Midwest - Corporate Counsel Strategic Planning: A Key To The Vibrant Growth Of ACC's Michigan Chapter

Wednesday, June 1, 2005 - 00:00

The Editor interviews Elisa D. Garcia C., Executive Vice-President, Domino's Pizza, and President, Michigan Chapter of the Association of Corporate Counsel.

Editor: In the past 20 years or so, your chapter has grown from 35 to over 300 members. What has contributed to your growth?

Garcia C.: The Michigan Chapter of ACC has a broad range of members. While I have only been a member since my move to Domino's and Michigan, I believe that our growth over the past 20 years is attributable to the education, networking and social opportunities we provide to in-house counsel.

For the past few years, we have engaged in a half-day planning process with our board members enabling us to establish objectives for the next year and measure how we did the year before. This session, which we hold in the summer, enables the outgoing and incoming president to begin a transition process five months before the transfer of the office and, I hope, will make us even better able to respond to our members' needs.

Editor: What is the range of industries and interests represented by the other members of your chapter's board?

Garcia C.: This is Michigan, so, as you would expect, we have representation from the auto and automotive supply industries, insurance, chemical and manufacturing companies as well as information services, robotics, retail and quick service restaurants. Our board members come from large and small departments and the east and west side of the state. Our range of interests and what we want and expect from ACC is up-to-date and relevant legal education and an opportunity (especially for the small law departments) to share information with our peers.

Editor: What value do you and your company receive from your leadership role?

Garcia C.: Domino's Chairman and CEO, David Brandon, is no stranger to public service. He is a leader in so many charitable and service organizations, and, as such, he encourages his team to serve. I have also encouraged one of the junior lawyers in my department to take a leadership role in the Michigan Chapter because I view it as a development tool. Sometimes we need to get out of our corporate/client service environment to learn how to engage in strategic thinking, build networks and work as part of a team. As lawyers, we are sought for our legal opinion and not always for our vision and plan. ACC and bar organizations, as well as other public service opportunities, help lawyers to develop the core competencies necessary to become a leader in their respective companies. Domino's sees the value in that, and I expect other companies do as well.

Editor: How is your board working to ensure that your chapter's resources are targeted to the current and future needs of in-house counsel?

Garcia C.: As I mentioned earlier, each July we engage in a half-day planning session where we establish specific, measurable, achievable objectives that are compatible with our vision as an organization ("SMAC" objectives) for the next year. Our board represents a broad range of industries and size of law departments, and we rely on the board to set objectives that are relevant to our members.

Editor: Please tell our readers about the Michigan ACCA Scholarship Foundation and the scholarships it makes available.

Garcia C.: The Michigan ACCA Scholarship Foundation was established in 1990 for the purpose of attracting high performing law students to the in-house practice. While the majority of our members are from law departments that do not hire directly from law school, we felt it was important to reach law students and plant the seed that "in-house" is what they should strive for. The Michigan Chapter holds a very successful Golf Outing each year, and the funds raised enable us to provide the scholarship.

We worked with the University of Detroit-Mercy Law School to select the core corporate law related courses that a student would have to take to be eligible for the scholarship, and the law school screens the applicants to ensure they meet the academic requirements. Foundation board members interview the finalists and select the recipient and the runners up. We are very excited to announce that we are expanding the schools that will participate in the scholarship program for 2006. We will be awarding scholarships at Cooley Law School and the Michigan State University College of Law, in addition to the University of Detroit-Mercy Law School.

Editor: Do you have any upcoming programs that you'd like to encourage in-house counsel to attend?

Garcia C.: We have a diverse line up for our members commencing with a May 17 Insurance and Risk Management seminar, our Spring Social Networking Event on June 8 at the Midtown Café in Birmingham, a seminar focused on the needs of Small Law Departments on June 16, and a repeat of a seminar for the west side of the state held this winter in Southeast Michigan on Compliance and Responding to Government Investigations. If anyone would like more information, please contact zkay@comcast.net.