Daria Gleyze

Opportunities for the ambitious junior barrister to develop an international practice abound – if only we had the resources for all the legal globe-trotting. The International Professional and Legal Development Grant Programme is one such resource, but it requires you to come up with a timely proposal for an international endeavour (mine was to present the fascinating topic of recent BVI Company Act amendments) and an estimated budget. Attending and speaking at international conferences is a tried and tested method and it is what the authors of this article have done. It is a coincidental convenience that our audience was in a tropical island jurisdiction.

Sounds great, I hear you say, where do I sign up to conferences? A good bet is registering with various professional associations first (such as ChBA, ComBar, STEP, ConTRA, to name a few of relevance to commercial chancery), as they will regularly circulate opportunities. If you do not feel like committing to the membership fees for too many, you could also search online, for example on the websites of international organisations such as the International Bar Association. If you also wish to put yourself forward to speak at the conference, you can either answer a call for interest (if applicable) or just write to the organisers directly and ask them if they need anyone, preferably with some suggestions of relevant topics you could address.

There are other avenues too, like internships and work experience. In my legal youth, I have done excellent internships at the International Court of Arbitration in Paris and in the legal service of the Council of the EU, where I learned a great deal and enjoyed myself possibly even more. These should be paid at source (at minion-rates, alas) but you could also apply to the grant programme to supplement the income if it is dire or to get some funding for unpaid internships. There are myriad international organisations and most of them will offer some form of work experience: such as UN organisations, international arbitration/ADR centres and international courts (CJEU, ECtHR, ICJ, ICC, various pop-up international criminal tribunals etc.). You could also write to a local foreign firm or lawyer if you are interested in their practice and jurisdiction. They will probably have an established work experience scheme and/or be flattered that you asked.

Emile Simpson

What does attending and speaking at an international conference entail? In the BVI, I spoke on sanctions against Russia. It is important to draft a clearly focused application for funding and, once awarded, do some thorough preparation for the conference itself. It is helpful to choose a topic that sets you apart. In my case, sanctions is a relatively specialised area, but one which is topical and fast evolving.

The fundamental value in speaking at such events is to meet and build relationships with local practitioners. Beyond participating in the conference, and the planned social events, it is worth arranging meetings with local firms ahead of time, and ideally arriving at the conference a day early and/or staying an extra day, to enable that. Your clerks should be able to assist with this. If not, you can be proactive and contact firms directly, especially if the talk you plan to give is relevant to them.

It is not just law firms that are worth meeting. In the BVI, for example, much of the contentious legal work is ultimately generated by accountancy firms and insolvency practitioners, so give them a shout too.

The presentation itself is of course important, and you should focus on the local legal market. Sanctions, for example, are applied differently in the Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories (such as the BVI) than in the UK, and there is real value in understanding what the nuances are, especially when selling yourself as being able to advise on multi-jurisdictional matters.

Speaking at international conferences is also a great way to meet other UK-based barristers, at all levels of seniority, who are interested in the same practice areas. This is more so when speaking at a conference arranged by one of the professional associations.

For more junior barristers, there are various additional sources of funding available to reduce the cost of attending international legal conferences, such as the Inns of Court and the professional associations.

Sajid Suleman

At the BVI conference, I spoke on how different jurisdictions approach arbitration clauses in insolvency proceedings – looking at the BVI, Cayman Islands, England and Hong Kong. This was a fantastic opportunity for me to engage with an audience comprised of lawyers and insolvency practitioners who deal with these issues regularly.

After spending a few days in the BVI, staying in a hotel with colleagues from the Chancery Bar Association, and using every spare minute to meet local practitioners, I had a chance to reflect on what I gained from this trip. Below are some of my key takeaways:

  • Lawyers in other jurisdictions appreciate the effort made to travel to their country and engage with issues that are of interest to them.
  • Plan ahead. Look up attendees at the events you are attending, try to prearrange coffees and lunches, research the contentious issues in the local courts and understand the local culture and environment.
  • There is great scope for sharing knowledge. While you might be there to give a talk on an area of your expertise, you will learn a lot from speaking to local practitioners. It is that exchange of knowledge that helps you grow as a barrister.
  • Travel to another jurisdiction is a chance to make new friends, including other barristers travelling with you. This is particularly relevant in an unfamiliar jurisdiction: you will benefit greatly from having friends at the Bar who are either already well established in that jurisdiction or are working towards the same goals as you.
  • See any overseas travel as an investment in your future. The experience, knowledge and contacts you make during the trip will build your profile as a barrister and make you more rounded as a person.

For me, the opportunity to visit the BVI for this conference was the ideal way to be introduced to a jurisdiction which is of longer-term interest, and I was fortunate to have a platform before a distinguished audience that is rarely available to junior barristers. This was all made possible by funding from the Bar Council and the ChBA. 


Daria, Emile and Sajid were each the lucky recipient of a grant from the International Professional and Legal Development Grant Programme. They were invited to speak at the BVI Conference organised by the Chancery Bar Association (ChBA) on 27 April 2023 and the grants covered (up to a specified maximum) their costs of travelling to and attending the conference. Their grants were generously funded by the ChBA and the Bar Council, who paid one third each, with the grantee to cover the remaining third. For more information about the Bar Council International Professional and Legal Development Grant Programme, click here.