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Around the world in six days

Boase Cohen & Collins Senior Partner Colin Cohen describes a hectic business trip that took in the Ally Law AGM in New York and – just as importantly – the FA Cup final in London.

TUESDAY 23 MAY

Up early and out to the airport to check in for the long journey to New York. A 16-hour flight is no-one’s idea of fun but being in the front end makes it a lot easier as I’m able to do some work and enjoy a decent sleep. Crossing the international date line, of course, means you get to live the same day twice so, having left Hong Kong at 9:30am, we arrive 1:30pm at JFK.

I’m delighted to discover Cathay Pacific can land at the new American Airlines terminal. No crowds or queues, so I’m through immigration with impressive speed. More good news awaits at the taxi rank – there is my old friend Rory Nott from Sydney law firm Kemp Strang, who is also attending the AGM, so we share a cab into Manhattan. The traffic is brutal and the ride takes 90 minutes. It’s a good job Rory and I get on well.

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Welcome to New York – Manhattan at rush hour.

Our hotel and venue for the AGM is the huge Marriott Marquis in Times Square. In the lobby we bump into another associate, Caesar Loong from Malaysian firm Raslan Loong, Shen & Eow, and we three amigos soon find an excellent Irish watering hole, O’Lunney’s, where we can recover from the long journey.

Word gets around about this impromptu meeting because more AGM attendees arrive and we head out to dinner at the notable Palm West Restaurant. It’s a great evening catching up with old friends but, inevitably, jet-lag kicks in for many and there are some tired lawyers who take the short walk back to the Marriott.

WEDNESDAY 24 MAY

A busy morning is spent hopping in and out of taxis all over Manhattan as I call on a number of Boase Cohen & Collins clients. Meetings done, a group of us congregate back at O’Lunney’s after lunch to watch the Europa League final between Manchester United and Dutch club Ajax. I’ve always supported English clubs in Europe so am delighted with United’s comfortable victory.

Back to the hotel for the AGM Welcome Reception, hosted by our New York friends Phillips Nizer on the ninth-floor Promenade of the Marriott with stunning views of Times Square. Last year’s AGM in Shanghai featured an opening cocktail party overlooking the Bund – this is just as impressive.

We are given a choice of several restaurants for what the organisers have called an “Optional Dine-Around”. I choose Churrascaria Plataforma, a Brazilian place, because … well, why not? It’s another excellent evening, but I’m also aware the 12-hour time difference means people are getting to the office in Hong Kong and I know my laptop awaits in my hotel room. Time for work.

THURSDAY 25 MAY

First day proper of the AGM and we conduct a productive business meeting in the morning before sitting through some excellent client presentations in the afternoon, including an informative keynote speech from former US Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Tonight's dinner takes place at Carmine’s, a famous Italian restaurant. The pasta and meat dishes are exceptional, as you would expect, although the outsized portions would feed a small army. I’ve had more than enough to eat by the time I head for my hotel room to catch up with work once more.

FRIDAY 26 MAY

A quick check of the Optional Guest Programme – for the partners or guests of AGM delegates – shows a Chelsea Gallery Tour is taking place this morning. Alas, this refers to the artistic New York neighbourhood, not my beloved football team. In any case, I have a busy day ahead. First, I’m on a discussion panel for a breakout session devoted to marketing and am required to give a presentation which, thankfully, goes down reasonably well. Then I attend a meeting of Ally Law’s Expansion Committee, although the only thing in danger of expanding around here is my waistline after three nights of American portions. They ask me to Chair the Committee, an offer I’m honoured to accept.

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Giving a marketing presentation – my fellow panelists appear enthralled.

Business completed, myself and David Greene, Senior Partner in London firm Edwin Coe, plot our early exit. We are skipping the closing Gala Dinner – and, indeed, a New York Yankees game the following day – for an event of huge significance, the FA Cup final between Chelsea and Arsenal at Wembley. We are told the traffic is horrendous so David proposes we take the subway to the airport and, unwisely, I agree. Being a massive Arsenal fan, David is used to seeing his team go around in circles without really getting anywhere and it seems we do likewise on a long and complicated journey to JFK.

David reveals that the Cup final is not his only reason for returning to London early. He is due to take part in a Strictly Come Dancing charity event and, being somewhat underprepared, needs to get in a much-needed practice session with his partner before heading to Wembley. Personally, I would pay good money to see David dance but, since I will miss the event, I promise to sponsor him.

He is booked on the 7:30pm British Airways flight to London while I’m due on the BA plane leaving 50 minutes later. After much haggling, I’m allowed on the earlier one, which proves highly fortuitous.

SATURDAY 27 MAY

We arrive at London Heathrow just before 8:00am to learn about the BA computer system failure that is causing chaos, delays and cancellations at airports around the world. I thank the heavens I had got on that earlier flight otherwise I might still be in New York.

I head straight for the Landmark Hotel to pick up my Cup final tickets and meet my good friend John Garratt, who will be coming with me to the match. The Chelsea team are staying at the hotel and the atmosphere is terrific. We make the short train journey to Wembley full of anticipation.

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Soaking in the atmosphere at Wembley.

Having already won the Premier League, Chelsea are favourites against an under-strength Arsenal team but the match doesn’t go according to plan. Referee Anthony Taylor, a special guest of Boase Cohen & Collins at the opening dinner of last year’s Hong Kong Soccer Sevens, gets his two big decisions right in my opinion – awarding Arsenal’s contentious opening goal and later sending off Chelsea’s Victor Moses for diving. Arsenal run out 2-1 winners and I have to eat plenty of humble pie over dinner.

SUNDAY 28 MAY

I wake up and check my phone for the latest news from the Monaco Grand Prix. Yes, the most glamorous race in the F1 calendar is taking place today, a short hop across the English Channel, and I must confess that in planning this trip I had been tempted – only for a nanosecond, mind – to squeeze it in, before deciding this might not go down too well at chez Cohen. So, instead, it’s a train ride out to Heathrow for the flight home.

MONDAY 29 MAY

If it’s Monday, this must be Hong Kong. I land early morning, rush home to unpack and arrive in the office before 9:00am – slightly less than six days after taking off for New York. A busy week of work awaits and then it will be back to London, this time with my wife Peggy, to commence our long-awaited summer holiday that will include visits to Moscow and St Petersburg. I’ve just realised Russia is hosting the Confederations Cup football while we’re there …