Letter From The President Of The Washington Metropolitan Area Corporate Counsel Association

2009-10-04 01:00

To The Readers Of The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel:

The opportunities before us as in-house lawyers are extraordinary. As President, I set three goals for WMACCA this year: (1) to assert WMACCA's role as the leading voice for the legal profession in the business community and in the media; (2) to reinforce WMACCA's role as the leading destination for career development for the in-house bar; and (3) to serve as the leader in ACC's Value Challenge.

In this letter, I focus on our challenge to ourselves to be the face of legal profession to the broader business community and the media. I exhort you to become a part of this exciting initiative. The benefits will inure not only to the corporate counsel profession and to WMACCA, but very richly to you individually.

Business Community Outreach

The in-house lawyer is instrumental in every material activity of the corporation, and hence in the company's success. The corporate counsel's role may be unseen, as when he or she acts to prevent loss, identify risk, or reduce inefficiency, or it may be visible, as when he or she structures and closes the transactions of the company. Fulfilling the demands of this role often requires countless hours of dedication to details, as well as significant effort thinking about larger or strategic issues. Is the inextricable role of corporate counsel in the success of the company an intrinsic part of the dialogue in the business community? Making it so is our goal.

This year, WMACCA will have several events that are being jointly planned and presented with other associations and entities within our business community. For example, last fall, WMACCA partnered with the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland to present a half-day Mini-MBA, and we are planning to partner with a graduate business school again this year. In February, we collaborated with the Virginia State Bar Corporate Counsel Section and the Richmond Bar Association on a very successful program in Richmond that drew more than 100 people. In April, we teamed with the Society of Human Resources Managers National Capital Area and Montgomery County chapters to present the 2009 Employer Conference, and invited human resources managers as well. In September, we are planning a program with the National Association of Corporate Directors on leadership issues when dealing with companies in crisis. This will be a primer for the board and management team, including the CLOs. Other C-suite executives and Board members will be invited to attend as well. Also, we are currently discussing with the Society of Corporate Secretaries and Governance Professionals a possible joint program on the corporate secretary function. Finally, we are working on developing an in-house paralegal institute, and may partner with a local paralegal professional association on this initiative.

There are countless other valuable associations and groups in the area that represent our business community. These include boards of trade, chambers of commerce, CEO and CXO associations and clubs, associations for other professionals in the C-suite, technology councils and others that WMACCA would be willing to partner with on a joint event. Such partnerships will expose our members to the ideas and priorities of the folks who serve in roles analogous to those our clients play within the companies where we work. If you are a member of another professional association that you feel could beneficially network with our members, please contact our Executive Director or me, and propose a joint event. I would welcome you to take the lead on such a project, or we could find resources to help make it happen. Like any voluntary association, we have more opportunities than leaders.

Media Outreach

Separately, the view of the role of law in business that is articulated in the media is too often that of other bar associations and of law firms. The lawyers who are closest to the business practice are the in-house lawyers. Indeed, for any company that has an in-house lawyer, the law firm's client may fairly be said to be the in-house lawyer. The in-house lawyer's client is the actual client, the company. Why, then, shouldn't the in-house lawyer be heard first and most frequently, when the media attempts to understand or report on some legal or business issue?

Already this year, we have re-distributed our media packet to leading media outlets in the region and nationally. Amongst other materials valuable to the press, we have included a list of experts from within WMACCA, who have volunteered to serve as sources for journalists. We have also invited members of the media to select events. Two monthly signature luncheons have been covered in Legal Bisnow. The Washington Business Journal featured many WMACCA leaders in a special "in-house counsel" section. We have helped WMACCA members publish a few articles and get quoted in many more. In fact, we place a WMACCA member with a journalist about once or twice per week.

In this area, too, there is much more to be done than has been done. If you have an unusual specialty, and are willing to be interviewed and quoted in the press, feel free to let us know that you wish to be added to this list. And we are not just pushing, but pulling as well. We are monitoring journalists' calls for sources and expert assistance on articles on which they are working. Also, we are helping in-house lawyers who wish to author and publish articles to find outlets for those articles. The WMACCA Media/PR chairs would be happy to help you.

Conclusion

We have set three major initiatives for this year. I hope after reading this message each of you will set a personal goal of bringing us closer to fulfilling one of our three goals - ensuring that in-house counsel are recognized as the face and voice of the legal profession by other members of our business community and the media. I am confident that by doing so you will find that such efforts present innumerable opportunities for you to grow professionally. I look forward to working with you in the coming months on this exciting and rewarding initiative.

Sincerely,

Manik Rath