Become Active In NJCCA: Your Involvement Can Be A Win/Win Situation For Your Client

Wednesday, September 1, 2004 - 00:00

We interview Arthur H. Saiewitz, Corporate Counsel,
Lucent Technologies Inc. and President, New Jersey Corporate Counsel Association
(NJCCA). This interview was conducted by Jairo G. Cano, intern and third-year
law student at Seton Hall University School of
Law.

Editor: In your July letter to our readers, you highlighted the NJCCA's
Second Annual Conference, which will take place on September 23rd. Please tell
us about this conference.

Saiewitz: We held our first full-day CLE conference last year having
decided a full-day might be more valuable than a series of short programs. We
ran multiple tracks of CLE programs so people could sign up for the program that
best fit their day-to-day practice. Our luncheon speaker was Chris Christie, the
U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey, who gave insights into the
direction of federal prosecution of white-collar crime, public corruption, and
homeland security. We concluded with a networking reception at the end of the
day. Attended by over 150 people, the conference was very well received. With
such positive feedback, we decided to present an expanded conference this year
with more course offerings and an ethics component for CLE credits. We believe
that in-house counsel benefit from the opportunity to commit a whole day to CLE
rather than trying to squeeze in a few hours over multiple days and the
attendees' reaction supports that conclusion.

Editor: How do the different tracks available at NJCCA's September 23rd
Conference help attendees become better informed in-house attorneys?

Saiewitz: The multiple track approach recognizes the varieties of
practice for in-house attorneys and that in-house counsel are also often
corporate managers. A number of tracks focus on substantive legal areas such as
employment law, intellectual property, litigation and commercial law. Other
tracks offer resources for career planning, implementing new technology tools,
and management skills. When combined with the networking opportunities available
throughout the day, the conference will be of great value to the professional
enhancement of in-house counsel.

Editor: Why did you decide to get involved with NJCCA?

Saiewitz: I have been a member of the American Bar Association and the
New Jersey State Bar Association from the time I started practicing law although
I had never actively participated. When I came in-house, I learned about NJCCA
and its national partner, the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC), and joined
in order to benefit from the journal and on-line resources. At the encouragement
of a colleague who was on the board of NJCCA at the time, I became actively
involved. I am glad I did because the experience has been very professionally
and personally rewarding. I have enjoyed working with lawyers from different
companies. My clients have also benefited because I've developed a network of
colleagues whom I can call upon for suggestions and have found myself exposed to
a broader range of legal and business matters.

Editor: How does membership help in-house counsel to gain different
perspectives on issues that they are facing in their practice?

Saiewitz: One of the benefits of NJCCA and ACC membership is the
access to resources and the services the chapter and the international
organizations afford that often provide an early warning of issues uniquely
affecting in-house practitioners and their corporate clients. Becoming actively
involved adds to the value by exposing the in-house attorney to other approaches
and issues. In a corporation you do not have the pressure you have in private
practice to go out and develop a network of contacts for possible business
referrals. We are typically not in court all the time, so we do not have the
same interaction with other attorneys. The involvement through committees,
program attendance, or the board of directors of a local chapter or the national
organization really expands your perspective. The professional interaction and
the development of professional information and contacts as well as personal
contacts is a great benefit.

Editor: The New Jersey Supreme Court recently amended its rules
regarding multijurisdictional practice. How did in-house counsel react to those
changes?

Saiewitz: The change in New Jersey is reflective of changes being
wrought throughout the country in the wake of the ABA's revision to the Model
Rules of Professional Conduct. Prior to the changes, non-admitted in-house
counsel in New Jersey were not engaged in the unauthorized practice of law. When
the New Jersey Supreme Court formed the Pollock Commission to examine this and
other rule changes, we supported the ABA model that tracked the New Jersey
approach. Indeed, my immediate predecessor, Bruce Hector, testified before the
Pollock Commission on behalf of NJCCA, which ultimately endorsed the ABA
recommended model for multijurisdictional practice, which did not require a
registration process. The Wallace Committee then recommended a registration
process and proposed a model rule not unlike one supported by ACC for those
states that insisted on a registration process.

The rule itself does not call for a lot of effort by the in-house counsel to
register, but the announcement on December 11, 2003 of how that rule would be
implemented created an issue. The process and associated fees have created
tremendous consternation in the in-house bar Ñ not only for those who have to go
through the process, which is as onerous as that faced by a plenary license
applicant, but also for companies that agreed to pick up these fees. The fee was
set at $750, which is higher than the fee for a plenary applicant.

Although there was an exchange of correspondence between NJCCA and the
Supreme Court Clerk, which is posted on NJCCA's website at www.acca.com, I do
not find the explanation for the fee satisfactory. Based on what I hear from
members and read in the trade press, which includes comments by nonmembers, the
in-house bar is very disappointed in the way in which the rule was implemented.
On the positive side, on March 1, the court issued a Supplemental Administrative
Determination that was helpful to some unique situations. We recognize and
appreciate that the court made some very common sense modifications to
accommodate in-house lawyers who would have been caught in the rule change.

This has been one of the major issues that one of our Vice Presidents, Lee
Braem of Quest Diagnostics, and I have been working on. We will see how it
continues to unfold. The court will be reviewing these rules on a three-year
cycle, and NJCCA plans on commenting at that time.

Editor: What other issues affect the in-house practice in New Jersey?

Saiewitz: I have seen a lot of activity on several issues nationwide.
One involves Sarbanes-Oxley and other compliance issues, which have been a major
focus for ACC and the chapter. Getting information to our members about how to
survive and thrive in this new compliance-driven environment is very important.

The second is the effects of electronic data discovery on practice, which
will continue to be a major issue for all companies. Most information now
appears to reside in electronic data systems, and the management, and retrieval
of that data is a significant issue.

And of course, there are always new laws and regulations of which we need to
keep abreast and help our clients absorb and implement. It keeps all of us busy.

Editor: How does NJCCA help members address these and other issues of
concern to in-house counsel?

Saiewitz: We disseminate information through our chapter CLE programs
and the programs and resources that ACC offers its members such as ACC's
member-to-member network, the ACC Docket and CLE programs that are responsive to
those needs. An example of how the organization helps day-to-day practice is how
I used the information I learned through NJCCA and ACC to assist the 20 or so of
my colleagues at Lucent who were affected by the rule change. I helped
disseminate information internally and hopefully helped my colleagues and thus
the company.

Editor: How does NJCCA help in-house counsel enhance their careers?

Saiewitz: We try to run CLE programs that are directed to the special
position and needs of in-house counsel. For example, we do not run many programs
on how to draft better interrogatories because most in-house counsel do not do
that. We put on seminars about issues that we routinely address such as managing
outside counsel relationships. For another example, we have run programs on how
to understand financial analysis and read an accounting statement because we
often have to advise the company on the interrelation between its financial
reporting requirements and the law. While there are programs out there for
career management for outside counsel, we are in a unique situation as lawyers
inside corporations so we have tried to develop programming that fits that
unique situation.

Editor: Please tell us some highlights of the first part of your term as
president.

Saiewitz: This first year was primarily focused on addressing the new
licensing registration requirement for in-house counsel not admitted to practice
in New Jersey.

The second big highlight has been the start of a process to ensure that NJCCA
is ready for the future, that we are financially well situated and structurally
sound. We are a large chapter with well over 800 members. Within a year or two
we may exceed 1,000 members. There are a lot of responsibilities for an
organization that large. I have an excellent Board and executive director,
Barbara Walder. Without the Board and Barbara, I could not do this and keep my
day job. It is a team effort to make sure that NJCCA is ready for the future.

Editor: What goals will you focus on during the remainder of your
term?

Saiewitz: For the remainder of my term, I intend to focus on
implementing the necessary structures to continue to grow and handle a large
membership. I will keep an eye on the issues that are important to both ACC and
NJCCA, not only helping lawyers become the best in-house lawyers they can be,
but also looking for issues where the advocacy of a large group is helpful. For
example, on the licensing issue, we are trying to keep track of how people are
finding the experience so that we can express those concerns as an organization
to the New Jersey Supreme Court when the triennial review comes up. Similarly,
we are occasionally asked to consider filing amicus briefs when there are issues
affecting the in-house practice. In sum, I hope to keep the organization growing
and serving the members' needs.

Editor: Why should in-house counsel consider joining NJCCA?

Saiewitz: ACC and its chapters help in-house lawyers do their jobs
better. I would encourage all in-house lawyers, if they are not members, to
become members because this organization is focused on the in-house bar. If they
are members, I encourage them to get active. They may find it one of the most
rewarding experiences that they can have as lawyers working in a non-legal
environment.

Editor: Where can interested readers learn more about NJCCA and the Annual
Conference?

Saiewitz: They can contact NJCCA at (973) 927-5622 or href="mailto:njcca41@aol.com" target=_new>njcca41@aol.com for more
information.