ACC's Ohio Chapters: Creating Opportunities For In-House Counsel

Tuesday, June 1, 2004 - 00:00

The Editor interviews C. Michael Gegenheimer, Assistant Intellectual Property Counsel, Battelle Memorial Institute, and President of the Central Ohio Chapter of the Association of Corporate Counsel-America (ACC); Rick Legenza, Associate General Counsel, The Sherwin-Williams Company, and President of ACC's Northeast Ohio Chapter and Mark Spitz, Senior Attorney, Luxottica Retail, and President of ACC's Southwest Ohio Chapter.

Editor: Being a Chapter president must impose a number of demands on you. What benefits make your investment of time and energy worthwhile to you and your company?

Gegenheimer:
The current leadership role in ACC's Central Ohio Chapter has given me a chance to give back to the organization, and helps return some added visibility to Battelle, which has supported my efforts in the Central Ohio Chapter. As Battelle's core businesses are contract R&D, laboratory management and technology commercialization, many of our local corporations have been, are or will be customers, licensees, strategic partners or suppliers of Battelle.

As well, CO-ACC's high quality CLE programs, ACC annual conventions, and on-line materials have broadened my areas of expertise beyond a focus on intellectual property to more completely support Battelle's business opportunities.

Most importantly, on a personal level, I have met peers and role models among the network of people associated with CO-ACC and ACC - people with whom I now have friendships or professional relationships - whom I would never have had the opportunity to meet. These members and friends continue to enrich my own experience with new insights into the practice of law, other practice areas, and other corporations.

Legenza: I have been a member of ACC for more than a decade and, like Mike, my leadership role gives me an opportunity to give back to the organization. I joined ACC because I was looking for an organization that would connect me with in-house lawyers facing the same types of challenges as I do in my day-to-day practice. Through the ACC contacts I've established over the years, I've been able to understand how other in-house legal departments tackle common issues and to assess whether our own team is on track. I have found the free sharing of practical tips by the network of in-house lawyers in our Northeast Ohio Chapter to be invaluable.

Because ACC limits its membership to in-house lawyers, its course material, online references and other resource materials are well suited to my needs. In addition to providing updates in substantive areas of law, these materials address a wide range of law department management issues.

Spitz: I joined ACC 12 years ago when I first went in-house. For the past seven years, I have been with Luxottica Retail. Owned by Luxottica Group, an Italian company, Luxottica Retail's stores include Lens Crafter and Sunglass Hut. In a small law department, I work on contracts, general corporate matters, intellectual property issues and almost all other legal areas of a retail business, except labor and employment.

Like Rick, I find ACC's resources invaluable in helping me not only to keep up to speed on substantive areas of law, but also to enhance the practice management techniques needed to better serve my clients. Its virtual library at www.acca.com hosts a wealth of resources. Its annual meetings also offer practical tools, quality programs and terrific networking opportunities.

Editor: Please tell our readers something about your chapter.

Gegenheimer:
We have a great chapter. For two years running, we have won ACC's Chapter Challenge Award for our increase and retention in membership, and two years ago also received ACC's Outstanding Small Chapter Award.

Several factors have contributed to our continuing success. First, over the past three to four years we have concentrated on offering our members high-quality, low-cost CLE programs with great speakers on timely topics, which we combine with terrific networking opportunities. Second, we revitalized our communications strategy to make sure that all in-house counsel in our region were aware of the wonderful resources ACC makes available to our members. Several sponsors collaborated with us in designing a brochure, which we widely distributed to members and prospects alike. Third, we have contacted the general counsel and other leaders in the legal community to explain the value of ACC membership to their corporations and attorneys, only to find that some of these general counsel are our greatest cheerleaders.

Legenza: The professionalism and collegiality of the Ohio's legal community extend throughout our chapter. Growing to 200 members last December, we began 2004 in ACC's large chapter category, and we continue to grow. Among the factors that make us a great chapter are our high-quality CLE programs. These programs are open to all in-house counsel, NEOACCA members and non-members. Topics are timely and cover a wide range of subjects - all geared toward in-house practice. Importantly in these tough economic times, our CLE programs are affordable.

Spitz: We also have a great chapter, which has grown steadily over the past few years. I attribute much of the growth to the valuable resources ACC makes available to its members, including the model policies, forms and other practical tools specifically targeted to in-house practice. Our specific efforts to make additional resources available to our members at the local level include co-sponsoring programs with the Cincinnati Bar Association.

Editor: What are your goals as the president of your chapter?

Gegenheimer:
Our theme this year is "Creating Opportunities." It has been my goal to serve the interests of all of our members, work to further expand the membership, and establish for CO-ACC a meaningful working relationship with the local law schools and bar associations.

Thus, we have been consciously rotating our Chapter meeting locations to serve segments of our existing membership in outlying suburbs, while improving our successful marketing brochure to continue to reach out to new members. We have also encouraged law students to attend our meetings to create an opportunity to learn about the in-house practice of law. Finally, we are working with the Ohio State Bar Association to co-sponsor a day-long program of interest to in-house counsel.

Legenza: Our Northeast Ohio Chapter is blessed with great people and outstanding leaders. Dedicated to in-house practice, they provide outstanding service to their clients. They are also dedicated to ACC, serving the organization unselfishly on a volunteer basis.

This past December, three long standing members stepped down from our Board and five new directors were elected to our Board. I am delighted that our incoming leaders share with their predecessors a deep commitment to our profession and our ACC Chapter. Energized by their eagerness, one of my goals is to encourage and nurture development of our chapter's future leaders.

Spitz: At the core of ACC's service to our members is our provision of CLE programs targeted specifically to the needs of in-house counsel. One of my goals is to enhance the breadth of our programs by drawing from the expertise of both the local and global legal community.

Editor: Please give us an example or two of your chapter's CLE programs.

Gegenheimer:
This winter we held programs on "International Trade" and on "Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration Policies." The first drew upon the experiences and practice of James Sisto of Squire, Sanders & Dempsey L.L.P. in Columbus, Ohio, who served the State of Ohio as Deputy Director of the Ohio Department of Development, responsible for the International Trade Division. The second program featured speakers recommended by ACC, Eliot Norman and Casey Ryan from the Washington D.C. firm of Reed Smith LLP.

We have also found this year that corporations sponsoring their own in-house programs are extending invitations to CO-ACC members to attend their programs. In addition to our monthly Chapter-sponsored CLE programs, these additional programs have been well received and represent added value to our members.

Legenza: Our May program addressed the automatic stay, reclamation claims, proofs of claim, preferences and other bankruptcy basics. Handouts included such practical tools as forms for bankruptcy petitions and debtor's schedules. Our speakers were Shawn M. Riley, Paul W. Linehan, Sherri L. Dahl and Scott Opincar with the Business Restructuring Department of McDonald Hopkins Co., LPA.

This month's program is on the role of counsel in insurance appointed situations. Topics include the relationships between insurer, insured and appointed counsel in litigation defended pursuant to liability insurance policy. Discussion focuses on attorney-client privilege issues; practice considerations of counsel, carrier and client and such other issues as: Is the insurer a co-client? Is there legal malpractice exposure for the appointed counsel? Our speakers include Mario C. Ciano, Clifford C. Masch and Nicolas D. Stullo of Reminger & Reminger.

Each year, one of our best attended programs is our fall focus on Ethics, Professional Responsibility and Substance Abuse. Sponsored this year by Jones Day, the program typically features a panel that includes in-house counsel. The interactive format enables attendees to gain practical tips for their own practice, as well as to earn required ethics, professionalism and substance abuse CLE credits.

Spitz: Our April program addressed "What the Board Really Expects from In-house Counsel or How to Avoid Wearing the Bright Orange Jumpsuit." Debra K. Crane, Ohio Casualty Corporation; Julie S. Janson, Cinergy Corporation; Denise Kuprionis, E.W. Scripps Company; Roger E. Lautzenhiser, Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease LLP; and Laura Nyquist, NCR Corporation, led the discussion.

In May, we hosted a program on international trade called "What Your Company and Clients Should Know Before Importing & Exporting." Our speakers included Benjamin H. Flowe, Jr., of Berliner, Corcoran & Rowe, L.L.P.; Julia M. McCalmon of Thompson Hine; Earl Adams of NCR; and Joy Bradley and Walter E. Spiegel, Standard Textile Co.

Editor: Thank you for giving our readers an overview of your chapters. How can they learn more?

Gegenheimer:
The place to begin is at ACC's website at www.acca.com. In addition to information about the resources available from ACC at the national and international level, each of our chapters has a home page with links to information about our mission, leaders and upcoming events. I'd be happy to hear from your readers directly if they'd like to contact me at gegenheimerc@battelle.org.

Legenza: I'd like to encourage all in-house counsel in Toledo, Akron, Cleveland and other areas in Northeast Ohio to come to our monthly meetings. It's a great way to learn first hand about the CLE and networking benefits of ACC membership. A schedule of our meetings and information about other benefits of ACC membership are accessible at www.acca.com. Interested readers can also contact me at ralegenza@sherwin.com.

Spitz: Like Mike and Rick, I'd like to encourage all in-house counsel to visit www@acca.com. I'm confident that they will return to the site often. Your readers are also welcome to contact me at mspitz@luxotticaretail.com.