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In-House Networking is the Star of the Show at ACC in Orlando
For Elyse Beidner, there is one unmistakeable draw for attending the Association of Corporate Counsel annual meeting, which kicked off in Orlando on Sunday.
The networking is fantastic, says the chief legal officer of Boiling Spring Savings Bank in Rutherford, New Jersey, who only has one other attorney in her legal department.
Its a familiar refrain at ACC, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary at this years convention. One of the driving reasons behind ACCs founding three decades ago is that in-house counsel didnt have a bar association to call their own. This year, nearly 3,000 attorneys out of the associations 30,000-plus global membership have taken over Orlandos Marriott World Center.
Beidner, whos been in an in-house lawyer in the financial services industry for about 25 years and has been attending the meeting for six years now, credits ACC with giving gravitas to the in-house bar. When I started practicing, in-house lawyers were looked down on as being lesser-skilled lawyers than outside counsel, she says. ACC has put us on a level playing field.
The GC takes full advantage of the annual meeting. Here, she reunites with old friends from legal departments around the country. Down the road, if she needs to hire outside counsel, a recommendation from someone she met at ACC is often more meaningful to her, she explains.
ACC attendees are quick to embrace the meetings ethos of in-house counsel pooling useful information. In the past, Teresa Kennedy, assistant general counsel at Cox Communications Inc. has been tasked by her department with asking fellow ACC attendees about their policies on privacy and social media. This year, shes on a mission to talk to attorneys from across the country about how they manage information in their departments, since Coxs 40-person legal and policy department is split among offices in several U.S. cities.
She points to the sharing of knowledge as a defining characteristic of ACC. Anything we can do to make one anothers jobs easier is very freely offered up, she says, adding that such is not always the case among attorneys in general. Lawyers are not, in my experience, generally team players, says Kennedy, who joined the board of ACCs Georgia chapter 16 years ago, and is now a national board member. I think its unusual in a business environment to see people so generously sharing knowledge and resources.
Kennedy belongs to the boards Services Committee, for which developing avenues to share resources among members through social networking has been a priority. She counts ACCs Compliance Portal and its Member-to-Member mobile app as two very successful examples of those efforts. Weve talked to members about how they interact with their peers and their friends, she says. I think the organization has been very quick to embrace those trendsand stay very much in touch with the age and the needs of the organization.
Late Sunday evening, ACCs 30th Anniversary Loungereplete with red couches and a timeline of the organizations historywas still kicking. A couple dozen people mingled, and a smooth jazz band jammed in the back as Norman Wain, general counsel of USA Track & Field in Indianapolis, caught up with Kathleen Rodin, assistant general counsel for the Anaheim Ducks and Honda Center.
Wain has attended ACC for most of the past decade. What keeps him coming back? The networking and the CLEs, he says. As for the networking part, whats great is that, after the conference he can call up another in-house attorney hes met and ask, Hey, have you ever dealt with this issue before? instead of calling a law firm and getting charged for the query.
Over on one of the lounges red couches sat two in-house lawyersJulie McKinney, of Pacific Life Insurance Company in Newport Beach, California, and Sharon Sartorius, of DineEquity Inc. Turns out theyre sisters, and their dad was once in-house at TRW Inc. McKinney first started coming to ACC seven or eight years ago, and then her sister decided to join in, too.
They had just been chatting with an attorney whos based in Los Angeleswhere the annual meeting will be held in 2013. Were already talking about having lunch and seeing each other at this event next year, McKinney says.