Phoenix, Denver And Las Vegas - Corporate Counsel Meeting The Unique Needs Of In-House Counsel In Colorado

Friday, April 1, 2005 - 00:00

The Editor interviewsSamuel D. Cheris,Former Senior Vice President, CFO and General Counsel of Blackhawk Geoservices, Inc., and President of the Colorado Chapter of the Association of Corporate Counsel.

Editor: How does your chapter help in-house counsel better serve their clients?

Cheris: Our mission is to enhance the professional skills and career growth of in-house counsel through high-quality programs, networking events and practice aids. We want to make sure our members are aware of the benefits and cost savings that ACC membership offers to in-house practitioners.Our communications chair, Shawn Cheadle, described ACC's vast treasurers - including legal research, education and advocacy opportunities - at a recent luncheon meeting sponsored by Robert Half Legal.

Editor: How do you target your resources?

Cheris: I follow in the footsteps of two excellent chapter presidents. Jon Bourne was indefatigable in getting sites, lining up speakers and sending out invitations for our programs. He was followed by Karen Shoresman Frame whose energetic personality added excitement and enthusiasm to our events. Our current board is a wonderful group of volunteers, who individually and collectively come up with new and terrific ideas.

To help ensure that we're staying in touch with the needs of our members and potential members, we recently reached out to our members with a survey.The number and quality of responses gave us valuable feedback to help us identify the issues that are important to them. Based on their feedback, we're tailoring our activities to help ensure that they are relevant to our members' day-to-day practices.

Editor: What contributes to the popularity of your CLE programs?

Cheris: We combine our CLE events with networking in great venues and do joint programs with other organizations that have expertise to share with our members. One of our most popular events is our Ski Train and Ethics program. We start early in the morning at Union Station in Denver. While aboard the Ski Train, we attend a CLE breakfast program. When we reach the slopes, we enjoy a day of skiing at the fabulous Winter Park Resort. Participants can bring their family members, too. It is an incredibly fun way to wrap up CLE ethics credits for the year. Traditionally a sold-out event, we're hoping to add another car or two this year.

Our monthly CLE programs focus on a variety of substantive areas. In January, Tom Young, Jon Trembath and John Beard ofMerchant & Gould, P.C., gave an informative talk called"Grokster, Monster, Microsoft, Naked Burritos and More - Recent Developments in Intellectual Property Law."

In February, we hosted a joint program with the Colorado Corporate Counsel Association on "Managing the Relationship - How In-House Counsel and Outside Counsel Can Work Together More Effectively and Efficiently." Sponsors were Davis Graham & Stubbs LLP, Faegre & Benson LLP, and Lindquist & Vennum PLLP.Moderator S. Lee Terry, Jr. of Davis Grahamwas joined by panelists Richard N. Baer, General Counsel, Qwest Communications; Bettina Eckerle, General Counsel, DigitalGlobe Inc.; Karen L. Barsch of Faegre & Benson, and James E. Nelson of Lindquist & Vennum.

Our success in programs and events this year is attributable to the leadership of our Program Chair, Carolyn Hariton, whose contacts and reputation in our market are outstanding. Ms. Hariton has taken volunteering to a new level, and we are indebted to her hard work on behalf of our chapter.

Editor: What CLE programs are plannedforApril?

Cheris: On April 15, we join the M&A subsection of the Colorado Bar in bringing together an all-star cast of faculty to discuss the hottest trends in the M&A world. The day begins with an overview of the latest trends in the current M&A marketplace with a focus on legal, accounting, investment banking and private equity perspectives. The morning continues with practical tips for advising directors in M&A transactions, followed by a review of how recent deferred compensation changes affect how deals are being consummated. The afternoon features the accountant's and tax lawyer's perspectives on the tax fundamentals that every deal lawyer should know, followed by a panel of in-house and private practitioners who have been involved in cutting edge transactions. The panel concludes with a practical look at the do's and don'ts in negotiated acquisitions.

I'd like to also encourage your readers to mark their calendars for our April 20 luncheon, which features a discussion of international business in Mexico led by Juan Marcos Gutierrez, Counsel General, Mexico.

Editor:How doyou help in-house attorneys in their career growth?

Cheris: Our Chapter has been hosting a variety of opportunities and programs on topics of interest for those contemplating a career change or who are in transition. In February, we hosted a program called "Dude, Where's My Benefits?"With several years' experience representing insurance companies such as AIG, ING, Assurity Life, Anthem Blue Cross, Kaiser, Pacificare, Humana, Aetna, and Golden Rule (United Health Care), our speaker, Mollie Watson, gave practical tips for transitional employees looking for less expensive alternatives to COBRA and assessed their needs for life insurance, disability insurance and long-term care products.

In March, Craig Arftsten, CFP of Smith Barney, addressed financial planning issues faced by in-house counsel in transition. In April, Dr. Suzanne Holmes, Ed.D., a licensed psychotherapist, who has assisted lawyers with life/career transition and career decision-making issues, will talk about ways to overcome the stresses of in-house practice.

On June 22, we are hosting a breakfast program that will provide practical tips on negotiating severance agreements and insights into the realities of age discrimination. Our speaker will be Diane King of King & Griesen LLP.

The volume and breadth of our career enhancement programs is a credit to the insights and creativity of another of our stellar leaders, Jean Robertson. She chairs our Transitions Committee and is a wonderful role model.

Editor: Please tell us about leadership you provide to other professional, civic and athletic organizations.

Cheris: I serve on the election commission for the town where I live. I'm also the public sector member of Colorado's CPA Board and chair its audit committee. During my hobby time, I'm a technical director for the International Fencing Federation, which most recently has taken me to Lenz, Austria to help run a ten-day competition. My love of fencing began in high school and continued in college and law school, where I was instrumental in having fencing added as a club sport and ultimately as an NCAA sport at Stanford. My involvement with the sport included serving as Chief of Protocol for fencing at the Olympic Games in Athens this past summer.

Editor:What are your chapter's strategies for future planning?

Cheris: As well as continuing our monthly CLE programs, Counsel in Transition events and joint programming with different legal and financial organizations, we will be focusing on general counsel forums. They will provide opportunities for chief legal officers for companies - large or small, public or private - to talk with others who have the last legal say on issues.

Our Board is also providing more focus on our chapter as an entity. We are overhauling our chapter budget, reviewing the terms of our by-laws, reviewing sponsorship policies for fiscal 2005, and implementing a Succession Plan to ensure continuity inour chapter leadership year to year as new presidents and presidents-elect take the reigns.

Your readers can learn more by visiting our chapter's home page at www.acca.com.

Please email the interviewee at michaelsmith@winston.com with questions about this interview.