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BIALL Conference 2019

BIALL Conference 2019


This year marked the 50th anniversary of the formation of the British and Irish Association of Law Librarians (BIALL) and where better to celebrate this milestone than at the annual conference, which this year was to be held in Bournemouth. Thanks to CLIG, I was able to attend my first BIALL conference and, after hearing how much fun colleagues had had in previous years, it did not disappoint.




My journey to the Bournemouth started in style as we had managed to nab first class tickets for less than my average daily commute. However, as soon as we stepped off the train, the downpour that would continue almost non-stop for the whole weekend commenced. After a very wet cab ride, we arrived at the hotel and I savoured a little downtime before dinner, as I had been assured there would not be much time for relaxing once the conference started. After catching up with former colleagues with a cocktail (or two) in the hotel bar, I headed to bed at a reasonable hour as I wanted to be well rested for the first full day of the conference.



The day started with a dilemma; just how many times is it acceptable to go back for more at a breakfast buffet? On deciding that four times was probably enough to keep me going until lunch, I headed through the deluge to the conference venue.

Following the formal opening of the conference, the first session was given by David Allen Green, a lawyer and law & policy commentator for the Financial Times, who had been asked to provide an update on Brexit and the events that had taken place since his keynote address at BIALL 2017. As there hasn’t been a lot of change to comment on, David instead focused on where to find the best resources for “information about Armageddon” and succeeded in giving an easily digestible and entertaining talk, despite the seemingly dry topic.

For the first parallel session, I chose to celebrate another birthday by attending 10 Years Older: managing and evaluating library services at the Supreme Court which was delivered by Paul Sandles and provided an interesting insight into the daily life at the Supreme Court library. Paul’s main advice was “be prepared to be surprised”, something I think all Law Librarians can relate to.   

After a hearty lunch and a stroll around the exhibition hall assessing which stalls had the best freebies (water bottles seemed to be the flavour of the month with most vendors, although my personal favourite were the Stroopwaffles from Wolters Kluwer), the afternoon sessions began. We returned to a plenary session on how lawyers can effectively use social media for professional purposes, and what happens when posts go wrong, which everyone found highly humorous. The lightning talks provided some useful tips to take away and the jolting thunder clap ensured no one nodded off after the rather large pieces of cake we had all consumed at the break.


Once the day’s sessions had finished, it was time for a quick pit stop at the hotel before heading out for an evening’s entertainment. Despite the weather, we were still able to enjoy the beach as Justis conveniently brought it inside for BIALL’s 50th Birthday Party. Sipping cocktails amongst the (blow up) palm trees you could almost forget about the downpour outside. Before long it was closing time and we were asked to vacate the dancefloor, so it was time to call it a night and head back to the hotel.


Friday 14th June


Day two of the conference brought several highlights for me. The first was the parallel session, Law Reporting and Public Access in the Courts, hosted by Charles Dewey Cole Jr. and Paul McGrath (ICLR). This was a very popular talk with every seat filled and it wasn’t difficult to see why. They gave an engaging and funny insight into law reporting in both the UK and US, and how this needs to be more selective. I also enjoyed the architectural tour around the courts of New York.


Following this session came the second highlight; Baroness Hale’s keynote address. Her speech reflected on what she considered to be the five major changes to the legal landscape during her long career, which began in the 1960s. Of these five changes, the one that particularly resonated was the recognition of equality as a fundamental human right. Baroness Hale spoke extremely eloquently on the topic having lived through changes in women’s equality, and provided us with some personal anecdotes of how she has shattered glass ceilings to become the President of the Supreme Court.


After lunch, came the AGM, followed by Robin Chesterman from Justis’ convincing session about how artificial intelligence is a “broadly meaningless” term and reassured us that robots will not be taking the place of lawyers anytime soon. And so, with minimal time to beautify ourselves, it was time to don our glad rags for the President’s Reception and BIALL Annual Dinner. Following an excellent dinner and award presentation, we took to the dance floor once again. The live band were superb and even sported some BIALL 2019 t-shirts during their set. Luckily the annual dinner was held in the hotel so we didn’t have too far to stagger home afterwards.    



The final sessions on Saturday morning were a much quieter affair, which was probably a consequence of many sore heads after the night before. The thunder clap from the lightning sessions was a lot less amusing this time round! Luckily the talks were riveting enough to make up for the lack of sleep. The conference closed as it opened with another talk about Brexit, this time from the National Archive’s Matthew Bell who spoke to us about what is doing to prepare for the impending EU exit. Although this was largely adapted from his address to the EU Databases User Group in November 2018, it was interesting to see how much they had achieved in a short time.


All too soon it was time to grab a packed lunch, say goodbye to friends and head to the train station, as the conference closed for another year.


Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my first BIALL conference, and am looking forward to attending many more in the future. It was an excellent opportunity to meet new people, as well as reconnect with old colleagues. The exhibition hall also afforded the chance to put faces to email addresses and meet the suppliers we talk to on a day-to-day basis. I am very grateful to CLIG for awarding me the bursary and enabling me to have this amazing opportunity.   

Top tips for BIALL newbies:


  • Bring a much bigger suitcase than you think you will need. I had been warned, but I still did not have enough room for all the goodies I picked up.
  • Bring as many business cards as you can. You will need them if you want to be in with a chance of winning a prize. Sadly it didn’t help me much as I came away empty handed.
  • Go to as many sessions as you can, and try to pick at least one talk that you wouldn’t normally have chosen. You may be surprised.

Jessica Leedham

Stephenson Harwood

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