On the little island of Murano, the glass-blowing subsidiary of Venice, Inc.

Mille grazie, Italia.

I’m exhausted.  My feet hurt.  My back is killing me.

And better moods are rare in my life.  Peggy and I flew back from UMKC Law’s CLE program in Rome last night, along with two dozen friends, both new and old.  Our operational tempo over the prior ten days was high, we walked everywhere, and on each end of the journey, we crammed ourselves into the euphemistically named “Economy Class” seats of American Airlines.  (This is not a slam on AA, but good grief, folks.  Could you have made that sardine can any tighter?)

During two of the free days of the conference, we headed up to Venice on the Frecciarossa (Red Arrow, high speed train) and got to savor cicchetti, some fantastic wine, and unbeatable scenery.  But while drinking it all in, I couldn’t help but imagine Marco Polo around the turn of the 14th century, in his hometown’s heyday.  As we sailed around the island on a vaporetto, the sea spray and cold wind blowing about, I was reminded that this place was where global trade truly began.  It’s by no coincidence that the world still comes to Venice, if for no other reason than to take a few pictures and buy some souvenirs.  It truly is a wonderful place– Peggy’s favorite in all of Europe.

The lawyer in me wonders how 14th century Venetian commerce would have reacted to a Hague Service Convention request.  Perhaps those merchants of old would have just thrown caution to the wind and relied on their formidable naval strength to ward off the procedural gestures of faraway litigators.

But I’m fairly certain they wouldn’t have closed up shop.  The economic engine would have continued to chug right along.

 

The Basilica (the three-arched building in the upper right corner).  In ancient Rome, “Basilica” meant “courthouse.”  This one was massive.

Ah, Roma.

This morning, I had the distinct pleasure to once again speak on my alma mater’s CLE Abroad Program in the one-time capital of the western world.  To hear my wife describe it, Rome is also the center of the culinary world.*  I cannot argue with this.  It is my third visit to Italy– my second with Peggy– and we intend to avail ourselves of all the gastronomic delights this sunny peninsula has to offer.

While my usual lecture on overseas CLE programs centers on the Hague Service Convention, along with a bit about the Evidence Convention, this seminar’s broader theme is Entrepreneurship and Doing Business in Europe, so I took a different tack with today’s lecture.  Sure, I had to include a bit about service abroad, but the centerpiece was an elaboration on a post from last year, Five Essential Things All Business Owners (and Their Lawyers!) Should Know Before Signing Global Contracts.  We’re in the middle of a series that digs a bit deeper into those five six things (yes, there’s a bonus!).

In addition to speaking, I’ve had a chance already to reconnect with distinguished colleagues in the Italian bar, scholars and practitioners alike.  This is not just a city of ancient relics and tourist attractions.  Rome is also the cradle of what we’ve come to know as “the law” around the world.  Even our fellow common law adherents owe a collective debt of gratitude to those whacky fellows in togas, running around the Forum looking for funny things to happen.  They quite literally created the legal profession as it began in both the common and civil law traditions.  So I’m on a bit of a pilgrimage, as it were.  Going back to pay homage to my our professional roots.

If Peggy says it’s okay, I might even be convinced to wear a toga.


* For some reason (oh, we know the reason– we just can’t say it lest we get sued by the agro-chemical industry), the wheat grown and harvested and milled into flour in Italy doesn’t send Peggy’s immune system into hysterics.  The wheat grown back home in the states?  She can’t touch the stuff without going into a sort of toxic shock.

So the theme for the week: all the food, all the wine, all the art.

Peggy and me in Venice in 2015.  Yes, we’re going back this week.  Too cold for a toga, they tell me.
Glasgow Central Station.  They all meet under the clock, just like we do in Kansas City.  Or at least, like we did when we traveled by train.

It’s been a quiet couple of weeks at the Hague Law Blog– I just returned last weekend from a lengthy trip to Québec, England, and Scotland; and it was a doozy.

For lawyers who haven’t had the opportunity, I’ll say again that foreign lands are the best possible place to get your CLE hours.  Take one of your favorite humans along (daughters take mothers and vice versa, wives take husbands and vice versa… one guy who traveled to Turkey with us a few years ago brought his whole family).  Visit places you’ll never get to see on the regular tour.  Connect with colleagues from back home and abroad.

Insert here yet another shameless plug here for my alma mater, the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and its overseas CLE programs.  That’s how I got to Oxford.

The House of Commons, Palace of Westminster (official photo).

And it’s how I came to stand in a place that has witnessed greatness so many times that they’ve literally stopped hyping it.  Before the majority side despatch box (yes, it’s spelled that way) in the House of Commons.  Where Gladstone and Disraeli battled each other, in alternating stints as PM.  Where Thatcher rallied a country ’round the first war I remember.  Where Tony Blair fostered hope and later disappointment.  Where Winston Churchill talked of the blood, toil, tears, and sweat necessary to defeat Nazi tyranny.  How ironic that my visit there came just days before the sadness of Charlottesville and the renewed rise of fascist apologists.

Yet even that sadness does not wholly diminish the joy of the trip.  I was able to see old friends in Glasgow after more than two decades apart, I had a pint in the birthplace of Bilbo Baggins, and I sat in a chair occupied by justices of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom.

To top it off, I learned a whole lot, met people face-to-face that I work with regularly only via the internet, and satisfied quite a bit of intellectual curiosity.

All that said, it’s good to be home.

St. Edmund Hall, Oxford. Founded in A.D. 1226, the oldest college at Oxford University and the site of our CLE conference.
The view from the Justices‘ seats, UK Supreme Court.
The Eagle and Child, Oxford. The place where J.R.R. Tolkien concocted the world we know as Middle Earth.

The Hague Law Blog is not entirely about law this week—I am traveling for two different conferences, and taking in the sights, sounds, smells, and feelings of different lands.

This week, I finally got to visit the fourth largest French-speaking city in the world (sorry, Marseille and Lyon—you don’t even crack the top ten—African cities take the #2, #3, and the rest of the top ten spots after Montréal).

In college, I majored in French, in large part because I lived in Belgium for three years as a kid (Army Brats unite!) and gained a curiosity about languages very early.  The entire province of Quebec was always a curiosity, and Montréal even more so, because they were right next door to my homeland, and offered a taste of French life without having to leave the continent.  My expectations of this place were exceeded by leaps and bounds—within mere hours of our arrival.

On the Metro Sunday afternoon, I heard no less than seven different languages spoken within earshot at the same time.  And that wasn’t the most impactful moment of the day I shared with my wife…  as we left the Oratory of St. Joseph, I was stunned by a trio of Sikh men, turbans and all, entering a Roman Catholic church for no reason but to behold the grandeur of an incredibly spiritual and holy place.  They were quiet, and respectful, and reverent, and behaved exactly as I would have expected from people of faith—any faith.  It really warmed my heart to have a long-held belief vindicated: it doesn’t matter what philosophy a person espouses.  As long as we respect each other, humanity is on the right track.

Reserved for pilgrims climbing on their knees.

As Peggy and I walked outside to descend the hill and return to our hotel,* we passed several women, ascending the steps to the Basilica on their knees.  That they were ascending on their knees wasn’t the fact that struck me—I’ve been to Rome; I’ve watched pilgrimages happen—what struck me was that they were from India.  Praying in Hindi as they took each step, knee by knee.

If only I had that kind of faith.  If only I had that kind of dedication and fervent knowledge.

Peggy and I continued our descent hand in hand, both smiling, and not saying a word.

Professionally, the trip has been productive.  Personally, it’s been nothing short of wonderful.  The biggest reason?  The people of Montréal are warm, welcoming, and (above all) they embrace other human beings no matter their origin.  That tends to restore my faith in the world.

Merci, Montréal. T’es belle.


* Even our hotel was a curiosity.  The Fairmont Queen Elizabeth… famous for this little event, upstairs in Suite 1742.

Smart folks here. Those terminals? That’s who you talk to when you get home. CBP photo.

I’m off to Montreal this week– a much-anticipated trip– for meetings and a conference, then on to Oxford next week to give a CLE lecture.  When I come back, I anticipate a bit of a smoother return because of a Customs & Border Protection program called Global Entry.  The scheme is designed primarily for frequent travelers, but even for people who venture abroad only once in a while, it’s awfully handy, and if nothing else, pays for itself in time saved.

Costs:

  • Twenty minutes to fill out the form.  Have your passport and driver’s license handy.
  • $100 for a five-year clearance.  Credit cards accepted (preferred?).
  • A trip to the airport (at least, the nearest airport with international connections) for an interview and fingerprint scan.  Yes, they’ll validate your parking.  Yes, CBP’s officers are regular people just like you and me.  It’s painless.

Benefits:

  • TSA Pre-Check is automatically included.  Keep your shoes on, keep your belt on, leave your laptop and liquids in your carry-on.  Did I mention that TSA Pre-Check is already $85?
  • No line at the port of re-entry into the United States (see the picture above).  You simply scan your passport and prints, enter your declarations on the touchscreen, and doors magically open for you.  This can save a half-hour’s wait (if not more) as the CBP officers process everybody else on your crowded flight.  Now, to be sure, U.S. citizens usually have a shorter wait than foreign visitors anyway, but your time is still worth it.
  • Partner programs for Canada and Mexico.
  • Easier access to China and the Far East.  As my interviewing officer explained, the People’s Republic of China and a few other east Asian nations have a comparable program, available to U.S. citizens with Global Entry clearance, that pre-clears known travelers for immigration and customs.  Apparently, the lines in Beijing are nightmarish, so if you plan to go to  the PRC more than once, it’s an even greater time-saver.
  • Easier renewals.  Much like your passport, renewing the thing is far easier than getting it in the first place.  Yes, you have repeat costs, but at twenty bucks a year, it’s a slam dunk.
These folks didn’t get the memo. I’ve waited in that line.  CBP photo.

Drawbacks:

  • Nobody from the United States government says “welcome home” to you.  Seriously– that’s awfully nice to hear after a lengthy sojourn abroad.  Here, it’s a touchscreen.  You literally get more love from your laptop.
  • That about covers it.

Even if you only fly abroad once every few years, get on this program instead of Pre-Check.  In any industry that views time as a valuable commodity (I’m talking to you, lawyers), this thing pays for itself in a single trip anywhere– not just abroad.  Road warriors, take note– if you spend a couple of hours of your life now, you’ll save several later on.  That will make you far more willing to go abroad and look your clients in the eye.

The Coloseum.
The Colosseum.

The Hague Law Blog isn’t just about nuts & bolts lawyering.  A bit of a deviation today… with an offer you can’t refuse.  At least, not if you like to travel and fulfill your licensure requirements at the same time.

In Missouri and Kansas (and, I’m sure other jurisdictions), this is Continuing Legal Education Crunch Time.  Our credit year ends next Friday, June 30th (with reports due July 31st), and lawyers across both states are scrambling for hours.  They needn’t stress, really, because a cottage industry has been set up around the year-end rush; the CLE office at my alma mater, UMKC Law,* not only offers a host of live programs throughout May and June every year, but webinar and web replays as well.  (See here for the full range.)

But why stress about it at the end of the reporting year?

Why scramble?

Why not get a full year’s CLE hours and see the world at the same time?

Join us in Italy this November.

Peggy and me in Venice during UMKC's 2015 Rome CLE. Did I mention the free days in the middle?
Peggy and me in Venice during UMKC’s 2015 Rome CLE. Did I mention the free days in the middle?

Seriously.  CLE Abroad is the best possible way to do it.  In the morning, a few hours of classes and court visits, led by American and Italian practitioners and scholars, and in the afternoon, a few hours of ruins, museums, and the best cuisine Italy has to offer.

I’m not joking.  This really is the best way to get your hours (I even give a live-version lecture of topics from this blog), see the world, and save a few bucks** in the process.

See program details here.  (And then email Peggy to sign up.)

Vieni e unisciti a noi, amici.


* Full disclosure:  my wife is a professional program coordinator at UMKC’s CLE office, and I worked there during law school (and that first excruciating year after).  This plug is not only shameless, it’s issued with pride.  I wouldn’t be where I am today without having had the opportunity to work there, and I get the good fortune of traveling every year because of it.
** Group travel rates keep the price tag down, of course.  And the question always comes up: “can I deduct this?”  My answer:  “I don’t know.  Ask your tax guys.”