To The Readers Of The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel:
What makes an organization successful? Sounds like a title of a Peter Drucker book. Right? As President of the Association of Corporate Counsel, Southern California Chapter (ACCA-SoCal), the second largest chapter in the country as measured by membership with almost 1,500 in-house attorneys, I was asked to answer this question.
First, what is Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC)?Simply, it is known as the "In-House Bar." ACC is comprised of a nationwide network of in-house attorneys segmented into chapters. ACC just celebrated its 25th anniversary as a nonprofit organization catering to in-house counsel worldwide with over 20,000 members. I encourage everyone reading this article to visit acc.com to learn more.
ACCA-SoCal was honored for the sixth time in ten years with the nation's most prestigious award - ACC's 2007 Chapter of the Year Award. In 2007 ACCA-SoCal sponsored sixty programs which included education, networking, and community outreach events.
ACCA-SoCal's educational seminars and networking events are hosted by the most recognized law firms and vendors in the country. All events are held at iconic southland venues including Getty Museum Malibu, Staples Arena, Dodger Stadium, Trump National Golf Club, San Antonio Winery, Disneyland, to name a few. Our signature Pro-Bono Gala Fundraising Dinner, which hosted over 2,000 southland lawyers, included keynote speaker, Former United States Vice President, Nobel Laureate and Oscar winner - Al Gore. (This year's keynote speaker is former Prime Minister Tony Blair. Our Gala Dinner will be held on March 7 at Westin Bonaventure in downtown Los Angeles.) Our 2007 gala dinner raised over $40,000 which was given to a well-known Los Angeles-based pro bono organization.
ACCA-SoCal is heavily involved in the Southern California community. For the first time in 2007, ACCA-SoCal sponsored Street Law by partnering with the University of Southern California School of Law, and an at-risk middle school in downtown Los Angeles, Foshay. For six consecutive weeks in-house attorneys donated their time from hectic work schedules to teach 80 eighth graders one hour lessons on various aspects of the law. ACCA-SoCal also supported the community by participating in beautification projects, adoption days, and other charitable causes.
So, how does an organization comprised of all volunteers accomplish such feats?
To succeed ACCA-SoCal has a clearly defined mission; focuses on motivation and nurturing of its volunteers; provides relevance to its members, and offers a forum for sponsors to meet and network with in-house counsel. But, the key ingredient to our success is that every step of the way our organization is constantly having fun!
Mission Statement: ACCA-SoCal has three goals - provide award winning educational programming of topics relevant to the practice of in-house counsel; provide a networking forum in order for in-house counsel to meet colleagues and law firms to share experiences and knowledge, and provide community outreach.
Members: ACCA-SoCal's number one asset is people. ACCA-SoCal board of directors is comprised of 25 very talented, committed in-house attorneys. They are all volunteers. Each Board member works for a corporation and then donates at least another 10 hours a week to our organization.
Attorneys by nature are self motivated. So at the beginning of the fiscal year, we empower our Board by assigning each Board member a certain amount of programs to coordinate.The individual Board member then recruits a committee for that program to plan the event. This way, each volunteer is not overwhelmed with too many assignments.
In all organizations, succession planning is extremely important. We constantly emphasize the need to fill our pipeline with new volunteers by actively recruiting at our events. Placing volunteers on committees begins the formal training process as these committees essentially become our new leadership pool.
Finally, our members' needs are met. If each member attended all sixty events throughout the year, the member would receive more than enough MCLE credits to comply with California's continuing educational requirements. MCLE credits are a very tangible benefit to our members. (Most events are accompanied by adult beverages and heavy hors d'oeuvres. Always a "crowd pleaser.")
Sponsors: ACCA-Socal's sponsors are comprised of marquee law firms and vendors that provide services to in-house attorneys. Each of our sponsors is very important to our organization. Our sponsors have an opportunity to share their individual skill sets and meet in-house attorneys at the seminars they host. The new relationships forged at our events become opportunities for our sponsors to generate new business.
Fun: I cannot emphasize enough that with an all-volunteer Board, having fun is critical. What is fun? It is fun to meet new people; it is fun to learn new aspects of the law; it is fun to exchange ideas; it is fun to gain a sense of accomplishment and pride in planning events, and it is fun to attend venues throughout Southern California that are unique or very popular.
In sum, a clearly defined mission statement; nurturing and recruiting members to leadership; fulfilling a networking and educational need for our members and sponsors, and having fun are the key ingredients to our success as an organization.