To The Readers of The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel:
There are profound changes occurring as the world's economies become even more interdependent. While the economy recovers from the depths of the last recession, the impact continues to be felt for in-house lawyers. With tough economic times, outside counsel budgets get reined in, spending is closely scrutinized and the traditional views of in-house law departments as cost centers take hold.While some of this cost-cutting is justified, the siege mentality behind a general attack against law department budgets is worrisome.
Corporate boards sometimes believe that their path to profitability is clearer when they cut budgets, including those of a law department. Paradoxically, when times are tough, this is the very time that organizations should be increasing their investment in law departments. It is generally held that law departments cost money to run, and they do not generate revenues. However, let's think for a moment about what it would be like if law departments did not exist. Unless the corporation paid outside counsel an hourly rate to manage its legal affairs, a corporation would be vulnerable without the in-house lawyer. The in-house lawyer brings enormous value by helping a corporation protect its legal and business interests. This contributes to the bottom line and delivers shareholder value. We don't refer to law departments as profit centers, but the argument can clearly be advanced that law departments help the corporation keep its profits. As such, in these times, corporations should look to invest in their law departments in a manner that allows in-house counsel to raise their productivity and bring greater value to their organization.
Some of the largest organizations in Canada are headquartered in Ontario. The Ontario Chapter of the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC Ontario) recognizes that the job of in-house counsel is more challenging in light of corporate cost-cutting measures. As such, ACC Ontario continues to provide a wide offering of professional programmes to its members at no additional cost. This includes programmes designed to help in-house counsel manage their careers, understand emerging legal issues, and develop new skills. Additionally, to provide some balance to the hectic lives of in-house lawyers, ACC Ontario hosts social events, including our second annual "art crawl." The art crawl is a roaming art appreciation event that visits three law firm offices in the Toronto financial sector. The in-house lawyers move as a group from firm to firm, for a guided tour of their renowned art collections, all the while enjoying wine, hors d'oeuvres, and the festive atmosphere. Last spring, ACC Ontario was a proud sponsor of the Canadian General Counsel Awards dinner, which celebrated the success and achievements of in-house counsel before a crowd of about 500 people.
In 2011, it will become mandatory for lawyers practicing in Ontario to participate in continuing professional development programs, including programs on topics related to ethics, professionalism and practice management. ACC Ontario recognizes that it has a responsibility to provide unique opportunities for in-house counsel in this regard. ACC Ontario accepts this responsibility and will continue its efforts to help to build a stronger in-house legal community.