This post was written by Bernadette Bulacan, director of Market Development for the Corporate segment of Thomson Reuters

A famous song proclaims that “it never rains in Southern California,” which was definitely not the case last week as crowds of corporate counsel converged onto the Los Angeles Convention Center for the 2013 Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) Annual Meeting. The good news was that the light drizzle occurred while the nearly 2,000 attorneys huddled indoors, collecting CLE credits, networking with peers, and learning best practices to bring home to their legal departments. Here are my top ten observations from this year’s conference:

  1. Risky business. Regulatory issues were center stage at this year’s conference, with an entire track dedicated to compliance and ethics. Corporate counsel shared “from the trenches” insights on creating compliance programs, managing an investigation, and best practices when regulators come knocking on your door.
  2. Most appropriate title for a CLE session for Hollywood? “Lights! Camera! Action! Music & Video Licensing 101” brought to you by the ACC’s Sports and Entertainment Committee.
  3. Jet setters. From Canada’s Anti-Spam Law to distribution agreements in China to litigation and alternative dispute resolution in Mexico to doing business in the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates), there was a multitude of CLE sessions to address issues facing legal departments doing business across the globe.
  4. A legal thriller. During an ethics session titled “In-House Lawyers Who Got into Trouble & How You Can Avoid a Similar Fate,” attendees focused on a series of case studies involving corporate counsel who got into trouble for (allegedly or actually) violating ethics rules. Spoiler alert: transgression-committing attorneys do not live happily-ever-after disbarment.
  5. “And the Oscar goes to…” The ACC continued to celebrate the transformation of the legal industry by recognizing the 2013 ACC Value Champions. Using value-based fees, strategically allocating work between in-house and outside resources, employing project management and data driven practices, these superstars increased the value they provide to their internal business clients as well as demanded additional value from their law firm service providers.
  6. Our name in lights. From the tall entrance pillars adorned in orange to escalator-wraps directing corporate counsel to “A Better Way Forward,” there was no escaping Legal Solutions from Thomson Reuters. Placed in the heart of the exhibit floor, our all-star cast included: WestlawNext, Concourse, Serengeti, Practical Law, Pangea3, CLEAR and Investigative Due Diligence Solutions, e-Discovery Solutions, and Transactional Tools and Resources.
  7. Inspired by Dirty Harry. Can an employer terminate an employee in retaliation for criticism posted on Twitter? So was the discussion amongst employment law practicing attorneys. In one jurisdiction, an employee posted the following tweet (redacted accordingly): “They are full of… they seem to be staying away from me… fire me… Make. My. Day.” The court ruled that this termination was not an act of retaliation; rather, the employer simply (and lawfully) acceded to the employee’s stated wishes and fired him.
  8. Coming to a theater (or drugstore) near you. In a session focused on driving change in the legal industry, a vice president and chief counsel at British Telecom stated that he is keeping his eye on the UK’s New Legal Services Act, allowing “alternative business structures” to sell legal services from supermarkets in England and Wales. Imagine picking up a gallon of milk, getting a flu shot and obtaining legal advice all in a one-stop shop—talk about convenience!
  9. (Quasi) star struck. What’s better than a celebrity sighting in Los Angeles? For numerous corporate counsel, it was multiple sightings and the ability to take your photo with celebrity look-alikes Johnny Depp, J-Lo and Brangelina at the Thomson Reuters booth during the evening receptions.
  10. That’s a wrap! I haven’t unpacked from this year’s meeting, but the ACC is already soliciting programming for next year! What will be the hot topic in 2014 for corporate legal departments? We’ll be sure to find out when Thomson Reuters and the ACC head to New Orleans in 2014.