From Corporate Counsel:

The Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) took a major step Wednesday in expanding its international presence by opening its first-ever Asian chapter in Singapore.

The global bar association for in-house counsel has more than 30,000 members in over 75 countries, but until today had not organized its members in Asia into a full-fledged chapter. The Singapore group—ACC’s 55th chapter—already has more than 100 members representing upwards of 70 corporations.

Veta Richardson, ACC’s president and CEO, said that the increasing importance of Asia to global business created a demand from the region’s in-house attorneys.

“We heard that Asia was definitely at the top in terms of what our members were seeking, and we started then, perhaps a year ago, to work with our members who were on the ground in different locations,” she told CorpCounsel.com. “Singapore really emerged as a terrific network.”

The new chapter will help the association reach out to its members in the area to provide resources, legal education programs, and networking opportunities. It will also allow ACC to serve as an advocate for member lawyers in and around Singapore, addressing their region-specific needs.

Some of the greatest needs already identified by members of the Asian chapter are support in dealing with competition law, data protection, and compliance in the region.

Jo Anne Schwendinger, regional general counsel for Asia-Pacific and Sub-Saharan Africa for John Deere, will serve as president of the new chapter. She noted that growing trade has spurred new competition laws in several Asian countries, posing challenges for members working there.

“As in-house legal advisors to business clients operating within the region, we have a lot to keep our eye on in terms of legislative, regulatory, and policy developments in this area,” she told CorpCounsel.com from her office in Singapore.

Schwendinger added that the dynamic nature of Asian trade and legal regimes makes the networking aspect of the Singapore chapter all the more important for local in-house counsel.

“Networking gives us an opportunity to establish relationships with one another,” she said. “The relationships help us feel comfortable asking one another for help and guidance, whether of the informal variety or in the form of formal requests for programs and activities.”

The ACC’s first chapter in Asia will likely not be the last, according to Richardson, who anticipates that members may organize another new chapter in Hong Kong within the next year to 18 months. Outreach and creation of new chapters in other parts of the world will follow.

“You will see more going on with ACC in Europe, in Asia, all throughout Canada, in Latin America," Richardson said.

Email: rmintzer@alm.com.