Abroad For CLE

By George Bedell

My recent trip to England made me wonder whether I have missed some great opportunities in fulfilling my CLE requirements. I had already planned a vacation in Scotland for late September when, shortly after booking my flight, an email from the American Bar Association arrived announcing (probably for at least the third time) that there was a white-collar crime seminar in London two days after I was scheduled to return to Tampa. After briefly considering how much I enjoy my white-collar cases, I signed up for the seminar and rescheduled my flight.

The first indication that the trip was going to be professionally worthwhile and personally fulfilling came on the flight from Atlanta to London. The passenger to my right, who now lives in Naples, Florida, turned out to be a barrister and member of Grays Inn in London.  She offered to take me to an inn dinner. Unfortunately, the schedule would not work out, but I hope to be able take her up on that nice offer in the future. Next, at baggage claim, I ran into a friend who used to practice law in Tampa who is now in Tallahassee. He, too, was heading for Scotland, and it turned out that our hotels in London were directly across the street from one another.

The white-collar seminar was hosted by a solicitors firm that has its offices on the north bank of the Thames River. Although a large portion of the attendees were from London, there were others from the Netherlands, France, Germany, Russia, Portugal, and, of course, the United States. The group was small enough that it was easy to meet, recognize, and talk with other lawyers, which is always valuable.

The substantive aspect of the seminar began with David Green, director of United Kingdom Serious Fraud Office, explaining the U.K. approach to large-scale fraud. The sessions covered both U.S. and U.K. enforcement of tax laws, foreign corrupt practices, money laundering, whistleblowing, and other contemporary issues that companies and individuals may encounter during business transactions. I learned a number of worthwhile strategies that will help with my next white-collar client.

Fishmongers’ Company Banqueting Hall, the setting for lunch on Monday and the reception that evening, provided one of the more interesting parts of the program. The Fishmongers’ Company is a 700-year-old guild that has its building on the north bank of the Thames River at the foot of London Bridge. The building has a Greco Roman design and was completed in 1835. Towering portraits of King George II, Queen Caroline, and Queen Elizabeth II hang on the walls; coats of arms hang beneath the gilded molding in the banquet room; and every bit of brass in the building gleams.

Over the years, I have been perfunctory in fulfilling my CLE requirements. From here on, I plan to be a bit more adventurous in acquiring the credits I need because of my experience in London. I learned a lot, met some interesting people, and enjoyed a historic change of scenery.