ILA Conference 2018: Interview with Cara North

Cara North is a Senior Associate at Lipman Karas LLP in London, and a Consultant for the Hague Conference on Private International Law (Hague Conference) on the Judgments Project. She has worked on a number of complex, high-value international fraud and insolvency cases, and has a particular interest in private and public dispute resolution. Cara will be speaking at the seminar on Challenges with Foreign Judgments, taking place on Wednesday 22 August from 9am – 10:30am. Her paper is entitled ‘A Piece of the Puzzle: The Judgments Project and Transnational Legal Cooperation in Challenging International Times.’

Cara completed her combined Law and Arts degrees at Bond University (Hons), graduating in 2009. Her interest in international dispute resolution began during her time at university, as a research assistant to a number of professors, and after participating in internships at the Centre for the Prevention and Resolution of Disputes in New York and the Mandela Institute in South Africa. She started her career as a Solicitor at Baker McKenzie in Melbourne practising in dispute resolution. After a couple of years with Baker McKenzie, she undertook an associateship at the Supreme Court of Victoria working for Justices Croft and McMillan in the Commercial Court and Arbitration List and in the Common Law and Equity Division. Upon completing the associateship, she moved to The Hague for a legal role at The Hague Conference, and then relocated again to London to commence employment with Lipman Karas LLP, a specialist international litigation and arbitration firm.

In addition to these roles, Cara developed her interest in international dispute resolution through being an active member in associations including the International Commission of Jurists, and as the founding member and president of the Victorian Chapter of the International Law Association. She is currently conducting research for JUSTICE, a law reform and human rights organisation in the United Kingdom, on the interrelationship between arbitration and litigation and the perceived erosion of the common law as a consequence of the popularity of international arbitration.  She intends to explore this area further as she is soon to complete her Masters of International Dispute Settlement at the University of Geneva and the Graduate Institute of International Development Studies.

  1. Your career has taken you all around the world, from Australia to New York, South Africa, and now the United Kingdom. What has been the highlight for you personally and professionally?

I have really enjoyed living and working in different cities around the world and I love the challenge of new and different opportunities and engaging with different legal systems. The internship opportunities in South Africa and New York in a not-for-profit and international organisation early on in my career allowed me to develop an understanding of diplomacy, policy making and the value of international cooperation to address global issues. However, the highlight so far has been participating in the Special Commission meetings in The Hague on the Judgments Project, which involves a plenary session of international experts seeking to resolve issues in the drafting of an international convention. Participating in this unique legislative process has been a very rewarding and interesting experience!

  1. What first sparked your interest in your area of practice?

My interest in international dispute resolution was first sparked during my degree at Bond University in Queensland. I was taught by some excellent professors at Bond University, and the focus of my electives were on international and alternative dispute resolution. However, my interest in private international law really began when I started working for the Permanent Bureau of Hague Conference and was further developed working in an international law firm with a focus on cross-border commercial disputes. Following my move to London, my experience at Lipman Karas has been invaluable as it enabled me to further develop my expertise as an international lawyer with a practical and in-depth knowledge of choice of law issues and jurisdictional / enforcement issues that commonly arise in cross-border disputes.

  1. You spent a number of years working at the Hague Conference on Private International Law, and continue to contribute to the Judgments Project. Could you tell us a little more about what that role involved, and how that has influenced your conference address?

I have been working for the Hague Conference for almost 6 years now. I was initially employed as a Legal Assistant to work on the Hague Conference’s Choice of Court Convention and Judgments Project, a project to develop a global convention on the recognition and enforcement of foreign civil and commercial judgments. Following that, I became a Legal Officer assisting the working group of experts on the Judgments Project and upon returning to private practice, I assist on the Judgments Project as a Consultant. My current role is to provide support to the Chair of the Special Commission and the Permanent Bureau in the form of drafting research papers on comparative law issues to help inform negotiations, preparing draft reports to the Member States and participating in the Special Commission meetings with international experts and at the upcoming Diplomatic Session which will be attended by all Member States of the Hague Conference, certain non-member states, observers, and international government and non-governmental organisations. With the Judgments Project nearing its final stage of negotiation, it seemed an interesting and relevant topic for the International Law Association Conference.

  1. What do you see as the ‘take home message’ of your conference address?

The “take-home message” of our address is to highlight the need for individuals and businesses to have access to robust transnational legal frameworks aimed at reducing the costs and risks associated with cross-border litigation. This is best achieved at a global level through multilateral instruments such as the Hague Choice of Court Convention and future Judgments Convention. However, the effectiveness of these Conventions is heavily dependent on the number of Contracting States that support and implement it. We therefore hope to raise awareness about these international instruments and their potential benefits for commercial stakeholders operating across borders in international commercial transactions.

  1. What advice would you give to a student or recent graduate wishing to gain some experience in your area of practice?

My advice would be take advantage of as many opportunities as possible and approach every new opportunity with lots of enthusiasm to learn, develop and explore. I have found that people are very willing to assist those that are enthusiastic and eager to learn.