Championing The Interests Of California's In-House Legal Community

Monday, January 1, 2007 - 00:00

The Editor interviews Jeffrey Frost, Risk Services Counsel, Sutter Health and President, Sacramento Chapter, Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC); Christopher Ekren, Vice President, Law Department Sony Electronics Inc., and President, San Diego Chapter, ACC; Philip Strauss, General Counsel and Vice President, MarketTools, Inc. and outgoing President, San Francisco Bay Area Chapter, ACC; and Jonathan Block, Vice President and General Counsel, Salem Communications Corporation and President, Southern California Chapter, ACC. To learn more about their chapters, visit www.acca.com.

Editor: How does your chapter serve California's in-house legal community?

Frost: ACC's Sacramento Chapter is one of the smallest in the association. As well as enabling our members to network at the local level, membership enables in-house practitioners to enjoy the wealth of ACC resources. A few examples include the ACC Docket, a wonderful source for cutting-edge practice information.

ACC enables in-house counsel to stay informed about proposed changes to standards of corporate responsibility and governance, as well as issues related to multijurisdictional practice and the protection of the attorney/client privilege. Visit www.acca.com to learn more.

At www.acca.com, members can tap into ACC's Virtual Library, where they will find a robust database of best practices in managing a law department, working with outside counsel, records retention, billing and hundreds of other topics specific to in-house practice.

ACC offers unparalleled access to the expertise of other in-house counsel through such vehicles as committee networks and MemberToMember access.

Ekren: The San Diego Chapter membership includes over 400 in-house counsel from a variety of law department and practice backgrounds. Our chapter includes members from large companies, such as Callaway Golf, Pfizer, Sony, Sempra Energy and Qualcomm, as well as from smaller, local companies.

Our chapter offers on average two substantive programs every month as well as quarterly programming by five practice groups. One of the monthly programs is typically on a topic of broad interest to our membership such as employment law, ethics and corporate governance while the other program addresses narrow topics that are of particular importance to a smaller percentage of members, such as immigration law, intellectual property and software licensing. We also offer a variety of social, networking, career development and pro bono opportunities.

Strauss: With nearly 1,300 members, the San Francisco Bay Chapter has many programs serving lawyers in the peninsula, where many businesses are focused on technology. We are looking to involve more members in the San Francisco and Oakland/East Bay area, where many businesses provide financial and professional services as well as brick-and-mortar products.

Our chapter is fortunate to have motivated leaders and a great blend of volunteers. Every minute we spend on board meetings is time we could have been spending at the office or with our families. Our motivation comes from our shared commitment to the in-house profession.

Block: Great question! Like the other chapters, we are part of the greater organization of ACC that boasts over 20,000 members, all of whom are in-house lawyers. ACC as a whole is a great advocate for the interest of in-house lawyers, and this is vital because the needs of in-house lawyers really can be different than those of lawyers in private practice. Our chapter, called ACCA-SoCal, happens to be the largest California chapter (over 1,300 members) and serves the LA, Orange, Ventura, San Bernardino, Riverside and Santa Barbara counties.

We bring tremendous value to our membership, offering over 120 hours of CLE programming each year to our members, most of which is free and all of it is tailored specifically to the needs of in-house lawyers. We also offer some great social and networking events, like our annual wine tasting event and our annual career development program. Our signature event each year is our Annual Gala Dinner. Our 2006 speaker was General Colin Powell, USA (Ret.), who spoke about the meaning and importance of leadership.

Frankly, some of our most important work is felt but not easily seen. We believe that part of our organizational responsibility is to address needs which transcend the purely professional. We quietly spend a great deal of time and money supporting pro bono, diversity and advocacy efforts. This is very important to us.

Editor: What is on your chapter's agenda for 2007?

Eckren: Our chapter was awarded "Chapter of the Year" for medium-size chapters in 2006, and we are dedicated to continuing and expanding the high level of service to our members, which resulted in our receiving this prestigious award.

In 2007, we will continue to provide Monthly CLE and Brown Bag CLE programs that are practical, relevant, timely and responsive to in-house counsel's needs, as well as social events, such as the annual Black & White Ball which will be held on March 10 and is the premier social event of the San Diego legal community, our traditional "Day at the Races" at the Del Mar Racetrack, and a "Family Fun Day" at Disneyland. We also expect to continue our commitment to benefit the community as well as our members.

We will be holding a Board planning retreat in January to finalize plans for the year. Anyone who wishes to find out how to get more involved locally should contact our Executive Director, Jon Hellings at ACCA-SD@cox.net.

Frost: ACC-Sacramento will have monthly meetings that provide in-house counsel with the opportunity to meet many of their California CLE requirements and also stay abreast of many of the changes in the law that affect their companies. We will also have at least two social events in 2007.

Strauss: This year, we're looking to build on our nascent Pro Bono program, which is supported by a "dollars-for-hours" matching program financed by a permanent Pro Bono fund endowment. Also, we have two new committees, the eCommerce/Privacy and Law Department Management Committees. If your readers in the San Francisco Bay Area have a suggestion for a good CLE program in these or other areas, I encourage them to contact the appropriate San Francisco Bay Chapter committee chair (a list is available online at www.acca.com/chapters/sfbay/committee.php).

Block: We will continue to offer the same great programming for which we are known. We are pleased to announce that our Annual Gala Dinner on May 4 will feature former Vice President Al Gore as a speaker.

More than that, our agenda for 2007 includes an effort to make a real impact on the Southern California legal community in the terms of pro bono and diversity. To help make that happen, we have recently announced that we are going to give two awards (each with a $10,000 check!) to people or organizations that are really making a difference in those areas.