10th Anniversary of ILBF

The International Law Book Facility, which has been supported throughout by teams from 3VB, celebrates its tenth anniversary providing over 25,000 legal textbooks across the World.

The International Law Book Facility (ILBF) was launched in 2005 by Lord Thomas, now the Lord Chief Justice, with teams from Clifford Chance, 3 Verulam Buildings, the International Bar Association, the Law Society and LexisNexis.  Now celebrating its tenth anniversary, the ILBF has provided more than 25,000 legal textbooks to 42 countries.  Frances Gibb, writing in The Times, explains more about this charity’s efforts to support the exercise of justice in many parts of the world:

Frances Gibb
Published at 12:05AM, November 19 2015

It was when a group of Ugandan judges were visiting the commercial court in the early 2000s that Lord Thomas and other commercial lawyers struck upon the idea that there might be a use for redundant law books.

Now lord chief justice but then a judge in the commercial court, Thomas was horrified to find that the Ugandan judges were working from a 1950s edition of a standard textbook on company law. The lack of up-to-date books, they told him, was a big impediment to efficient justice in the courts. “It prompted me to ask: what happens to legal textbooks in the UK when there is a new edition?”

He asked commercial litigator Nicholas Munday, then a partner at Clifford Chance, to find out — and the idea of the International Law Book Facility (ILBF) was born and launched by Lord Thomas in 2005, with teams from Clifford Chance, 3 Verulam Buildings, the International Bar Association, the Law Society and legal publishers LexisNexis.

This month ILBF celebrated its tenth anniversary. “The idea that this coincided with the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta is a happy coincidence, as we are trying to do everything we can to strengthen the administration of justice and the rule of law throughout the world,” Lord Thomas says.

English law, he adds, is the foundation of many countries, even those that are non-Commonwealth: “It underpins prosperity, strengthens democracy and so we are anxious to make it available to as many people as possible.”

Since, it has shipped 25,000 books to more than 100 organisations in 42 countries — in Africa, the Caribbean, Europe, Asia and the Pacific. Staffed entirely by volunteers with the help each year of two law students taken on as interns to organise the packing days and shipments — the books come from across the profession, as well as from libraries, councils, publishers and students. Clifford Chance and Herbert Smith Freehills provide storage space. Katrina Crossley, one of the trustees, says: “The charity uses its expertise to identify the legal texts that will be most relevant and only sends books requested by the organisations that apply via our website.” Almost every penny, adds Paul Lowenstein, QC, is spent shipping the books because of its informal structure, without overheads.

The next shipments are bound for Antigua, Zambia, Lesotho and the Ukraine. Agnes Kisamba, a senior legal officer with the Ugandan Law Reform Commission, said in a film just made to mark the charity’s anniversary: “Books from the UK are very important to us, they assist us in our research, giving the best procedures for us to be able to reform, and revise and edit our laws.” Madalitso Kausi, a senior state advocate in the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Malawi, says the inflow of resources had made a notable impact in the take-up of users of the library: “Law books from the UK will always be important to Malawi.” They would equip young lawyers to “help the jurisprudence in our country and help develop a strong legal system”.

Lord Thomas said he hoped that the charity would go from strength to strength. That, he said, depended on more organisations learning of its work; and others supporting it. Establishing the rule of law, he added, was obvious to the underpinning of individual liberty and democratic government; successful modern economies could not develop without it. He added: “No judiciary can accomplish this task without the help of lawyers who have access to good libraries — and good libraries themselves.”