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Backing up its promise to improve the working relationship between the in-house bar and ethnic minority lawyers, the American Corporation Counsel Association maintained a strong presence at the Hispanic National Bar Association annual meeting in Chicago last week. In fact, for years a regular sponsor of the key HNBA event, ACCA noticeably increased its profile this time by sponsoring an entire day of activities, from a morning and an afternoon of seminars to an evening reception for lawyers to mingle and network. But ACCA readily acknowledges it is getting as much as it is giving by sponsoring such minority bar events. As a result of this relationship building, for instance, “we’re seeing an increased sensitivity and understanding about how to better approach diversity issues in ACCA,” said Susan Hackett, ACCA’s senior vice president and general counsel. In addition to the longstanding ties ACCA has with the HNBA, the D.C.-based corporate bar has forged relationships with the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, National Bar Association and the Coalition of Bar Associations of Color. As part of the relationship building through invitations to leadership events, ACCA and the ethnic bar groups are swapping programs, with the corporate bar sponsoring events at their counterparts’ conventions, while the ethnic groups send delegations and sponsor events at ACCA’s annual meeting. HNBA President Elect Angel G. Gomez, of Juritas.com, said he hopes to have an equally strong Hispanic bar presence at ACCA’s annual meeting next year in San Diego. Also, the groups are working to offer joint membership opportunities. ACCA and HNBA are closest to reaching a deal, Hackett added. Moreover, the groups have increased their awareness of one another by linking their websites. Indeed, perhaps the most tangible result of their relationship building has been the launch of www.diversecounsel.org, a system in which counsel of color can post information about their practices so in-house counsel can shop for specific legal services. As a case in point, Hackett related what could have been, depending on the lawyer’s perspective, a major omission had she not been in such close contact with HNBA. According to Hackett, as ACCA set up diversecounsel.org, a drop down menu of lawyer locations was included. But Hackett left off Puerto Rico, something that one of her contacts at HNBA brought to her attention. Though the example may seem to some as relatively minor, Hackett said it shows how just broadening her base of contacts has increased ACCA’s sensitivity to such mishaps. If, for instance, the drop down menu remained as it was, Hackett said lawyers from Puerto Rico “would have walked away and said, ‘Not for me.’ “Instead, they called and said, ‘You need to fix this, it’s wrong,’ and we fixed it.”

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