A National Bar Association In The Making

discussions about the tasks and roles of a national bar association took place
when the Danish and Swedish bar associations met with Vietnamese lawyers and
officials for a two-day seminar in Hanoi.
The seminar was organised jointly by the Ministry of Justice and the Embassies
of Denmark and Sweden as
part of the preparation of a National Bar Association in Vietnam.

Vietnam has an estimated 4-5,000 lawyers,
of whom the vast majority are based in Hanoi
(approx. 25-30%) and HCMC (approx. 40%). Lawyers are presently organised in
provincial bars, and for the past three years preparations have been on-going
to establish a National Bar Association for all Vietnamese lawyers.
Government of Vietnam is working hard to ensure that the Constitutional
Congress can take place sometime during the coming months, and Denmark and Sweden have actively engaged in the
preparations by supporting the drafting of the governing documents for the new
association (the charter, the statutes and the code of ethics) and a
consultation process across the country.

    The seminar
on ‘Bar Associations’ tasks and roles from an international perspective’ was
organised to share the experience from Danish and Swedish bar associations and
to provide space for reflections and discussion of the relevance in Vietnam of
this experience. Despite the fact that the seminar took place during the worst
flooding in Hanoi
in 35 years, the turn up for the seminar was impressing. Participation include
representatives from a wide range of provincial bar associations, private law
firms, Ministry of Justice, Law universities, Vietnam Lawyers’ Association, the
Interim Committee established to facilitate the preparation of the National Bar
Association, and donor partners.

opening the seminar together with Vice-Minister Mr. Hoang The Lien, Ambassador
of Denmark Peter Lysholt Hansen stressed the importance of involving all
relevant stakeholders in the establishment of the National Bar Association:
“The National Bar Association can be a milestone in the efforts of Vietnam to
strengthen the role of professional lawyers in civil and criminal procedures,
but it is crucial to the relevance and legitimacy of the new association that
all members of the community of lawyers feel that they are represented by the
National Bar Association. If the community of lawyers does not find that the
National Bar Association is their organisation, it will be very difficult to
make it a functioning and relevant organisation”.

The seminar
covered both big issues and more practical aspects of the organisation of a bar
association. Among the big issues were the question of the independence of the
upcoming National Bar Association, the role of a bar association in upholding
the rule of law, and possibilities for increasing the number of lawyers in
Vietnam and thereby improving access to justice for citizens all over the
country. The more practical issues discussed included the organisation of
continuous training of lawyers, the establishment of a disciplinary committee
to ensure the integrity of lawyers, and the financing of the new association.

The deep
engagement of the many participants in the issues debated was sometimes
reflected in very heated discussions, and co-chairs had a difficult task trying
to keep the time when so many people wanted to speak. On the possible future
support from the Danish and Swedish bar associations, Mr. Henrik Rothe,
Secretary General of the Danish Bar and Law Society winded up the seminar by
saying: “We are not here to instruct you about what to do – we are here to
inspire you. If you can use our experience, we stand ready to cooperate with
the new National Bar Association.”

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