About IPBA

History of the Inter-Pacific Bar Association

The Inter-Pacific Bar Association ("IPBA") is an international association of business and commercial lawyers who live in, or otherwise have a strong interest in, the Asia-Pacific Region (sometimes referred to as the "Region"). It was established in April 1991 at an organizing conference held in Tokyo attended by more than 500 lawyers from countries within the Asia-Pacific Region. Since then, it has grown to become the preeminent legal association in this Region, with membership drawn from throughout the world, and currently has over 1,500 members from over 65 jurisdictions worldwide.

The growth of the IPBA has been spurred by the tremendous growth of the Asian economies. As companies and businesses throughout this region become more deeply involved in the Asia-Pacific regional economy as well as in the global economy, they require expert legal assistance and guidance from lawyers in their home countries as well as from lawyers throughout the region and even beyond. The IPBA helps lawyers to keep abreast of business and commercial legal and related developments that affect their clients. Equally important is that the IPBA provides valuable opportunities for business and commercial lawyers throughout the region to network with lawyers of similar interests and related fields of practice.

The IPBA's principal activities include its Annual General Meeting and Conference, which provides a unique opportunity for lawyers interested in the Asia-Pacific Region to discuss legal, business and policy issues affecting this Region in a manner that fosters collegiality and the development of close personal and professional relationships that enhance legal practice opportunities through professional networking. These annual meetings and conferences are held in different jurisdictions including Tokyo, Manila, Delhi, Hong Kong, Bali, Sydney, Beijing, Singapore, Kyoto/Osaka, Seoul, as well as Vancouver, San Francisco and Los Angeles. This affords IPBA members special opportunities to become acquainted with legal systems, lawyers and key leaders in countries throughout the Region and beyond.

The IPBA also holds a mid-year meeting of the council devoted to its business affairs, after which a conference on current substantive legal issues is held.  The quarterly publication, "IPBA Journal", articles for which are written by IPBA members, provides timely information and analyses of current national and Regional legal developments of special interest to international practitioners.

The substantive work of the IPBA is undertaken by its various committees, which provide important opportunities for IPBA members to contribute to the development of the law and legal systems and processes within the Region. Educational programs at the IPBA's annual conference and regional conference in conjunction with the mid-year meeting, the publication of surveys of areas of law or analyses of laws that could lead to concrete recommendations for improvements, enhance the capabilities of lawyers and law firms in the Region to support their clients in an increasingly globalized economy. IPBA practice area committees currently encompass Anti-Corruption & the Rule of Law; Aviation & Aerospace; Banking, Finance & Securities; Competition Law; Cross-Border Investment; Dispute Resolution and Arbitration; Employment & Immigration Law; Energy and Natural Resources; Environmental Law; Insolvency; Insurance; Intellectual Property; International Construction Projects; International Trade; Legal Practice; Maritime Law; Tax Law; and Technology, Media & Telecommunications. Other IPBA committees include APEC; Corporate Counsel; Legal Development & Training; Next Generation; Scholarship; and Women Business Lawyers. New committees may be formed as legal practice areas emerge or evolve or organizational development occur.

The IPBA enjoys the support of major national bar associations, law societies and other organizations throughout the Region, which have helped it play a continuing and significant role in fostering ties and relationships among its members and others engaged in legal and business matters.

Purpose of the IPBA

The IPBA's purposes, as stated in its Constitution, are to:

  • Provide IPBA members with opportunities to:
    • contribute towards the development of the legal profession within the Asia-Pacific Region and the development and improvement of the legal profession's status and organization within the Region;
    • contribute towards the development of the law and the legal structures within the Region;
    • meet and exchange ideas with other lawyers who live in, or are interested in, the Region;
    • study and discuss legal issues that involve the Region; and
    • share information about legal developments affecting the Region.
  • Serve its members fairly and equitably.
  • Promote the rule of law.

The IPBA Constitution also explicitly states that the IPBA is a non-political organization and, as such, shall not entertain any matter or proposal of any nature which is political in nature.

Goals of the IPBA

The Association, based on those purposes, has set out more detailed goals as follows. The Association will have:

An annual meeting and conference that provides:

  • an opportunity to get together with lawyers from each IPBA jurisdiction in the Region and each law office in the region that is engaged in a cross-border practice;
  • programs that discuss legal and related business issues that involve the Region;
  • enjoyable social, cultural and sport events that promote friendship and camaraderie among the members.

A quarterly publication that:

  • provides timely information on legal developments throughout the Region;
  • features in-depth analytical articles on legal developments of interest to practitioners;
  • reports on the IPBA and its past and future activities.

Committees that:

  • are acknowledged to be the Regional leaders in their substantive areas;
  • present one or more programs at the annual conference;
  • present (or cooperate in the presentation of) Regional Conferences and seminars sponsored by the IPBA;
  • share information by submitting reports on recent legal developments to the IPBA quarterly publications;
  • provide opportunities to IPBA members to contribute to the development of the law and the legal structures within the Region;
  • provide opportunities to contribute to the development of the legal profession in the Region.

In addition:

  • hold conferences and seminars on topics of current interest to practitioners in the Region;
  • provide an annual membership directory;
  • be an organization that is financially secure, efficient and representative of business and commercial lawyers in the Region.

The Spirit of Katsuura

"Remember that every man is a variation of yourself." -Saroyan


There are times in your professional life when you are free to feel immense pride to be a lawyer. One of those times was the creation of the Inter-Pacific Bar Association ("IPBA").

The IPBA held its inaugural convention in April 1991, in Tokyo, Japan. Outside, the days were warm, sunny spring days. At the same time, the Persian Gulf War was making travelers nervous. Inside the IPBA Convention, old and new friends from many countries came together, and, for a few days, concentrated on the birth of an Asian-led and Asian-centered international lawyers' organization.


The earliest informal discussions concerning formation of what would later become known as the Inter-Pacific Bar Association, took place in the picturesque countryside of Chiba, Japan in the spring of 1990. That meeting, held on March 24-25, 1990, was characterized by friendship, fellowship, candid discussions, sensitivity to each other's ideas and opportunities for expression---traits that have continued to be trademarks of each membership gathering of the IPBA.

On that weekend in late March 1990, nine attorneys gathered in Katsuura, Chiba Prefecture, in the vacation cottage of Nobuo ("Nosei") Miyake. These nine were Douglas Lash of Toronto, Canada; Richard Marshall of Sydney, Australia; Nosei Miyake of Tokyo, Japan; Roger Rosendahl of Los Angeles, California; Jose Rosell of France; Koji Saito of Tokyo, Japan; Sui-Yu Wu of Taipei, Taiwan; Robert E. Young of New York, New York; and Mark T. Shklov of Honolulu, Hawaii (the author of this article). The lawyers came at their own expense and, because of the short notice and lack of available rooms, shared accommodations, 3 and 4 to a room.

That collegial gathering in a villa overlooking the Pacific was the first Steering Committee Meeting of the IPBA, which would be formally established in Tokyo about a year later. For those few days, the natural rivalry and competition between lawyers was set aside. The nine lawyers met continually from morning to night, talking, exhaustively brainstorming, sharing ideas, hopes and aspirations. There was a sense of risk and adventure among the participants, a sense of taking a stand for great principles and a sense of worthwhile mission. The long, agonizingly tiring discussions would also become trademarks of meetings of the Steering Committee and later the Council of the IPBA. Although not always efficient, such discussions are important to the life and soul of the IPBA because they allow for inclusion, understanding and, ultimately, goodwill.


The road that led to Katsuura and eventually to Tokyo began in Bangkok, Thailand, about two years before the Katsuura meeting and wound its way through the capitals of the Asia-Pacific Region in a slow and deliberate journey as lawyers from many different backgrounds and countries, who would form the nucleus of the Steering Committee of the IPBA, made repeated good-faith attempts to discuss fundamental problems with the Asia-Pacific Lawyers Association ("APLA"), attempts that were rejected or ignored by the leadership of the APLA.

The discussions which had been attempted within the APLA were aimed at making the APLA more democratic and less politically motivated and were the direct result of incidents at the Bangkok and Honolulu Conferences of the APLA which were held in 1987 and 1989, respectively.

There is a danger to an Association when its origins are forgotten or neglected. Prior to and at the 1987 APLA Conference in Bangkok, the APLA leadership made a number of decisions which effectively disenfranchised Taiwan, one of the founding jurisdictions of the APLA, from membership in the APLA. These decisions included canceling the previously scheduled APLA 1987 Annual Conference in Taiwan and rescheduling it to Thailand, eliminating Taiwan's seat on the APLA Council, and removing Taiwan as a jurisdiction within the APLA. A similar fate was also being suggested for Hong Kong. These events were seen as emasculating the democratic ideals which had been the espoused foundation of the APLA.

There is danger to an Association when one person substitutes his personal vision for that of the Association's. During and following the 1989 Honolulu Conference of the APLA, which was chaired by the author of this article, one person within the APLA used his power and influence to cause the rescission of decisions that had been made by the Council and the nullification of the Council's nomination of a new APLA President from the Philippines. At about the same time, it was perceived that the President of the APLA was attempting to have himself named "President for Life", a position that was not provided in the APLA nor consistent with basic democratic principles.

These controversies threatened the core democratic principles of the APLA. In an effort to reach common ground and restore the original spirit and intent of the APLA, several individuals, most of whom were then officers in the APLA, embarked on an odyssey of personal diplomacy, through most of the APLA member countries in the Region, that ended with the refusal of the APLA leadership to meet or discuss the issues.

On February 16, 1990, several Vice Presidents, Council Members and Committee Chairmen of the APLA delivered a joint letter of resignation to the President of the APLA. In that letter, they wrote, "We must in all candor advise you that we do not consider your position nor your actions as set forth above to be consistent with the constitutional foundations of the APLA including its objective of promoting the rule of law. Accordingly, for the reasons noted above, and for others expressed in correspondence exchanged over the past several months since the controversial Third General Assembly in Honolulu, it is our considered opinion that our continued membership in the APLA would no longer be worthwhile."

On April 30, 1990, in response to this resignation and the formation of the Steering Committee, the APLA President wrote to the membership of the APLA, complaining about "the current effort of a number of former officials of the Asia-Pacific Lawyers Association (APLA)" . . . "led by Mr. Roger Rosendahl, a former APLA Vice-President (hereinafter 'Rosendahl group')". The APLA President then threatened to "initiate a complaint (against Mr. Rosendahl) to the State Bar of California . . . to determine whether disbarment proceedings are warranted" and to "file a lawsuit in federal district court . . . to (1) enjoin the use of any name similar to APLA's, (2) enjoin the formation of any new organization similar to APLA, and (3) to obtain damages from Mr. Rosendahl for defamation of my character."

There is no doubt that Roger Rosendahl was one of many leaders on the Steering Committee, but the movement towards a new regional bar association was much greater than one person. In an effort to defuse the personal nature of this attack and, as he wrote to his colleagues, "to clearly demonstrate to third parties the consensus nature of the current effort to form a new organization", on May 8, 1990, Mr. Rosendahl withdrew from the Steering Committee.

In his letter of withdrawal to other members of the Steering Committee, Mr. Rosendahl hit upon a recognized and recurrent theme of this new lawyers association, "I am confident that with continued emphasis on collegiality, continuity, and team play in a democratic atmosphere, your efforts will bring to life the preeminent association of practicing lawyers in the Asia Pacific Region."

While the other members of the Steering Committee unanimously asked Mr. Rosendahl to reconsider, in retrospect, Mr. Rosendahl's decision was probably best for the fledgling organization. Although Mr. Rosendahl suffered through an unfounded ethics complaint, and threats of suit, his withdrawal spared the Steering Committee further controversy and allowed it to move ahead with its plans. Ultimately, Mr. Rosendahl returned to the Steering Committee, attended the Tokyo Conference of the IPBA and become the first elected Council Member from the United States.

This is the factual background for the dissatisfaction of a number of members of the APLA, which caused them to seek to reform the APLA from within and, when that failed, to seek to develop a new organization that would be democratic, that would keep its commitments, that would include and not exclude anyone for political reasons, that would provide a forum for mutual communication, and that would not tolerate politics or power plays.

These incidents, the jurisdictions and people involved, and the principles that were later incorporated into the IPBA are important to remember because they formed the basis for the IPBA's philosophy and camaraderie. These historical events, if kept in the IPBA's collective memory, will continue to remind us of why, how and for what purpose the IPBA came into being and serve as a guide for the future.


Following the March 1990 Katsuura meeting, the call went out from those who had attended to lawyers who had an interest in the Region to join the Steering Committee. The IPBA Steering Committee held its second meeting in Tokyo in May 1990, and a third meeting in January 1991 in Honolulu, and intermittently held unofficial task force meetings in Tokyo, Los Angeles, Bangkok, and in other cities throughout the Asia-Pacific Region. Active participation on the Steering Committee steadily grew: at the first meeting, 9 members from 5 jurisdictions attended; at the second meeting, 17 members from 8 jurisdictions; at the third meeting, 23 members from 11 jurisdictions.

Chairmanship of the Steering Committee rotated by host city and participation was active and vocal. The author of this article served as Secretary to the Steering Committee meetings, keeping and distributing minutes after each session. Joining the Steering Committee at this early stage were many who would assume leadership roles in the new bar association: Carl Anduri, C.T. Lee, Ian Awford, Kunio Hamada, Chris Lau, Tae Hee Lee, M.S. Lin, Gordon Jaynes, Paul Tsai, Dr. Mana Pitayaporn, Rivers Black, Nigel Li, David Liou, and David Sandborg. Many others who have continued to be active within IPBA were also involved in these proceedings.

Monetary offers of support were also received. Steering Committee members first funded operations with their own voluntary contributions. By May 12, 1990, over US$10,000.00 had been paid into the Steering Committee bank account to pay expenses of an association that did not yet exist. By January 1991, US$22,000.000 in private contributions from individuals had been received.

At the same time, moral support had been received from the American Bar Association and the International Bar Association. Soon, Bar Associations from Japan, Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand and Indonesia would offer friendship. In order to maintain its independence, the Steering Committee had decided against soliciting monetary support from any other organization.

However, in addition to personal donations, and with a full understanding of our founding principles and independent position, the American Bar Association's International Law Section, through the efforts of its then Chairman, Gerold Libby, offered a "no strings attached" US$10,000.00 loan to be used for anticipated start-up expenses. This loan was gratefully accepted and promptly re-paid, without demand being made, after IPBA's Tokyo Conference.

In establishing the new organization, the Steering Committee considered it of tantamount importance to gain the support and consensus of attorneys across the Asia-Pacific Region. Therefore, membership of the Steering Committee was open to all who shared the same hopes and vision. Members were asked to actively participate and contribute and to use their local influence and their experience in international organizations to help develop the new organization. The response to the Steering Committee's invitations were overwhelming. By January 1991, the membership of the Steering Committee exceeded 50 members.

Shared commitment and dedication fueled the efforts of the Steering Committee. By the third Steering Committee meeting in Honolulu in January 1991, approximately 400 potential IPBA members had paid dues of approximately US$50,000.00 and registered with the Steering Committee. Due to the efforts of the Steering Committee and its representatives in each country, the Steering Committee was able to collect dues from hundreds of lawyers for an organization which had not held its first formal meeting.

The members of the Steering Committee worked as a team, spending substantial time away from their personal and professional lives, determined in their belief in the need and potential of the IPBA. The Steering Committee's primary goal was to hold the inaugural general meeting and the first IPBA conference in Tokyo approximately one year from the date of the gathering in Katsuura. Therefore, the Steering Committee needed to perform a number of wide-ranging tasks in a short period of time. Nosei Miyake acted as a liaison among Steering Committee members and was responsible for organizing the Tokyo Conference at the Tokyo Bay Hilton. Mr. Miyake reserved 350 rooms at the hotel for the conference on his personal guaranty. Other members of the Steering Committee were designated as task leaders to be in charge of various items, such as solicitation of members, drafting of the charter, arranging for speakers at the Tokyo conference, operations, publicity, and a budget of the Tokyo conference, and contacting other international bodies and bar associations for promotional support.


The memory of the schism within the APLA prompted the Steering Committee to attempt to provide constitutional safeguards for corporate governance of the IPBA. To avoid having the same issues and problems repeated in their new organization the Steering Committee was concerned that the IPBA not become dominated by one individual, jurisdiction, law firm or bar association. The members of the Steering Committee sought to make the IPBA truly an association of individual lawyers in which every jurisdiction was entitled to representation.

Lock step with preparation for the inaugural meeting, the Steering Committee developed a philosophy for governance of the IPBA. Richard Marshall was chosen to take the ideals identified during the meetings of the Steering Committee and use them to draft a Constitution. His single-minded dedication to this task was instrumental in formation of the IPBA. The Steering Committee gave direction to Richard Marshall, and he mobilized language to give it effect.

It was during this period of time, prior to the inaugural congress of the IPBA in Tokyo, that the framework for much of the charter was established. The Steering Committee identified many ideals. Only a few will be mentioned here.

The new lawyers association would not duplicate existing organizations. Foremost, it would be democratic. Unlike the IBA's worldwide venue and European and American dominance, the IPBA would be Regional, Asian-based and Asian-led. Unlike Law Asia's human rights orientation and exclusion of Americans, the IPBA would invite all business lawyers with an interest in the Asia-Pacific Region to become members.

The Steering Committee felt that selection of leadership of the new organization should be related to one's efforts and dedication to the IPBA and that there should be a correlation between advancement within the IPBA and individual contribution to the association.

The Steering Committee distinguished between the purpose of the General Assembly meetings which would be to conduct educational programs and social events, and the purpose of the Council which would be to administer the new organization. The Council was seen as the governing body. The Steering Committee felt that the Council was needed to balance the President's power within the organization. Officers of the organization would bring recommendations before the Council for the Council's approval. The President's role in the new organization was conceived to be as visible ambassador of the IPBA and that he or she should not have many substantive functions. The President would appoint, preside and represent, but not dictate.

The Steering Committee discussed the problems inherent in its goal of seeing representation from many countries with different political backgrounds. There was no easy solution to avoid potential political problems, but the Steering Committee agreed that the purpose and intent of this new organization was to avoid country politics and to rely upon and follow its enunciated principles when required to deal with country politics. The concept of country membership and how it has harmed APLA was reviewed constantly. The Steering Committee was unanimous in the fundamental principle that IPBA would welcome members from all countries, regions and jurisdictions and that no member or council membership could be evicted as a condition of membership made by any other party.

For this reason, the concept of "jurisdiction", rather than "country", was adopted by the IPBA framers. By recognizing "jurisdictions" with "a substantial number of lawyers practicing therein" instead of "countries", the Steering Committee felt it might be able to avoid direct controversy on the "country" issues. Further, by providing for At-Large Council members by "jurisdiction", the "country" issue would be diluted. Each participating jurisdiction would be allowed to select is own Council Member nomination by whatever means it chose. The Council would nominate At-Large Council Members.

The composition and nature of IPBA membership has always been broad and inclusive. When the Steering Committee considered a name for the new organization, it felt that the word "Pacific" should be used in the name because of its broad definition and that the word "Asia" need not be used because it may be a limiting item. A question was raised within the Steering Committee whether the new organization would be a "regional" or "business" related organization. "Regional" was defined as "representative of the region" and "business" was defined as "those who do business in the region". It was felt that the new organization would be business-related and, therefore, membership would not be exclusive to those who lived in the Region.

The Steering Committee discussed the requirements of membership. Questions were raised whether non-lawyers would be allowed to become members and whether lawyers from Latin America or Europe would be full or associate members. The Steering Committee believed that membership should be practicing lawyers who dealt in transnational matters. Thus, common issues would be raised at meetings. Questions were raised whether including those "doing legal work" would open membership beyond practicing lawyers, whether a certification or license as a lawyer was required for membership, and whether membership could include persons who are not licensed lawyers but members of legal departments.

Key to resolution of the membership issue was development of a statement of purpose that would define the new organization. It is suggested that the primary purpose of the organization was to provide a forum for lawyers to get together, exchange views and make friends. Another stated purpose was the focus on lawyers who practiced transnational law within the Pacific and non-exclusive forum for transnational lawyers and for promotion of personal friendships between them. The new organization would provide an opportunity for lawyers interested in transnational practice to get together and to get involved with others who shared their professional background. Lawyers living in the Region and lawyers practicing in the Region would be the target group for membership of the IPBA.

In general, the Steering Committee felt that it would be beneficial to allow for the "involvement" of non-lawyers in the new organization but felt that membership of the new organization should be limited to practicing lawyers. In this way, the committees, which would conduct most of the activity in the new organization, would be allowed the freedom to involve non-lawyers at their meetings and presentation, but membership in the new organization itself would be limited to practicing lawyers.

Although the Steering Committee felt it would be ideal to depart from a strictly jurisdictional-based Council to one based solely on merit without reference to jurisdiction, it was concluded that it was important to assure each jurisdiction representation on the Council. Therefore, the basic concept adopted for jurisdictional representation on the Council was limited only by the requirement that a minimum number of IPBA members be from a particular jurisdiction. In addition to jurisdictional representatives, there would be at-large representatives selected on merit. The term of one-third (1/3) of the Council would expire each year so that there will be a constant rotation of at least on-third (1/3) of the membership of the Council. Nominated representatives would be ratified by the General Assembly. There would also be a method for alternative candidates to be nominated and elected at the General Assembly.

Important concepts were incorporated into the emerging Constitution of the IPBA as guides for the future. The Steering Committee felt that there was a need to state a purpose which was inherent in the founding and development of the IPBA and that it was important to emphasize this fundamental purpose. It was decided to add the following statement of purpose to the Constitution (Article II): "To serve its members fairly and equitably and to promote the rule of law."

Finally, it was the consensus of the Steering Committee that the Constitution should require applicants for membership to agree to abide by the terms of the Constitution as a condition of their application.


From April 21-24, 1991, the IPBA held its first conference at the Tokyo Bay Hilton. The overwhelming success of this meeting was, perhaps, greater than the Steering Committee had expected. Over 500 lawyers from 30 countries attended. The conference programs were well organized and well attended. The IPBA's Constitution was adopted at this inaugural meeting and the IPBA was officially founded. By May 1, 1991, the IPBA had over 1,250 members.

Until the IPBA was founded, there had not been a democratic forum where attorneys active in the Region's business could mutually interact and exchange opinions. The IPBA filled that vacuum. Within existing international legal organizations, attorneys of the Western nationals were the dominant force and, in practice, it was quite rare for Asian attorneys to be given the opportunity to speak or to participate in the operation of the body. The IPBA is an organization that is Asian-led, where the attorneys of the Region have greater opportunity to express themselves and to participate in its activities.

The IPBA has become more like a "Family" than an "Association". Annual conferences are usually attended by a large percentage of total membership. Friendships have been formed and are renewed annually. Members develop trust through individual contact and cooperation. Political aspects of larger bar associations have not existed. Leadership has been drawn primarily from those members who participate actively in committee work and in programs which are the major attractions at IPBA conferences.

The IPBA's strength has been derived through the dedication of individual members who have been prepared to attend and actively participate in its activities. While the IPBA may grow in membership, it is important for us to remember the principles and traditions on which the organization was founded and continue to build on them. Our strength and values have come from a membership which participates and interacts and contributes to the organization and an environment in which individual members know a large proportion of the total membership.

In a newsletter to Japanese lawyers, Kunio Hamada, IPBA's first President, stated the IPBA's founding policy as follows: "To deepen the friendship and mutual understanding between attorneys in the Asia-Pacific area. To contribute to a well-balanced economic development and the rule of law in the Region. To engage in such activities as are independent of, and do not overlap with those of the other international organizations of lawyers. To advocate the attorney's occupation and the independence of bar associations, yet not intervene in political issues as a group. To develop a democratic organization that is not swayed by the financial influences, ambitions, etc., of particular individuals and nations, and endeavor towards the operation of its activities. To which end, regional balances shall be considered, and as many members as feasible will participate, in turn, in the operation of the organization. Also, no new chapters will be built unless it can be hoped that a suitable number of members can join as participants, and existing chapters will be reviewed periodically. To not allow the organization and membership to swell in size, and on the basis of sound finances, design activities in which the largest number of members can participate. To which end, the activities will bear relevance to the member's actual professional practice, and yet allow for personal relaxation."

The members of the IPBA have much in common. The history of the origin of the IPBA is our history. We share the same principles and ideals. We share the Spirit of Katsuura.

[The author of this article gratefully acknowledges the editorial assistance of Nosei Miyake and Robert E. Young who read and commented on various version of this article. Mark T. Shklov, Honolulu, Hawaii, November 7, 1997.]