Middle Atlantic Focus - Corporate Counsel ACC's Baltimore Chapter: Bringing CLE, Networking Opportunities And More To The In-House Legal Community

Sunday, May 1, 2005 - 01:00

The Editor interviews Andrew Lapayowker, Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary, Crown Central LLC, and President of the Baltimore Chapter of the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC), formerly the American Corporate Counsel Association (ACCA).

Editor: Please tell us about your chapter.

Lapayowker : Our chapter was formed about 8 years ago. Before that, Baltimore corporate counsel would get assigned to the Washington Metro chapter (WMACCA). While WMACCA is a terrific group, it was impractical for most of us to attend their functions. A lunch meeting, for example, could kill a whole day just navigating DC traffic. We now have about 175 members. In the relatively short time that we've been a chapter, we've already won ACC's Small Chapter of the Year award twice.

Editor: How did you come to join ACC?

Lapayowker : The former General Counsel of Crown Central, Tom Owsley, was one of the earliest members of WMACCA and was the founding Chair of ACCA's Law Department Management Committee. He's been a strong supporter of ACC, and he encouraged all of us in the Crown legal department to join and become active.

Editor: Your service as your chapter's president must take a lot of time. How does your contribution of time and leadership to your chapter benefit your company?

Lapayowker : From the top down, Crown Central has always encouraged its employees to contribute to the community, whether it be through professional organizations, charitable groups, or otherwise. Our chairman has been a fixture in local civic and charitable circles. Our culture is to encourage involvement that reflects well on the company. And so far, almost four months into my term as the chapter's president, I haven't been impeached, indicted or scandalized. But seriously, I'm honored to be working with a wonderful board of volunteers whose companies share a common commitment to the betterment of our local networks and beyond.

Editor: What networking opportunities does your chapter offer its members?

Lapayowker : We've got several types of events. We have a CLE luncheon about eight or nine times a year. We also have one or two purely social events for members to mingle and munch. Our premiere event is a Golf/Spa function every summer. Our Past President Maureen Dry has organized it each year since its inception, and the turnout is terrific. The Golf/Spa event is sponsored by various law firms and vendors and is free to chapter members. Money raised in excess of our costs is donated to the law schools at the University of Maryland and the University of Baltimore for public interest grant programs. Members get to network and have fun; sponsors do some subtle marketing and hand out tchochkes.

Editor: Other than grants to the two law schools, do you have other community outreach programs?

Lapayowker : You bet. In fact we just received word that our chapter has been awarded a grant from the Minority Corporate Counsel Association to run a job-shadow program for minority law students. We also support a program called Earth Force, an ABA-sponsored program to teach elementary school children about legal and practical issues relating to environmental impacts on local watersheds. Each year, our chapter also raises money for a local organization called CollegeBound Foundation that helps Baltimore City high school students get into and pay for college.

Editor: How does your chapter help corporate counsel who are in transition?

Lapayowker : Raissa Kirk, my colleague here at Crown, and Kevin O'Neill head our Career Development group. They've put together monthly breakfasts at the offices of DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary with speakers from search firms, professional coaching firms, and other folks who can help with transition issues. The next breakfast will feature three of our members who successfully transitioned to other in-house positions. We just started a series of informal lunches at local restaurants for "in-transition" members and others to swap stories, ideas, suggestions, and Orioles scores. We also share a Yahoo newsgroup with WMACCA to circulate job leads, meeting announcements, and the like.

Editor: Please tell our readers about your chapter's CLE programs.

Lapayowker : Fortunately for legal department budgets across the state, Maryland happens to be one of a handful of states that does not have mandatory CLE. Nevertheless, all of our lunches include about an hour of CLE, typically presented by a combination of outside lawyers and in-house counsel. Some recent topics have included:

  • Potential Liability of Corporate Counsel in the Post-Sarbanes-Oxley World - Things that may really happen to you!
  • Employee Lawsuits - Preventing and Defending
  • Discovery and Disclosure of Computer Based Records in Civil Litigation

Domain Names 101

  • Top Ten Lease Issues for In-House Counsel
  • Internal Investigations of Your Senior Executives
  • E-Document Retention and Recovery Solutions

Our most recent lunch meeting featured "Protecting Your Business From Disloyal Employees." Sponsored by Saul Ewing LLP, the program identified various steps that a company can take to protect its business from theft of company secrets and customers. Topics discussed included the scope of employees' duty of loyalty, valid and enforceable non-compete and non-disclosure agreements (what works and what does not), and what to do both before and when a breach occurs. Claims under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act were also addressed.

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

Lapayowker : Corporate counsel in our designated area basically the entire state of Maryland outside of the two counties that adjoin DC are enthusiastically encouraged to contact me or any other member of the Board. Names of Board members, upcoming meetings, and other good stuff is posted on our website - http://www.acca.com/chapters/balt.php.