By Jaipat S. Jain
April 11 is the last day of the annual, two-week, Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C. The festival, held amidst blossoming cherry trees that line some of the beautiful, sun-drenched, boulevards of the capital, celebrates the gift by Japan to the United States of the cherry tree in 1912. April 11th this year was also a day to celebrate for lawyers from India and the United States for a different reason: the visit to Washington, D.C. of a delegation of lawyers from India at the invitation of the International Law Section of the American Bar Association (ABA).
The International Law Section of the ABA invited the Society of Indian Law Firms (SILF) to join its annual Spring Meeting. The Indian delegation, led by SILF president Lalit Bhasin, and accompanied by 21 lawyers, was the first such delegation from India to an ABA meeting. Excellent weather, combined with an abundance of warmth and hospitality from the host India Committee Steering Group led by Erik Wulff (DLA Piper; co-chair), Aaron Schildhaus (Law Offices of Aaron Schildhaus; immediate past chair, ABA International Law Section), Gene Theroux (Baker & McKenzie), Doug Adler (Vedder Price) and Shikhil Suri (Crowell & Moring), made April 11th a perfect day for the SILF delegation to arrive in Washington, D.C.
Lawyers have to be lawyers. No sooner had they arrived, they got together to discuss and analyze their busy schedule for the next two days in Washington, D.C. and the balance of the week in New York City. The highlight of the day was an evening reception hosted Crowell & Moring led by Shikhil Suri and Morris DeFeo. In his address, Lalit Bhasin (co-chair, ABA International, India Committee) expressed his appreciation to the Steering Group for making it possible for lawyers from India and the United States (and beyond) to forge a relationship based on common values and a shared desire to bring the fruits of economic progress to their respective peoples. He introduced the delegation, observing that the lawyers represented the best firms from India.
The next day started early at the George Washington University School of Law, where Dean Greg Maggs kicked off an informative lecture and Q & A session by Lyle Denniston, veteran journalist and historian of the Court. The lecture was followed by a lively and informative panel discussion on the U.S. Supreme Court moderated by Hon. Sanjay Tailor, Associate Judge, Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois. Panelists Linda Dreeben, Deputy General Counsel, National Labor Relations Board, Philippa Scarlett, Partner, Kirkland & Ellis and former Law Clerk to Justice Stephen Breyer, and Robert Brauneis, Associate Professor, George Washington University and former Law Clerk to Justice David Souter, each shared their experiences and knowledge of the inside workings of the Court. Of course, with Justice John Paul Steven’s retirement announcement just days earlier, the subject of Supreme Court appointments drew much discussion.
Next, a panel discussion followed on U.S.-India commercial relations, led by Douglas Adler. Doug has had a long-standing relationship with India, both in private practice and as part of the Federal government. He was joined by Jeffrey Shane (Partner, Hogan & Hartson), a former Undersecretary, U.S. Department of Transportation, who was closely involved with the negotiations of the U.S.-India Open Skies Aviation Agreement, and Jessica Farmer, Senior Loan Officer, U.S. Exim Bank. The panelists shared their first-hand experiences of doing negotiations with Indian agencies, peppered with interesting anecdotes and insights.
The discussion was followed by a luncheon at the Metropolitan Club hosted by Arnall Golden & Gregory, Hogan & Hartson, and Vedder Price, and chaired by Doug Adler. The Honorable William S. Cohen, former United States Senator from Maine and Secretary of Defense, and current Director of the U.S India Business Council, delivered the keynote address. Secretary Cohen shared his personal experiences as a lawyer, legislator and member of the executive branch of the government, as well as his enthusiasm for the U.S. – Indo relationship. In their remarks, each of Doug Adler, Erik Wulff and Lalit Bhasin recognized that the visit by lawyers from India to the ABA meeting was a historic first step in further deepening the economic and other ties that bind the United States and India.
The lunch meeting was followed by a panel discussion and Q & A on U.S.-India commercial relations. Speakers and commentators included David Fagan (Covington & Burling), Mark Riedy (Mintz Levin), Robert Shanks (Raytheon International), Gene Theroux (Baker & McKenzie), Ajay Verma (Ajay Verma & Associates), Aseem Chawla (Amarchand & Managaldas & Suresh A. Shroff & Co.), H. Jayesh (Juris Corp), and Marcia Wiss (Hogan & Hartson).
An evening reception was held at the offices of Baker & McKenzie. A highlight of the reception was the unobstructed and spectacular view of the White House from the terraces of Baker & McKenzie, giving the delegation members and their host memorable photo opportunities. Gene Theroux and Elizabeth Stern welcomed the delegation on behalf of Baker & McKenzie and spoke of the possibilities of greater U.S.-India relations in the area of practice of law. Lalit Bhasin, speaking on behalf of the delegation, thanked the host and said that the delegation came here to learn and build bridges between the lawyers of the two countries.
The delegation arrived in New York City on April 13th, and began the day with a luncheon meeting at the offices of DLA Piper. Erik Wulff and Lalit Bhasin chaired the meeting. Each member of the delegation addressed the audience on the area of law that was the focus of his or her practice and fielded questions in those areas. The Spring Meeting of ABA International in New York City was formally opened later that evening with a reception at the Grand Hyatt, where ABA President-elect Stephen Zack set the tone for the next four days of meetings, continuing legal education programs, international practice boot camp, discussions on emerging trends in the practice of law, networking and social events. The meeting included seventy programs and was attended by over 1,500 lawyers from nearly 50 countries.
The next day, the first major session of direct interest to the India delegation was on Legal Process Outsourcing. Chaired by Mohammad Syed (King & Ballow), speakers and commentator included Anil Chaddha (GE Transportation), Jonathan Goldstein (Pangea3), Mark Heaphy (Wiggins and Dana), Madhu Khatri (Wipro), Lalit Bhasin, and James Duffy (New York State Bar Association). Later that day, the Honorable Hardeep Puri, India’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, hosted a luncheon in honor of the Indian delegation at his residence. Mr. Puri expressed hope that lawyers would increasingly play a more active role in the negotiation of bilateral and multilateral governmental agreements on a pro bono basis.
The India Committee formally met the next morning for breakfast to discuss committee business. The gathering was addressed by Glenn Hendrix, chair of the International Section, among others. The India Committee was addressed by Erik Wulff, Lalit Bhasin, and Aaron Schildhaus, among others. The Committee discussed publishing books or pamphlets on matters of interest to the membership through the ABA, as well as topics for future Web-based seminars. Mr. Bhasin presented souvenirs to Sanjay Tailor, Rita Roy, Aaron Schildhaus, Erik Wulff and Gene Theroux, among others, for their contribution to the Committee.
Later that day, ABA President Carolyn Lamm, addressing a luncheon of the International Law Section, welcomed the India delegation. Lalit Bhasin addressed the attendees on behalf of the delegation and expressed his hope that this first visit by a delegation from India at the invitation of the ABA will pave the way for annual exchanges between the two countries. His sentiments were warmly reciprocated. The India delegation then presented souvenirs to Carolyn Lamm and Glen Hendrix.
A highlight of the day was an hour-and-a-half-long meeting of the members of the SILF delegation, led by Lalit Bhasin, and the ABA, led by Carolyn Lamm, on the issue of foreign lawyers doing work in India. The meeting involved an exchange of information and views. Lalit Bhasin advocated strengthening of existing relationships between the two professions and seeking avenues of permissible cooperation between Indian and the U.S. law firms, such as participating in international arbitration proceedings in India or visits to India on specific client transactions or assignments, and vice versa for Indian lawyers in the U.S. Others advocated that the Indian legal markets should be opened up to foreign law firms.
The meeting was followed by a separate, continuing legal education program entitled “Hot Transborder Law Practice and Legal Ethics Issues: India-U.S.” It was chaired by Robert Lutz, II (past chair, ABA International, and professor, Southwestern University School of Law) and Erik Wulff. The panelists were Lalit Bhasin (SILF), Priti Suri (PSA Legal Consultants), Eugene Theroux (Baker & McKenzie) and Daniel Watson (Office of U.S. Trade Representative). The well-attended, lively program presented divergent views on the current state of openness of India’s legal services sector.
Over four days, members of the delegation attended and participated in various on-going continuing legal education programs and discussions and networking receptions, including a special hearing of the ABA International Section’s Outsourcing Task Force. On April 17th, the Indo-American Lawyers’ Association of New York hosted a farewell dinner reception, marked with warmth and bonhomie, in honor of the Indian delegation. It was addressed by, among others, its President, Sanjay Chaubey, President of the New York State Bar Association, Stephen Younger, and Lalit Bhasin.
The delegation consisted of the following persons: Jatin Aneja, Partner, Amarchand & Mangaldas & Suresh A. Shroff & Co.; Kewal Bajaj, Esquire; Rajesh Bhardwaj, International Investment Law Consultants; Maj. Guneet Chaudhary, Advocate, Supreme Court of India; Aseem Chawla, Partner, Amarchand & Mangaldas & Suresh Shroff & Co.; Manjula Chawla, Partner, Phoenix Legal; Manoj K. Chhabra, Partner, Astra Law Offices; Vishal Gandhi, Gandhi & Associates, Solicitor and Advocates; Dinkar Goswami, Goswami Associates; Nusrat Hassan, D.H. Law Associates, Advocates and Solicitors; Jaipat S. Jain, Partner, Lazare Potter & Giacovas LLP; H. Jayesh, Juris Corp, Advocates and Solicitors; Rajiv Luthra, Luthra & Luthra Law Offices; Suhail Nathani, Economic Laws Practice; Badri Nath, International Investment Law Consultants; Balraj Palli, Esquire; Ashok Sancheti, IC Sancheti & Co.; Ajesh Kumar Shankar, Chief, AKS Law Associates; Cyril and Vandana Shroff, Managing Partners, Amarchand & Mangaldas & Suresh Shroff & Co.; Priti Suri, Priti Suri and Associates/PSA Legal Counsellors; Dorothy Thomas, Partner, Kochhar & Co. LLC; and Ajay Verma, Founding Partner, Ajay Verma & Associates.
Jaipat Jain is a partner at Lazare Potter & Giacovas LLP in New York and is engaged in the practice of corporate and securities law. He may be contacted at email@example.com.