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It seems like everything in Israel is ancient. But the in-house bar there is actually only five years old. And the Israeli chapter of the American Corporate Counsel Association is even younger. Why, you may ask, does ACCA have a chapter in Israel? It all comes down to a phenomenon dubbed “Silicon Wadi”: a locus of high-tech startups in which American companies like Cisco Systems Inc., Intel Corporation, and Lucent Technologies Inc. have invested billions. This booming high-tech sector has wrought big changes in the practice of law. Israeli firms have grown fat with business — aided by an Israeli bar association rule that limits firms permitted to practice in Israel to those whose entire partnership resides in the country. This made it nearly impossible for companies to have American representation in Israel. To get around this, many companies set up in-house law departments, which were nearly unheard of five years ago. And, according to Mitchell Shelowitz, general counsel and corporate secretary at Ceragon Networks Ltd., American in-housers are in demand because most of these companies do business with the United States and many are traded on NASDAQ. “The language of business is English,” says Shelowitz. And it makes things go “a lot smoother” when a fellow expat is on the other side of a transaction, he says. The 34-year-old Shelowitz, who began his career at New York’s Proskauer Rose, emigrated in 1997 with his Israeli wife. After two years at Tel Aviv-based Goldfarb, Levy, Eran & Co., he went in-house, joining Gilat Satellite Networks, Ltd. Before going in-house, he attended a training event held by the New York ACCA chapter. Shelowitz was delighted with the resources provided. There was just one hitch: “There was nothing like it in Israel.” So he decided to start a chapter himself. It was officially accepted by ACCA in October 2000. Shelowitz says interest has been strong; turnout at the chapter’s second event, an intellectual property dinner panel, was nearly double that expected. The bottom line, says Shelowitz, is that the group helps in-house lawyers do their jobs. Its 125-member Internet mailing list lets the lawyers quickly pool knowledge: “It saves you so much time and so much grief.” ACCA also thinks the Israeli chapter is a boon. After all, says president Frederick Krebs, “We’re seeking to become a more global organization.”

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