Members of the Indiana chapter of Association of Corporate Counsel spoke, and the organization listened, planning its first annual meeting this month for the French Lick Resort and Spa.
Chapter President Carrie Hill, general counsel for Fortune Industries II Inc., said the Indiana ACC chapter took a survey of members last year. They said they liked a gala the Indiana ACC had done in years past, and they liked an all-day continuing legal education program the group does each December in conjunction with Barnes & Thornburg LLP.
But members also wanted something more, especially those around the state who couldn’t make it to the capital in December. The group decided to plan its first annual meeting and gala in the southern Indiana resort town.
“We wanted to make it a destination outside Indianapolis,” Hill said of the gathering that will take place Sept. 22-23. “It’s had a good response.”
The Indiana chapter of ACC has been around since the early 2000s and boasts about 450 members. Hill said corporate counsel — members and nonmembers of Indiana ACC — have been invited to attend, and she expects about 100 people will be at the conference.
The organization plans to provide up to six hours of CLE designed specifically for corporate counsel, which Hill said is one of the benefits ACC members receive throughout the year. The Friday keynote session will be on class- and collective-action business issues. A federal magistrate, an EEOC district director, and trial and defense attorneys also will take part in a morning CLE on handling employment discrimination claims from charge to litigation. Other CLE topics in breakout and roundtable sessions will include technology for in-house counsel, intellectual property, drafting enforceable non-compete agreements, and corporate governance, among others.
“It’s some of the only CLE of its kind specifically tailored for the issues facing corporate counsel,” Hill said. The sessions aim to be hands-on and practical, providing checklists and particular procedures in many cases. “We try to get down into a very granular level,” she said.
Ken Yerkes, a partner with meeting title sponsor Barnes & Thornburg, has been involved with ACC Indiana since its formation. “This is sort of a next step in the evolution of the organization,” he said.
Yerkes said the organization as a network provides wide-ranging expertise to in-house lawyers who may be versed, for instance, in labor or business organization law, but may have little experience in IP law. In law firms, he said, “There’s always somebody down the hall, and you can always go down the hall and talk about an issue.” ACC, he said, provides networking opportunities where in-house counsel can share information and expertise about issues.
Hill calls her practice a “legal department of one” and said the Indiana ACC is roughly split between small corporate counsel departments and representatives of larger organizations, some with 10 or more attorneys on staff.
“As an attorney, I don’t have a whole staff of people I can bounce ideas off of,” she said. ACC is “a great resource where you can reach out to people” with expertise in particular areas. “It really is my first go-to for information.”
In her position, Hill said much of her work is devoted to labor and employment issues affecting her firm. But in-house counsel have unique responsibilities in common — managing litigation, working with outside counsel and communicating with organization leaders how legal matters are being handled.
Yerkes said Barnes & Thornburg has been principal sponsor of the chapter since its start. He said the relationship has been mutually beneficial. “We wanted to do what we could to improve on those relationships and deliver high-quality services.”
Other sponsors are Bingham Greene-baum Doll LLP, Brinks Gilson & Lione, Corporation Service Co., Faegre Baker Daniels LLP, Jackson Lewis P.C., Krieg DeVault LLP, and Quarles & Brady LLP.•