Boston And New England - Corporate Counsel Helping New England's In-House Lawyers To Enhance Their Careers

Tuesday, March 1, 2005 - 00:00

The Editor interviewsTom Farrell, Associate General Counsel, Tyco International Inc., and President of the Northeast Chapter of the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC).

Editor: Please tell our readers about New England's in-house legal community.

Farrell: Our region is blessed with an active and talented community of in-house lawyers, who in many cases generously contribute their time and energy to help enhance the profession. I follow in the footsteps of two such individuals: Scott Squillace of Cabot Corporation (our Chapter's immediate past president) and Steve Reynolds of Texas Instruments (Scott's predecessor). We're very fortunate to have a terrific board, and our executive director Louise Rothery is fantastic.

Our membership reflects the diverse nature of in-house practice in the Northeast, spanning healthcare, biotech, manufacturing, high tech, retail and a myriad of other industries. They represent large and small companies and practice in one-person and quite large legal departments. Their experience level ranges from new to in-house to well seasoned general counsel.

Editor: How does your chapter help its members to meet the challenges in their day-to-day practice?

Farrell: To help our members address substantive issues, we host monthly educational programs. One of our major objectives is to tailor the substance of our programs to what is most appealing and useful to our members. Some programs focus on broad topic areas, such as employment law, of interest to all companies. Others focus on more narrow topics, such as technology transfer, of interest to a particular niche.

We offer our members a variety of networking opportunities. Each of our educational programs is followed by a reception, and we also host two social events each year: one during December and the other in the spring.

As part of ACC's global network, our members have access to a wealth of online resources specifically geared to in-house practice. Its Virtual Library includes sample forms, checklists, best practices and other tools that help in-house counsel to do their jobs better and to save time and cost.

Editor: What educational programs are on your winter schedule?

Farrell: On March 10, we will have a program on director and officer liability. The program's sponsor, Bingham McCutchen LLP, will, no doubt, lead an informative and helpful seminar and discussion.

On March 31, we will have a forum on mergers and acquisitions. The program's sponsors, LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae, L.L.P. and Huron Consulting Group, will provide insights and practical tips. I encourage all in-house counsel in our area to attend both programs.

Editor: How do you measure your chapter's success?

Farrell: More than 70 members joined our chapter this year, bringing our membership to 680. The increase in the number of our members is just one measure of success. More significant to me is the favorable responses we receive to our programs.

Our goal is to serve our membership with the finest quality programs and services. While we won't reject compliments, we're always asking and looking for ways we can improve.

Editor: Please tell our readers about your chapter's pro bono, ethics and advocacy efforts.

Farrell: Recognizing the NorthEast's in-house legal community can always do more in this area, we have a committee dedicated to pro bono, ethics and advocacy. It's chaired by Bill Wise, General Counsel of Analog Devices. The committee has been very active, and the results have been terrific. More than 50 in-house lawyers are now serving as pro bono mediators for two district courts in Massachusetts. We've hosted eight training sessions, at no charge, for in-house counsel to qualify as conciliators. The overwhelmingly positive response is encouraging the courts to expand the program throughout the state.

One of our members is currently serving on the Massachusetts Supreme Court's Pro Bono Committee. It's a wonderful way for the voice of in-house counsel to be heard in this important area of public service.

We were honored this past year to recognize the selfless pro bono contributions of Tom Samoluk of John Hancock with a $1000 pro bono award, which he directed to the Boston Educator's Development Foundation. We also were privileged to award $5000 to the Appleseed Foundation for the funding of a law student intern. The Appleseed Foundation represents groups such as homeless children, foster children and low income homeowners.

One of our new initiatives is to recognize a law student at each of six area law schools for outstanding ethical conduct. These Professional Responsibility Awards will be presented at a dinner in Boston later this spring, highlighting the noteworthy conduct of local law students in this important area. We have partnered with local law schools and law firms, who are enthusiastically supporting this initiative.

Editor: How is your chapter assisting in-house counsel who are in transition?

Farrell: We recently formed a group of in-transition and employed lawyers to brainstorm about how we can help in-house lawyers who are unemployed whether due to the economic downturn, industry restructuring or other causes. We started with circulating emails to our members to announce job openings. We then added articles authored by networking experts, and in the near future articles from outplacement specialists and recruiters to give practical tips for succeeding in today's job market. We also meet with individuals to share ideas and give names of others who are happy to do what they can to help.

Editor: What are the other ways your chapter helps in-house counsel to enhance their careers?

Farrell: Our educational programs help our members to continue to improve their knowledge base and become more expert in their practice areas. We also host career advancement forums where general counsel talk about how they got where they are today and what steps they recommend to those who want to follow in their path. Our networking opportunities are another terrific venue for learning about how other in-house counsel are managing their careers.

Editor: Would you encourage other in-house lawyers to follow your path in contributing time and talents to ACC?

Farrell: My involvement in ACC has been a terrific experience. ACC was a great way for me to meet other in-house counsel when I came in-house, particularly a number of experienced in-house counsel who were generous in sharing their time and ideas.

I also value the leadership opportunities that ACC has given me. ACC has helped me to grow professionally and, frankly, it's been a lot of fun. I have made a lot of wonderful friends through ACC.

Editor: Where can our readers learn more about your chapter?

Farrell: When your readers visit ACC's website at www.acca.com, they can learn about the many chapters ACC supports globally. They can also learn about the incredible wealth of resources available to ACC members. By clicking on the Northeast Chapter's link, they can find out about our upcoming programs and events. I welcome their involvement!