Our partnerships with international organisations like the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council (CWEIC) enables us to help our clients achieve their goals all over the world. As a CWEIC Strategic Partner with a seat on its Global Advisory Council, we assist people and businesses across the 54 Commonwealth nations. Together, we build relationships and create opportunities, while navigating the legal complexities of international trade and investment.
Our Head of International, Bryan Bletso, is our main contact with the CWEIC. He works closely with the CWEIC in a true partnership that demonstrates our human touch approach and the difference it can make around the world. He and former CWEIC CEO, Sam Cohen, talk us through the relationship.
The Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council
The CWEIC is a not-for-profit commercial organisation that facilitates trade and investment throughout the 54 Commonwealth member nations around the world. We’re one of over 100 strategic partners in the CWEIC network, which includes law firms, banks, governments, and other organisations.
The council’s work helps improve the prosperity of Commonwealth countries and their citizen's quality of life. The shared history within the Commonwealth brings a number of advantages for cooperation - similar legal systems, a common language, and common values all make trade easier. The CWEIC’s task is to maximise these advantages and create opportunities wherever possible.
The challenge is to bring together a wide range of countries in the most beneficial way possible. But the CWEIC’s unique perspective yields unique outcomes. “We have the advantage because we work across 54 countries that we can see things that others who are working on a bilateral basis perhaps can’t,” says Sam. “And that enables us to create unusual partnerships sometimes that create the alchemy that delivers results.”
Communication & Relationships
Although many Commonwealth countries share a common language, communication is still key when coordinating international deals and advisory matters, whether business or personal. It’s still important to understand cultural nuances and be sensitive to people’s needs.
And when working with people speaking English as a second or third language, good communication is even more vital – particularly when managing tricky legal issues. “Being able to describe complex issues in a very clear and concise way is really key to advising international businesses and individuals.” says Bryan. “We often try to ensure that we have a cultural understanding of the client’s background that can include language capability so you can really put them at ease.”
Strong relationships with businesses and governments are the recipe of CWEIC’s success, and its strategic partners play a vital role in building and maintaining those relationships. Our partnership with the CWEIC began through a referral from Lord Jonathan Marland, a former UK trade minister.
“Relationship building is absolutely central to a successful partnership like the one we have with the Commonwealth,” Bryan adds. “Much of what we do is based on trust. Much of what we do is based on being informed. The relationship-building exercise that we’re doing with the Commonwealth is really providing us with answers to both of those situations.”
Sam agrees: “My impression is that the people at Irwin Mitchell really care about their clients and about the work that they’re doing. It’s not tokenistic, it’s not a professional caring. They actually do build enduring relationships. They care about people.”
The relationships we’ve built through the CWEIC mean we’re regularly in touch with influential trade ministers, government officials, and high commissioners throughout the Commonwealth nations.
This gives us unparalleled insight into the legal, trade, and investment landscapes across the Commonwealth – insight our clients around the world can benefit from. Where appropriate, we’ll also make introductions for the mutual benefit of both our clients and the CWEIC.
One crucial factor in the success of our relationship with the CWEIC and its other partners is the alignment of our core goals and values. The CWEIC seeks out responsible businesses with strong ESG credentials that embody the values of the Commonwealth Charter.
Diversity is one such value that’s very important to the CWEIC, representing as it does such a culturally, racially, and historically diverse group of countries.
“Irwin Mitchell is the perfect partner because it encompasses a very diverse workforce,” says Sam. “It embraces and encompasses all the values that the Commonwealth enshrines in its Charter and also in its way of operating. And these values are important to us because without them, we are not the Commonwealth.”
And Bryan has noticed that these values resonate with our international clients too: “I would say in at least half of the conversations we have with international clients or international law firms that the responsible business agenda comes up as a topic. It is increasingly important for businesses and for individuals.”
Irwin Mitchell will be experiencing these shared values at first hand in the coming months as colleagues join CWEIC delegation trips to Dubai and Malta as well as hopefully attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kigali, Rwanda, in the summer.
How We Help
Our partnership with the CWEIC forms part of what we call our ‘best friends’ network of law firms, advisors, professionals and other contacts around the world. This network means that our clients get the best possible support, whatever legal or financial issues they face, wherever in the world they face it.
This unique approach to international as an independent UK firm with global reach has allowed us to assist clients in over 200 countries worldwide.
“We operate effectively as Irwin Mitchell’s overseas network and their overseas offices,” says Sam. “We have local people on the ground in a number of Commonwealth countries, and our Commonwealth network is much broader than that. And so, we work together to produce the best outcome for Irwin Mitchell clients.”
In return, CWEIC’s own network can benefit from working with one of the UK’s largest full-service law firms on anything from family law, to wealth structuring, to mergers and acquisitions.
But Sam finds our strategic insight invaluable too. “I think the outstanding qualities of Bryan, such as his thoughtfulness, intelligence and his ability to understand the business agenda, make it very easy for us to create opportunities. I think it’s quite unusual for people to have such a broad understanding and perspective of global issues, not just within a legal framework, but through a business trade and investment lens as well.”
Our position as a Strategic Partner and a member of the Global Advisory Council puts this strategic vision to good use. And our clients can benefit whether they’re looking to do business in the Commonwealth, or are already based in the Commonwealth and are looking to the UK.
It’s an exciting time for trade in the Commonwealth. The Continental Free Trade Area agreement will open up trade for both Commonwealth nations and others in Africa. The UK is agreeing new free trade agreements with multiple Commonwealth countries including the likes of Canada, India, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand to name just a few.
Agreements like these are a core part of the UK Government’s post-Brexit trade strategy. It’s positioning the Commonwealth as a strategic trading partner for the future, and our CWEIC partnership makes us perfectly placed to help clients capitalise on this new direction.
The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham will both also present great opportunities to build new relationships and prosper together.
Sam left her CWEIC role in April and while we’ll miss her expertise and support, we’re excited to continue our ever-growing relationship with the CWEIC and helping individuals and businesses around the Commonwealth.
Learn more about our international expertise
Meet Bryan Bletso
The Human Touch