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H. Ward Classen: The In-House Legal Network

In-house lawyers are often an isolated group. Many work for small or midsize employers where they are the only lawyer, or one of a very small number. Even if they are part of a large legal department, they may be the only lawyer in their practice area.

Unlike a law firm where lawyers often associate by practice area, most in-house legal departments are not large enough to provide the opportunity for lawyers to consult with colleagues in their practice area. Further, many in-house lawyers lack a mentor or access to a mentorship program that provides needed support and advice.

A strong network is a valuable resource for in-house counsel as it is important to have the opportunity to obtain a “second opinion” and talk through issues. It makes it possible to explore issues and solutions unique to in-house counsel while providing a forum for raising questions when there is nowhere else to turn. Unlike attorneys in private practice who can consult with other members of their firm, most in-house counsel are hesitant to turn to outside counsel for all but the most complex and difficult issues for fear of incurring significant legal fees.

Most bar associations are focused on private practitioners and are not always attuned to the issues facing the much smaller group of in-house counsel. Many bar associations do not even have a distinct section for in-house counsel.

The Association of Corporate Counsel, a global bar association solely for in-house counsel, is one resource that can help with these challenges. The ACC, through its website, provides educational materials, webinars, forms and white papers allowing members to research almost any issue or practice area. Like a traditional bar association, ACC members have formed practice groups to promote regular discussions on topical issues of common interest. Further, the ACC website and portal allows members to communicate with the global in-house community.

The ACC also allows members to manage their careers both through its website and personal networking. Members can pursue in-house openings throughout the world and submit their resume for consideration.

The ACC has established local chapters in all major cities or metropolitan areas, providing a local perspective to an international organization. The Baltimore chapter meets monthly for lunch at local restaurants allowing attendees to receive CLE and network in a relaxed environment. The Baltimore chapter also sponsors an annual golf/spa outing as well as other purely social events. Most local chapters also have an “in transition” group that meets periodically to provide support for those members looking for new employment opportunities.

The ACC is a valuable resource for all in-house counsel as it provides continuing legal education while creating networking and mentoring opportunities at the local, national and international level. All in-house counsel should visit the national ACC website at www.acc.com as well as the Baltimore Chapter website at www.accbaltimore.com and consider joining this worthy group.

Mr. Classen is Deputy General Counsel of Computer Sciences Corporation. The views expressed herein are those of Mr. Classen and not those of Computer Sciences Corporation.

 

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