A New Era At ACC

Monday, August 1, 2011 - 01:00

The Editor interviews Veta T. Richardson, President and CEO of National ACC.

Editor: Congratulations on your appointment as President & CEO of the ACC. Please tell our readers how you came to be selected.

Richardson: I have spent my professional career working and strategizing with in-house counsel. ACC has been influential to that. So when Fred Krebs announced he was retiring after an amazing 20 years as ACC's president, my first thought was, who could fill the big void he leaves? Then I was asked to apply. Although I am not so arrogant as to believe I could ever replace Fred, I decided to toss my hat in the ring. I understand they screened hundreds of resumes and interviewed many highly competitive candidates. The process was rigorous: pre-screening interviews, a leadership assessment test, in-person interviews with the selection committee and presentations on two strategic topics of concern to the leadership. I'm happy to be the one they chose, but they made me work for it!

Editor: What are the benefits of ACC membership?

Richardson: ACC is a global network of more than 28,000 members in more than 75 countries, organized into 52 chapters throughout the U.S. and abroad, including chapters in Europe, Canada, Israel and Argentina. ACC is the go-to association for in-house counsel, providing the necessary tools to save time, enhance professional skills and connect with other in-house counsel. We support our members' success at every stage of their careers and in every practice setting, including large, medium, and small law departments.

In addition to legal resources and the award-winning ACC Docket , ACC offers multiple opportunities for members to fulfill their CLE or CPD requirements, network and learn from legal industry experts and service providers.ACC's Annual Meeting, the world's largest gathering of in-house counsel, is scheduled for October 23-26 in Denver. Our Corporate Counsel University conference is designed for attorneys who are newer to in-house roles. Our mini-MBA programs offered with Boston University focus on sharpening business acumen. The Chief Legal Officer Think Tanks allow general counsel to sit down together, discuss trends and share experiences.

Editor: What are your plans to nurture or expand these benefits?

Richardson: With the explosive growth of technology and social media, we seek to engage members in new ways, including a blog called In-house ACCess , Twitter account (ACCinhouse), Facebook page and LinkedIn group.These public media complement ACC's brand new "Member-to-Member" online social media community available exclusively to members. Through Member-to-Member, ACC members join eGroup discussions, participate in 17 practice-specific committees and keep abreast of latest news, and ACC is adding a mentoring program to support members' professional growth.

ACC's legal resources include numerous sample forms, policies and quick references to which we're constantly adding. We're building an online repository of sample contractual clauses to assist in drafting all types of agreements. ACC is unveiling new technology to enhance the Annual Meeting - live webcasts, improved CLE accreditation, RFID scanners, Smartphone mobile apps!

Editor: Please describe the relationship between ACC's headquarters and local chapters. Are certain ACC chapters growing more rapidly and if so, why? Richardson: In-house counsel sign up as members through ACC headquarters. Based upon their geographic location, they are assigned a local chapter. ACC chapters are geographically based, separately incorporated and run by volunteer leaders. Volunteer leaders are the association's lifeblood. Our job at headquarters is to support chapters to serve members at the local level. Some chapters are growing more quickly than others, especially in major metropolitan areas with concentrated markets of in-house counsel. We also experience interest in new locations. For example, an exploratory event was held in Louisville by a former San Diego chapter member who recently relocated.

Editor: Please talk about ACC's Value Challenge. We understand, for example, that legal service providers, such as e-discovery vendors, are pledging to uphold the 16 factors included in the ACC Value Challenge "Covenant with Counsel."

Richardson: The ACC Value Challenge is an initiative to reconnect value and cost for legal services to better meet clients' needs. Initial efforts focused on launching a dialogue between in-house and outside counsel regarding alternative billing methods and deliverables. The current focus is on practical tools, resources and hands-on training for value-billing approaches with an emphasis on achieving cost savings, greater efficiencies and/or predictability of results.

"Covenant with Counsel" was a springboard for in-house and outside counsel to discuss key elements of their working relationship. Some legal service providers found these principals relevant as they define their relationships with in-house departments.

Editor: What are the hot issues for ACC's members and how has ACC been responsive?

Richardson: In-house counsel are confronted by a variety of pressures, both internal and external, given the complex regulatory environment in which their client companies operate.In my experience, in-house counsel are increasingly looking to each other to develop best practices and share tips as to what works and what doesn't.How to accomplish that in the context of their busy lives is one of the biggest challenges they face.Through ACC, every level of in-house counsel - from CLO to new in-house counsel - networks with, and learns from, each other.

While the kinds of public policy issues faced by in-house counsel vary by industry, geographic region or company size, there are some issues that unite in-house counsel as a profession.As to these issues, ACC leads the effort to provide the unique perspective that only an in-house counsel bar association can.For instance, in the past year, ACC provided thought leadership and advocacy regarding the SEC's whistleblower bounty program, attorney-client privilege for in-house counsel in Europe, and the need for greater recognition of multijurisdictional practice.

Editor: How will your commitment to diversity influence initiatives you are planning in your new role as ACC President?

Richardson: I believe that diversity and inclusion make for higher-performing organizations and superior results. It impacts how I think about strategic issues, managing people, resources, and the range of opinions and perspectives I seek before making key decisions. I will also continue to encourage diverse attorneys to choose in-house careers and excel.

Editor: For years, The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel (MCC) has been a proud supporter of the ACC and its chapters, particularly in the tri-state area. How can MCC continue to help ACC serve its corporate counsel membership and reach out to non-members?

Richardson: Let me first thank MCC for the important role it plays in spotlighting the people and issues of interest to in-house counsel. We encourage MCC's continued coverage of topics that impact today's in-house community along with the trends that will impact law departments of the future.