An Introduction to the Canadian German Lawyers Association (CGLA)
The CGLA: a response to the impetus for change, and its implications for the legal profession
Today the pace of technological change is accelerating with increased swiftness. Industry, trade, and commerce have become truly global in nature. The demands upon the legal practitioner, especially one who engages in business law, compel him or her more than ever before to consider international concerns which extend beyond the domestic jurisdiction.
The impact of this change upon the legal profession is profound. A maze of regulatory and bureaucratic obstacles still await those who would attempt to cross national boundaries. Different legal systems must frequently be bridged with considerable familiarity by the legal profession.
To keep pace with such change, the need, it can be fairly said, has correspondingly arisen for a new breed of lawyer who is moderately conversant with more than on legal system, and even more importantly, for lawyers who can make rapid contact with reliable resources on both sides of the Atlantic. Furthermore, those Canadian practitioners who would aspire to act on behalf of overseas clientele are obligated by necessity to forge some link with their European counterparts who, even more than North Americans, have traditionally tended to operate and make referrals on the basis of established professional relationships.
Germany and Canada: a Natural Economic and Cultural Affinity
The legal community of both Canada and Germany are being brought into closer association by a number of powerful influences of international trade and commerce.
Germany, as is well known, is rapidly becoming the economic and financial centre of Europe. Long considered a traditional bridge between Western Europe and the peoples of Central and Eastern Europe, this country can now be said to have an additional role by virtue of its membership and pivotal position in the European Economic Community - - that of a bridge and "port of entry" to the powerful EEC trading bloc.
Canada, Germany's fellow G7 partner, has similarly been a traditional bridge between North America and Europe, and by virtue of its membership in NAFTA, it can likewise be viewed as a stepping stone into the world's largest trading bloc.
Additionally, cultural ties between Germany and the "New World" land of Canada are strong and pervasive. In fact, it is estimated that, when the entire group of Canadians of German-speaking origin is totaled - - including Germans, Austrians, Swiss Germans, Danube Swabians, Mennonites, Russian Germans, Sudeten Germans, Baltic Germans, Transylvanian Saxons, and Hutterite - - the sum comprises fully 10% of the Canadian population! This strong ethnic German presence is another reason why Canadian lawyers, including those of non-German-language ancestry, who wish to serve these groups would derive advantages from a Canadian German association of lawyers.
Dortmund: the inaugural meeting
On November 20, 1992, following several months of preparation, the inaugural meeting of the CGLA took place in Dortmund, Germany. Attended by about 30 German lawyers, the foundation was laid amid an atmosphere of considerable enthusiasm.
The first German board of directors
The executive board members elected on that first occasion were Dr. Wolfgang Nockelmann (Dortmund; German Co-President), Dr. Franz Tepper (Gütersloh; German Vice-President), Stefan Rizor (Cologne), Dr. Thomas Nöcker (Essen) and Dr. Rolf M. Winkler (Stuttgart).
Objectives of the Association.
The objectives of the organization were defined as:
- To further international understanding and common knowledge of the respective legal systems, professions and procedures of Canada and Germany
- To promote legal research, education and development
- To improve knowledge of the law and legal institutions of the two countries by means of publications, lectures, and other public events, and by providing incentives and support for legal scholarships concerning those issues which are of importance to the legal profession on both sides of the Atlantic
- To facilitate and provide legal support for trade between the two countries
- To encourage Canadian and German lawyers to fund trainees from law student and graduate categories
- To make is possible for practicing lawyers to have an opportunity for working stay abroad and gain practical experience in the foreign environment
- To publish half-yearly or quarterly newsletter which would provide an exchange of information, and alert readers to new and pending developments.
A single Trans-Atlantic association
It was intended from the outset by the German Chapter that the Association would span the Atlantic as a single unit, in order to facilitate its role as the common and central source for contacts between lawyers of both countries. However, in deference to both national identity and distance, the German members as envisioned that two national groups would be established, each with a co-president, a Canadian and German vice-president, and three additional board members from each country.
Toronto: the founding meeting
On April 21, 1993, the Canadian Chapter was founded in a well-attended meeting of Canadian lawyers in Toronto. The Canadians were also honored by the presence of Dr. Richard Ellerkman, the German Ambassador to Canada, and Dr. Franz Tepper, CGLA German Vice-President. All Canadians present and those who had expressed genuine interest were held to constitute the CGLA Canadian Chapter for the time being. There was a general consensus that though the road ahead appeared difficult, the beginning seemed promising as well.
The first Chapter executive
The Canadian Chapter Executive Committee, envisioned as precursor to a comprehensive legal Chapter apparatus and board of directors, was voted in at the founding meeting. Eric P. Polten (Polten & Hodder, Toronto) was voted Coordinator, and the rest of the Committee consisted of: Oliver J. Borgers (McCarthy, Tétrault; Toronto), Andreas von Cramon (Mallorytown), Thomas von Hahn (Blake, Cassels & Graydon; Toronto); John Eric Pöllabauer (Stewart, McKelvey, Stirling, Scales; Moncton) Gerhard Selzer (Land Michener; Toronto), Alexander C. Sennecke (Dale & Dingwall; Toronto), and William Melvin Weigel (Montreal). Subsequently, Eric P. Polten was confirmed as interim Canadian Co-President and Spokesperson.
Early Activities of the Canadian Chapter
No sooner hat the Canadian Chapter been formed than is was faced with the tasks of
- setting up the Chapter's organizational apparatus
- compiling from sources across the country a list of prospective members, and sending out mailings to all persons
- preparing for strong Chapter representation at the First Annual CGLA Convention in Cologne on September 10-11, 1993, including a slate of speakers to address their German counterparts on a variety of Canadian-oriented issues
- promoting and preparing to host the Second Annual CGLA Conference in Toronto, on May 12-14, 1994
It was generally conceded by all concerned that the Canadians faced a more daunting task in setting up their Chapter on a national basis than had their German colleagues, due to the much more formidable obstacles of geography and the wide provincial and ethnic diversities of the country. Yet the response from all regions of the country and from legal practitioners of both German-speaking and non-German-speaking ancestry was sufficiently strong to permit the conclusion that the Chapter could build and survive on a sturdy foundation.
Accomplishments and pending activities of the CGLA to date
- First Annual CGLA Conference, Cologne, Germany, September 11-12, 1993. Doing business in Canada: legal aspects, was the theme of this conference.
- Annual meeting of the German CGLA Chapter, December 3, 1993 Frankfurt, Germany.
- Second Annual CGLA Conference, Toronto, Ontario, May 12-14. 1994.
Dealing with Germany: Legal and business perspectives.