Deutsch-Britische Juristenvereinigung

Tagung Potsdam 2007

BGJA Conference – A Student’s Perspective

Potsdam Conference - 28 – 30 September 2007

Although we are both graduates with Law degrees and are currently taking the Legal Practice Course, neither of us had actually attended a legal conference before. Needless to say, we were both a little apprehensive about how the weekend would unfold!

In agreement that the 6.00 am flight from Stansted was too much of an unsociable hour for us, we opted to arrive the day before. Looking back, this was a very good idea, leaving us with ample time to check in to the hotel, explore the city and get a decent night’s sleep! Even before the conference started, we had managed a quick tour of the Russian Quarter, eager not to miss the opportunity to see some of Potsdam.

On Friday morning we made our way down to the hotel reception and nervously observed every guest in hope that they were here for the same reasons as us. Safety in numbers was definitely a feeling we shared! However, we were not alone for long as there were soon other smart looking professionals each loitering in the foyer and sporting a helpful name tag.

Dr. Peter Braun from Hölters & Elsing kicked off the conference speaking on the procedural aspects of Public Private Partnerships. This was a new subject to both of us and we listened intently to Dr. Braun’s description about the development of Public Private Partnerships in Germany and the practice differences between Germany and the UK. Richard Curl from Hammonds then commented on the practical and procurement aspects of Public Private Partnerships in England.

After the discussion period, we travelled to Cecilienhof. Unfortunately, the weather did not hold and only having one umbrella between us which then broke, we were extremely happy to get inside the Palace. Our tour guide was very informative and really brought the history within the walls of the Palace to life. Perhaps the most memorable part of the tour was seeing the desks of President Truman and Stalin. However, to our disappointment, the British comparison was rather a let down and to be honest, a bit of an embarrassment…but nevertheless, a photo opportunity!

We dined in the Palace, enjoying outstanding food and wine. Both speakers made very moving speeches before the meal which added to the poignancy of the evening. The dinner also offered the opportunity to speak to other members we had not previously met and discuss a variety of topics both legal and non-legal. Dining in Cecilienhof was a memory to treasure and the night was thoroughly enjoyed! Back at the hotel we only managed a quick drink in the hotel bar before bed, promising to make up for it the next evening.

Saturday morning’s session was on the topic of mediation. Dr. Patrick Schroeder from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer started the morning off with an overview of mediation and alternative dispute resolution. Methods of acceptance and implementation of mediation were also discussed in detail. Arthur Marriott QC from LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae then addressed the issues of whether mediation should be mandatory, how it should be organised within the court system and how a civil litigation system should be financed. After a coffee break and time for reflection, a thought-provoking discussion invited some interesting comments.

The afternoon riverboat cruise took us along the River Havel where our friendly and most efficient tour guide was keen to explain the sights we passed. The cruise provided us with another opportunity to meet some more new faces and enjoy the fresh, if not somewhat chilly, September air up on deck.

After the cruise many people went for the guided tour of Sanssouci Castle followed by the optional conference dinner, which we were told was enjoyed by all. We did not attend the conference dinner and instead took the shuttle to Berlin to make the most of the little time that we had left and see a few sights of the capital. Returning to the hotel, we ended the night with some friendly banter in the bar which was most enjoyable.

The Sunday morning sessions were on the topic of Copyright in the Digital Age. Dr. Ralph Oliver Graef from Unverzagt von Have opened the session with an overview of the German and English systems and their differing approaches towards copyright. Michael Gardner from Wedlake Bell addressed the challenges that copyright law faces in reference to infringements and defences in a fast paced technological era. Unfortunately, due to flight times, we had to leave the conference before the discussion period had started, leaving only a small amount of time to say a few quick good byes.

All the speakers gave extremely clear and interesting presentations that we, as law students, felt able to understand and enjoy. The conference was very well organised and structured making us feel both welcome and comfortable amongst so many leading professionals. We feel very privileged that we were given the opportunity to attend the conference. We would like to thank everybody for their time and advice spent with us discussing our future career options. This has been a truly enjoyable experience and we both left not only having enjoyed the weekend, but full of confidence and enthusiasm towards our impending legal careers.