Atlanta attorney Glenn P. Hendrix takes over in August as chairman of the American Bar Association’s international law section. Then, let the world travel begin.
Mr. Hendrix, managing partner of Arnall Golden Gregory LLP will be involved in ABA events in Sao Paulo, Brazil; Vienna, Austria and Moscow. He will also represent the ABA at events in Kiev, Ukraine and Madrid. Early next year, he is leading an ABA delegation on a trip to Australia and New Zealand, accompanied by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
“Those are just trips through February,” said Mr. Hendrix. “Beyond that, it is not mapped out yet.”
The ABA’s 23,000-member international law section (20 percent of whom are based abroad) is designed to connect the U.S. legal system with the rest of the world. It is a mission that has become increasingly important with the rapid growth of global commerce.
“It is a portal to American lawyers for the outside world and likewise for foreign bar associations and non-U.S. lawyers to the American legal community,” said Mr. Hendrix. “There are very few law firms, at least business law firms, that don’t touch on global matters. Evidence may be located abroad. One of the parties is from abroad. It really permeates legal practice.”
As companies buy and sell more goods and services in other countries, legal systems that ensure disputes can be justly resolved and that businesses can be paid, are vital, said Mr. Hendrix.
“Most disputes of any size are handled by arbitration,” he said. But the arbitrator’s decisions must be enforced by the courts in the country where the losing party is headquartered.
“The enforcement process really varies widely by country,” said Mr. Hendrix. “If you are trying to enforce an arbitration award against a Russian company, for example, it is going to be more difficult than it would be here. Even so, there are statistics that up to 80 percent of the foreign arbitration awards are enforced by the Russian courts. There is certainly a trend toward the rule of law.”
The ABA international law section works toward improving that framework, through its publications, training program for judges and seminars. For example, on May 1-2 the section will co-sponsor a seminar in Atlanta on franchising agreements and other legal issues affecting international trade.
“The international law section in the 1990s started something called CEELI which is a very extensive training program for judges and other professionals in Eastern Europe and Russia,” said Mr. Hendrix. That project has expanded into the ABA Rule of Law Initiative, which currently operates in 40 countries.
Johan D. Van der Vyver, an Emory University professor of international law, said the ABA’s international section helps assure that the U.S. legal system does not take a myopic view of the law.
“It is a very important section,” he said. “There is an increasing importance attached to international law. Now that so many law firms have transnational practice, it is a field of increasing interest and importance.”
Mr. Van der Vyver also noted the international section’s role in the formulation of policy. The section, for example, was an early supporter of the International Criminal Court, even before it was endorsed by the full ABA .
As Mr. Hendrix prepares to assume the chairmanship, he sees the rule of law as crucial to a world economic recovery. One of the section’s projects is the International Legal Resources Center, a joint effort with the United Nations Development Program. Volunteer lawyers provide an array of services to countries worldwide, including help in writing election laws, strengthening anti-corruption measures, legal education and judicial training.
“The UNDP has field offices in 160 countries,” said Mr. Hendrix. ”When they need assistance on a legal issue, they are able to call and get an expert opinion. This has been hugely successful. Our database includes not only experts from the United States but also 90 other countries.”
As the world economy has deteriorated, there has been an increasing demand for these services. Mr. Hendrix recently met with U.N. officials in New York to discuss how to expand the program.
For Mr. Hendrix, international issues are not new. With a father in the U.S. Air Force and a mother from Great Britain, he lived all over the world as a child, including nine years in England. “It certainly played a role in my interest in international matters,” he said.
As a business litigation specialist, the Emory law school graduate is often involved in overseas cases and has experience in international arbitration. He obtained an arbitration award for a client which sold an oil refinery to China, for example, and he obtained a decision holding a Ugandan bank liable for one of its subsidiaries in an international sales transaction.
He sees international law as only increasing in importance, a trend that was illustrated by the tumultuous world markets of recent months.
“A bank failure in Iceland can have a major impact in Europe and the rest of the world,” he said. “You see how interconnected the world is. That is only going to continue.”
To reach Mr. Hendrix, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org