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Association of Corporate Counsel Review: Worth it to Join?

Working in the legal world can be extremely hard, especially if you’re working your way up the ladder. Whether you are a general counsel, associate general counsel, deputy general counsel, or assistant general counsel, working for an organization or government agency might be hard, but getting a job can be harder. In such cases, joining the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) can give you the edge over other attorneys. 

However, the Association of Corporate Counsel is more than just a collection of corporate counsels. Some companies overlook the organization entirely, while others base their decisions on your membership. 

In this article, we’ll go over what the Association of Corporate Counsel is, what’ it’s all about, and whether it’s worth it to join. 

Let’s get started. 

What is the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC)? 

The Association of Corporate Counsel is a professional association that serves the business interests of attorneys and counsels who practice law and litigation in the legal departments of corporations, agencies, and other private organizations. 

Founded in 1981, the Association of Corporate Counsel was initially named the American Corporate Counsel Association (ACCA). Currently, the Association of Corporate Counsel is present in 85 countries and has over 45,000 members working in more than 10,000 private-sector organizations around the world. 

Currently, the Association of Corporate Counsel is headquartered in Washington, DC, United States. According to the President and CEO, Veta T. Richardson, the ACC is a non-governmental organization (nonprofit organization) working as a ‘professional society.’ The association’s motto is, “By in-house counsel, for in-house counsel.”

All ACC members are divided into regional chapters. Members communicate and collaborate within those regional chapters in various practice area committees. 

In total, the Association of Corporate Counsel has more than 60 chapters around the globe. Global branches of corporate counsel associations have been joining the Association of Corporate Counsel over the years. Recently, the Australian Corporate Counsel Association joined the ACC to form ACC Australia. Similarly, there have been ACC Middle East, ACC Alberta, and ACC Singapore too. 

The primary directive of the Association of Corporate Counsel is to help resolve the issues of in-house counsel. That includes working on things such as attorney-client privilege, multi-jurisdictional practice, the right to offer pro bono services, and more. 

Overall, the Association of Corporate Counsel helps with the professional development of in-house counsel by providing information, training, online education, networking opportunities, and advocacy initiatives. 

The global legal association also works beyond borders; for example, if you move from the US to Hong Kong, rather than joining the ACC again, you just have to reach out to a different regional chapter. 

What’s the Difference Between Outside and In-House Counsel? 

There are many events and summits, such as the General Counsel Summit (GCS) around the world. Some people are often confused as to whether they should invest time in attending such events or join the Association of Corporate Counsel for all their professional development needs. 

The best way to differentiate is to understand the difference between in-house counsel and outside counsel. 

In-house counsel includes attorneys working in the law department, legal department, or in the legal team as house lawyers, general counsel, and more. They actively take part in site work, attend legal annual meetings, and are dedicated to the organization they’re working for. 

Alternatively, outside counsels are either independent contractors or law firms that provide legal services to organizations and agencies. Outside counsels aren’t necessarily liable for any company faults and work as a service only. Their job is to offer legal services, an excellent user experience, and a docket for redundant legal and compliance tasks. 

Generally, companies with small or no legal departments tend to hire outside counsel. At times, larger organizations hire outside counsel to assist with a large project, such as an expansion plan. 

However, most companies prefer having in-house counsel due to privacy matters. 

The Association of Corporate Counsel is specifically for in-house counsel who work in various organizations. Therefore, as an in-house counsel, you can consider being part of the Association of Corporate Counsel to enhance your understanding of the legal world. 

However, if you’re working as an outside counsel, you should focus on attending various events and summit to further your professional development. 

Benefits of Joining the Association of Corporate Counsel 

As an in-house counsel, you may face various issues, especially when it comes to networking. The Association of Corporate Counsel helps you develop a regional and global network while giving you the tools you need for a professional edge. 

The following are the benefits you get by joining the Association of Corporate Counsel. 

  • Tons of Resources: The Association of Corporate Counsel has a wide range of resources, from sample policies to various risk-management training tools. The resources are created and developed by fellow ACC members around the world, covering every in-house practice area. You can review resource listings by material type, source, interest areas, region, and audience. 
  • Global Networks: As a member of the ACC, you are open to 19 practice area-based networks that allow you to develop meaningful relationships with other in-house counsel. You can interact with fellow in-house lawyers, get online resources, discuss & share knowledge on online forums, and attend online education events. 
  • Education and Events: As a member, you get access to several in-person and online education opportunities. The Association of Corporate Counsel’s Annual Meeting is the largest gathering of in-house counsels, offering more than 100 CPD/CLE programs. 
  • Regional Chapters: ACC chapters divide various communities and regions to offer better networking opportunities in each region. 
  • The ACC Docket: The ACC Docket is the Association of Corporate Counsel’s award-winning publication that’s available in print and online. It offers a wide range of content that addresses various issues and challenges faced by in-house counsel and is published ten times a year. 
  • Legal Operations: The Association of Corporate Counsel’s legal operations section supports corporate legal operations professionals. The branch offers benchmarking, resources, and opportunities to collaborate, and serves as a unified voice to advance the business function. 

It’s advisable to go through the membership benefits FAQs

How Can You Join the Association of Corporate Counsel? 

The Association of Corporate Counsel is a global bar association that focuses on the interests of in-house counsel. Therefore, if you’re an attorney who works in an association, corporation, or any other private-sector organization, you can join the ACC. 

However, member eligibility is for individuals who are actively practicing law and are employed by an organization. Furthermore, the person shouldn’t have any enforcement, regulatory, or policymaking responsibilities to avoid any malpractice. You should either be a full-time in-house counsel or contract attorney on a long-term placement (five years or more). 

It’s advisable to opt for Continuing Legal Education (CLE), if eligible. It increases your chances of getting a membership. 

You may be ineligible for membership under the following conditions. 

  • If your responsibilities include marketing, sales, and business development in the legal world. 
  • If your responsibilities include providing or selling services to clients other than their employer. That includes attorneys working in law firms and temp agencies. 
  • Any organization (applying for corporate membership) that has enforcement, regulatory, or policymaking responsibilities. 

There are four different types of memberships you can apply for depending on your situation. 

  • Individual Membership – is for individual attorneys working in any organization who want to join the Association of Corporate Counsel. 
  • Corporate Membership – is for organizations that want to join the Association of Corporate Counsel. 
  • In-Transition Member – is for existing members who can continue their membership at a reduced price if they lose their in-house position. 
  • Retired Member – is for retired attorneys who wish to maintain their ACC membership at a reduced rate. 

You can check out the more information on each membership type here

Is it Worth it to Join the Association of Corporate Counsel?

As an attorney, you can use every opportunity to network with other lawyers and counsels. It’s a great way to learn, expand your horizons, and get new opportunities. 

It’s definitely worth it to join the Association of Corporate Counsel if you’re an in-house counsel. It helps with your professional development, offer networking opportunities, tons of resources, and more. 

If you’re an outside counsel, you can opt for other ways to learn. However, it’s advisable to briefly work as an in-house counsel and reap the benefits of the Association of Corporate Counsel. 

In any case, you should give joining the Association of Corporate Counsel a try, at the very least.

By Josh Fechter

Josh Fechter is a partner at Corporate Compliance HQ and has founded several companies in software and training.