International Association Of Defense Counsel: A Global Network Of Superb Corporate And Insurance Defense Counsel

Wednesday, April 25, 2012 - 12:32

The Editor interviews William J. Perry, Partner, Carter Perry Bailey LLP and President, International Association of Defense Counsel (IADC).

Editor: Tell us about your practice and how you became involved with the International Association of Defense Counsel (IADC).

Perry: My practice focuses on two main areas. The first involves substantial work with contentious trust and probate issues, such as problems between and among beneficiaries/trustees as well as funds-placement decisions. The second area is insurance and reinsurance, including coverage disputes, policy drafting and risk management. I act mainly for insurance and reinsurance companies but also for insurance brokers, runoff agents, writing agents and occasionally individuals. I also focus on commercial arbitration specialized in insurance and reinsurance.

This work naturally led to my involvement with IADC, which originally was named the International Association of Insurance Counsel. I joined in 1999 as a member of the Insurance and Reinsurance Committee and served as chair of the International Committee before joining the Board of Directors in 2007 and becoming IADC President-Elect in 2010 and President in 2011.

Editor: IADC has a very limited membership of approximately 2,500 of the best corporate and insurance defense attorneys in the world. How does one become a member of such a distinguished group?

Perry: IADC is an invitation-only organization that requires members to have at least eight years of qualified legal experience unless they are full-time claims managers for insurance companies. It provides a good opportunity for in-house counsel and insurance claims managers to contact and seek the advice of experienced, high-level lawyers.

Our membership consists of outside and in-house counsel, and the admission process begins with referrals from multiple existing members and proceeds to a very stringent post-nomination vetting process, which is supervised by the Membership Committee that looks at peer reviews, published work and reputation. The Membership Committee membership rotates and is assisted by state committees that have knowledge of an individual nominee. Recommendations are then presented to the Board of Directors for another round of scrutiny. Consistent with member expectations, it is absolutely essential to preserve IADC’s first-rate brand and its commitment to quality membership and productive partnerships.

Editor: Do corporate counsel have access to information about IADC members to assist them with making selections of outside counsel?

Perry: Yes, it is possible to log on to IADC’s public website and access a version of our member directory. The best method, of course, is for corporate counsel to join IADC and actually network with our members at meetings, so we invite corporate insurance counsel to seek membership.

Editor: Tell us about your “Think IADC First” campaign.

Perry: IADC provides easy access to a superb network of lawyers, which is particularly useful to our in-house members. The “Think IADC First” campaign formalizes this access via a member directory that contains detailed contact information and practice description. The directory is available to members in hardcopy and online, and it certainly supports and builds upon IADC’s reputation as a great resource in a global marketplace.

Editor: Is your corporate counsel membership primarily U.S.-based?

Perry: IADC’s membership is predominantly from the U.S., though increasingly members are from and work in many countries throughout the world. The oldest of the defense organizations, IADC was formed back in 1920 by a core base of lawyers and claims managers working in-house for insurance companies and, later, for other corporations.

When we went global, we made sure that our members included in-house lawyers from companies all over the world as well as insurance company claims managers. The latter add a very important dimension to the organization, both in terms of doing business in the U.S. and in terms of being knowledgeable about worldwide and industry-specific issues.

To encourage increased corporate in-house counsel membership, we have established a new dues structure that enables them to join the IADC free of charge for the first year. Then, provided that each year they attend one of our major meetings or send an attorney to the Trial Academy, the next year of their dues also is remitted.

Editor: Are these events primarily in the United States or also abroad?

Perry: These meetings are within the U.S., except for our annual International Corporate Counsel College. However, we hold a Midyear or Annual Meeting outside the U.S. at least once every four years.

Our Corporate Counsel College, in Chicago every April, is a unique learning experience that focuses on particular current problems faced by corporations and, therefore, by in-house counsel. The International Corporate Counsel College takes place in Europe every October.

We invite some very high-powered speakers to these events. For example, at the International Corporate Counsel College last October, our speaker was Guy Canivet – former President of the French Cour de Cassation, which is their equivalent of the U.S. Supreme Court. Equally, our 2012 Corporate Counsel College featured keynote speaker Lord Phillips, who is the current President of the Supreme Court of the UK.

Editor: Does IADC provide opportunities for corporate counsel members to meet among themselves?

Perry: Yes, we have several facilities for that. Firstly, our Corporate Counsel Committee exists solely to focus on relevant issues and to enable networking among corporate counsel members. We have a Vice President of Corporate on our Board of Directors, currently Connie Lewis Lensing, Senior Vice President – Litigation and Employment for FedEx Express; her job is to make sure that we continue to represent the interests of our corporate members. We have a similar Insurance Executive Committee and also have a Vice President of Insurance on our Board, Tim Gephardt, who is with Minnesota Mutual. Tim’s job is to do the same for our insurance in-house counsel and claims manager members. Thus, we have qualified and dedicated representation of in-house members, and this also influences training and networking initiatives for the rest of our members.

In addition to committee conference calls and business meetings at the Annual and Midyear Meetings, the IADC sponsors Regional Meetings, which provide corporate counsel an opportunity to gather with other area IADC members.

Editor: Please discuss how IADC gets involved in filing amicus briefs.

Perry: We have an Amicus Committee that writes briefs that target important points of procedure and law that assure a level playing field across the legal system. Filing amicus briefs enables us to serve corporate counsel, external counsel and insurance members by voicing points of principle and to work to further the goal of Lawyers for Civil Justice to promote a fair, accessible and cost-effective legal system. IADC’s President, President-elect and Immediate Past President are all members of LCJ’s board; thus, I am serving at this time.

Editor: We understand that IADC also works very closely with LCJ in the effort to clarify the rules with respect to e-discovery.

Perry: E-discovery is one of the most important procedural issues facing the U.S. legal system. It is enormously time-consuming and expensive, and the obligations to preserve and prevent spoliation represent a heavy burden on corporate clients; therefore, it is important that state and federal legislatures and rules committees understand these difficulties in very practical terms.

A fair and just legal system is vital, but it should also deliver justice on a cost-effective basis. IADC’s efforts harmonize with LCJ’s in promoting specific improvements, such as the suggested “user pays” rule.

Editor: Tell us about IADC Trial Academy, now in its 40th year, which will be held from July 28 to August 3 at Stanford Law School.

Perry: The Trial Academy is often referred to as IADC’s crown jewel. I attended the Trial Academy in 2011 and can attest to its being a splendid way to train new and inexperienced attorneys in trial techniques and tactics. We hear that such training is difficult to come by, so we draw upon our members to constitute a faculty of expert trial lawyers who teach litigation to junior attorneys – perhaps future IADC members. It’s a very intensive event with limited enrollment. The agenda includes demonstrations of cross-examination techniques, effective opening and closing statements and expert witness management, followed by breakout sessions for smaller groups, in which attendees test their skills while being observed by a faculty member. Professional actors are provided to play the parts of witness or expert, and participants get hands-on experience handling a mock trial process from start to finish.

The Trial Academy gets rave reviews, with some characterizing it as the best experience of their professional lives. We also have a Trial Academy Alumni Network that enables everyone to make lasting connections. A number of Trial Academy alumni eventually have earned IADC membership upon completion of the eight-year qualification period.

One interesting development with the Trial Academy is that we are now seeing attendance by non-American lawyers, including common-law lawyers from Britain and Ireland and attorneys from civil law countries like Brazil who encounter common law principles and procedures in international arbitrations. Therefore, they need to develop litigation skills. So the Trial Academy is another example of how IADC’s worldwide reach helps in-house and outside counsel members improve how they operate in a global marketplace.

Editor: How can corporate counsel members assess the abilities of outside counsel members?

Perry: We have 26 substantive law committees that have a global roster of IADC experts in areas such as product liability, drug- and device-related issues or professional liability. Substantive law committees offer CLE programs at our Midyear and Annual Meetings, which are great opportunities for corporate counsel members to meet and vet outside counsel colleagues. These committees also showcase member abilities through newsletters and complimentary webinars that are useful for members and their teams.  

Editor: Talk a little more about IADC’s meetings.

Perry: Our Annual Meeting takes place in July and our Midyear Meetings in February. Hundreds of lawyers attend and many speak at these meetings, offering an exceptionally good value for CLE credit. One program lasts over five days, enabling members to earn CLE credit in many areas; however, we also appreciate that corporate and insurance counsel may not be able to take that amount of time away from the office, so we also offer specialized insurance and corporate packages lasting two days.

IADC also is a family-oriented organization, so members can bring their families to enjoy the Annual Meeting, which this year is in Asheville, North Carolina, while benefiting professionally from our premier CLE offerings and networking opportunities. The 2012 CLE theme is “Law Without Borders.”

Editor: How do you track developments in the United States?

Perry: IADC has a Legislative and Judicial Affairs Committee, which is specifically tasked with keeping up to date on federal and state developments, bringing them to the attention of IADC members, commenting on them and, if necessary, formulating responses to them. Further, our state committees keep an eagle eye on what is going on in their area.

This two-track process ensures that our members stay well informed and facilitates our amicus brief activities with respect to specific cases. Reflecting the vibrancy and relevance of IADC, these activities are of certain value to members and their clients.

Editor: Do you have any final thoughts for our readers?

Perry: While IADC has always welcomed an international membership and Board presence, this constituency has reached a level that warrants institutionalizing our global reach. To that end, IADC has elected its first international president and chosen numerous international vice presidents.

Our current Vice President of International, Pamela McGovern, is general counsel at Hydro-Québec, and our previous Vice President was an Italian private-sector lawyer. Vice Presidents are tasked with making sure that IADC’s international efforts mesh with, and develop to the benefit of, the entire organization, and the position includes an automatic seat on the Board and on the CLE committee.

This international focus reflects the reality of today’s business environment – with global supply chains and sales activities – and it benefits IADC members who represent large U.S. corporations as much as our international members. Thus, IADC is a cutting-edge organization and, we intend to keep it that way.