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President's Word

Improvised Speech by the President of the Bar Association André Al Chidiac at his Meeting with the Lawyers on December 7, 2017 at La Maison de l'Avocat

Dear Presidents,
Dear members of the Council,
Dear former members of the Council,
Dear members of the Board of the Pension Fund,
Dear colleagues,

Welcome to your house, our house, the House of the Lawyer!
As I told you on the election day, we made of this profession our home, our office. It is our mother. It is our father.
Eighteen days after the beginning of my mandate, I wanted to hold this family meeting with you.
You know more than me that the administrative case law on electoral disputes has enshrined the principles established by jurists and adopted by constitutional councils since their establishment, and according to which the legitimacy of elections rests on the sovereignty of the people that is revealed by the free vote of the elector in favor of their representatives. We, as lawyers and Administrative Representative Council, derive and establish our legitimacy by elections through the General Assembly, which freely votes for its representatives, including the President of the Bar Association.
Free choice and trust are two concepts that require accountability, transparency and honesty, and it is for these topics that the President of the Bar Association invited his colleagues to attend this meeting.
It is not for me under the oath of the lawyer and the oath of the Bar Association President and Council members to disclose the secrets of the Council deliberations. However, based on responsibility, honesty and transparency, I will share with you the subjects and the outlines that I presented during the Council first meeting and on which we made preliminary decisions that we will follow and commit ourselves to respect, Bar Association President and Council members.

. We are committed to immunity and we will preserve it and defend it in two ways:
1. By examining each file very carefully so as not to authorize the prosecution of a colleague, and you know more than me that this immunity is a temporary obstacle and a circumstantial barrier before the commencement of the prosecution, as the documents are sent from the Public Prosecution Office to the Bar Association Council, which examines the authorization. And in order not to lose this immunity in text and in spirit, we must give due attention to any file relating to criminal prosecution and presented to the Council; which means that we will not fail to authorize when necessary, and that we will not fail not to authorize the prosecution of a colleague when we should not do so. In this way, we will properly maintain immunity that is inherent of the lawyer's person and related to the lawyer in their defense of their client’s rights.
2. With regard to the training, which is the gateway and the beginning of the path of a trainee's life, we have agreed, as a Council and on the proposal of the President, to do everything possible to give trainees a stable life, and this means that we will try to limit the operation of regular transfer of the training from an office to the other to give it a serious and respectful nature and to allow trainees to continue as a prelude to their registration to the roll of the Bar Association, this being one of our most important tasks. In this regard, the President will forward to the Council during the second session that will be held tomorrow a list of names that no longer meet the criteria, in the sense that, according to the rules of procedure of course, any person who has completed their internship since more than five years and who has not submitted a request of transfer to the roll will be removed from the list of trainees; and any person who has submitted a request of transfer to the roll during the five-year period and who has not passed the examination for more than seven years will also be removed from the list of trainees. As for the third category, it consists of any person who has passed the examination of the Bar Association roll but who has not paid the contributions within the deadline (two years) to complete the transfer process; the latter will also be removed from the list of trainees.

• Regarding the Bar Association roll, the preliminary decision made by the Council at its first meeting consists of the following:
1. It confirms previous decisions of the Council that the law regulating the profession of the lawyer, namely Article 5, which requires good conduct inspiring confidence and respect, is a condition to be permanently met, and not only at the registration of the lawyer in the Bar Association. The lawyer must maintain this attitude throughout their practice of the profession; it should accompany them from the beginning of their training until the last moment of practice. This decision taken by the Council is part of the policy of previous decisions, one of which was supported by the Bar Association Court of Appeal. The Council will of course respect the principles of the Court of Appeal when the person whose deregistration is being examined will benefit from any guarantee as well as any right of defense in order to avoid appeal of the Council decision by the competent Court of Appeal.
2. In addition, during this brief period and following a series of other formalities in this regard, the drawers of the Order are full of inquiries into the notification of a colleague of the date of a hearing. I assure you that this question is not only contrary to the Code of Civil Procedure, but also to ethical standards and qualities that a colleague must necessarily have, and this is somewhat similar to the absence of an office, which contravenes the conditions and prevents the colleague from remaining registered in the roll. Consequently, the Council of the Order will not hesitate to take the necessary decisions to this end, and that is to say to prohibit the concerned colleague from the exercise of the profession. Moreover, if it happens to a body of the Bar Association or to a member or former member of the Council to be entrusted with tasks that originally belong to bailiffs, this does not mean it is for them to replace the latter. These decisions remain subject to appeal given the need to ensure the guarantees to the concerned lawyer, but I assure you that they will be taken seriously and relentlessly so that no one says that the decision of the Beirut Bar Association was reversed on appeal.

• Concerning the Medical Center, I met the people in charge of this Center, which is an urgent need and which will continue to offer what it offers. And not to promise you what I have not managed to do so far, I will tell you that there are two ideas that we are trying to achieve, and you will be the first to know when the time comes. This is about more efforts on the pharmaceutical and treatment policies launched by the President Nohad Jabr and followed by the President Georges Joreige, hoping to develop this Center gradually to include more services to it, in difficult days where the lawyer’s greatest worry is their health.

• With regard to the Council policy on problems, illusions and obstacles to its day-to-day practice in courts and in official and non-civil official administrations, this subject was addressed by the Council during its first meeting and the President asked the members, who welcomed his request, to prepare with him a report on everything that the lawyer faces during their daily practice of the profession within a period that does not exceed the 20th of this month, in order to try in the first place to address this matter appropriately through co-operation between the Bar Association, the High Judiciary Council and even the Minister of Justice, if necessary. However, if our legitimate demands related to our personal and professional dignity are not met, I assure you that any form of intensification that does not affect the professional life of the lawyer and the lives of their clients, as hearing sabotage affects them, and that any measure and any action is open to the President and to the Council.

• Furthermore, at the end of the first election meeting of the Council dedicated to the election of its Bureau, which is made up of the President of the Bar Association, the Secretary, the Treasurer and the Commissioner of the Palace, I allowed myself to invite the Bureau to an immediate meeting during which we determined the ethics and measures to be taken concerning administrative matters, content of which I cannot divulge. What I can say, however, is that I asked the Bureau, which agreed, that we consider ourselves on alert or in some sort of permanent session, to fill any gaps and resolve any problem or emergency that affects the dignity of a colleague, and I would like to seize this opportunity to thank the Bureau for accepting these tasks in addition to its laborious daily tasks.

• Last but not least, and here I want the attention that I read in your minds since the beginning of my speech, what worries every colleague and emanates from the concept of dignity is the health insurance, and I explain from the beginning the questions that I will raise and those that I will not raise at the moment. I repeat that I will start with things that are not on the agenda today to move on to what was proposed and decided at the Council meeting. So first, the current President was not part of the Council at the time the decision was made about the insurance, and I am not avoiding responsibility to which I am invited and voluntarily invite myself, but I am mentioning this to say that the President has concentrated his efforts since his election and within eleven days only on the reading and careful study of documents related to this file, and this is his duty. Second, I have no preconceived idea about this subject; I need to form a conviction and study the file thoroughly, accurately, with all responsibility and attention. Third, do not see my words as condemnation, criticism, or positive or negative opinion on this matter until the President has been able to study and think about it, but here is what will lead to the other part of the speech: I realized through the years of insurance, the third of which ends on March 31, 2018 that there is a deficit of six or seven million US dollars, and I am not divulging a secret as the person who saw the balance sheet and the budget, and I'm sure you saw them, realized what the numbers explicitly indicate, and this is that this loss or deficit is temporary because first, the figures we have may not be identical to those of the management company and second, the third year of insurance is not identical to the fiscal year of the Bar Association. I am studying this matter carefully; the figures are not definitive, but I am sure that with good will, collective will and common will, we will reach the appropriate solutions that preserve the medical and hospital dignity of the lawyer and help the Bar Association avoid losses.

As for the second part of this topic, it consists of the following explanation: the new concept of this contract, of this program, namely the program of medical and hospital services, is a different concept of the insurance program in this sense that under this contract, which is in effect until March 2018, management is the responsibility of the management company. However, payment and settlement are the responsibility of the Bar Association. It was in light of this that I asked for figures, and I received two numbers: the amount of funds available in the account and that is worth about three million US dollars, and that of hospital and Medical lab claims that we have to settle within two weeks, and that is worth about the same amount, while the rest of the insurance year is about three and a half months. It is my duty as a President and as a contractor, to respect the contractual obligations and not to delay the payment, since this falls on the reputation of the Bar Association and the lawyer; and I will.
Another issue of responsibility and dignity is that I do not accept, since you also do not, that a lawyer is humiliated in front of a hospital or a laboratory that does not provide them with what the Bar Association has concluded a contract to receive. On the other hand, there will be no more money in this account after the payment of the sum of three million US dollars. Let me clarify here that the basis is to study the specifications, to make amendments where necessary and to use a transparent call for tender to allow the Council chaired by the President to make the right decision for the period beginning on April 1, 2018. This may take a week or two or even months, but will be given the necessary attention during the remaining four months, that is to say, it will be studied seriously, perfectly and with absolute transparency. However, going back to the previous subject, I was inspired by the principle of the legal personality unity and the rules in force in the substantive law, namely the law of public accounting, and more particularly the articles 206 and following, to refer, in the context of the law and provisions of the law regulating the profession and the rules of procedure to the so-called loans technique. What is a loan? It is a borrowed sum of money, that is to say, which is not considered as a donation, that the borrower has to repay within a deadline that I hope we will set at a later stage and which will be of a long term. However, as an urgent measure, and in the assurance of medical dignity of each colleague and of the prominence of the Bar Association whose faith and not only duty is to honor its signature, the Bar Association must be able to pay the debts received through the management companies. Having explained my point of view to the Council, which I thank for the approval, for the consideration of the lawyer’s dignity and for giving the President the possibility of disbursement, the President proposed to the Council, which agreed, to take loans from the Mutual Fund under Council decisions in order to pay debt obligations on health insurance. I will explain immediately that these amounts will not cover the deficit, which is a different issue. So the Mutual Fund loans, to allow the President to honor the signature of the Bar Association on the contract and to prevent lawyers’ humiliation; and this not only until March 31,2018 as a date, but also until the end of the effects of the contract ending on March 31, 2018, because we will receive claims after that date as we know from our experience, and neither the President nor the Bar Association will answer that these loans end with the expiry of the contract.
I wanted to conclude this speech by sharing this decision with you, and I seize again the opportunity to thank the members of the Council for accepting the proposal in question, so that our Bar Association, in addition to all its dignity and respect, may sign for the benefit of the lawyer.
This meeting is the first and will surely not be the last. It was an honor to hold this informal meeting, as I have already informally invited the former Presidents to a meeting to learn from their collective and personal experiences and I thank them for coming. And I leave it to my successor in two years to decide whether it is necessary to introduce these meetings into the standards of the Bar Association. Thank you!

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