ACC America and its Southern California Chapter
On December 1, 1981, Robert Banks, then vice president and general counsel of Xerox Corporation, hosted a luncheon that triggered a chain of events that would change the legal profession. The participants -- mostly general counsel of their companies -- included Lawrence Kraus (U.S. Chamber of Commerce), Philip Knox, Jr. (Sears, Roebuck and Co.), Carl Liggio (Arthur Young and Company), Stephen Middlebrook (Aetna Life and Casualty), Donald Walsh (Sun Company, Inc.), William Weitzel, Jr. (Texaco, Inc.), Irving Yoskowitz, (United Technologies Corporation), and Guy Zoghby (IBM Corporation).
Within an hour, their spirited and free-wheeling discussion boiled down to one action item: To lead a charge to create a bar association for in-house counsel. The group next sought to call a larger meeting to ascertain the level of support they could garner for the idea and discuss whether the form might be as a new ABA section or as an independent organization.
As a result of that December 1, 1981 luncheon meeting, 55 leading general counsel were invited to attend a March 14, 1982 meeting at the AMFAC (now Hyatt) Hotel at the Dallas Fort Worth Airport to discuss the formation of an organized group for in-house counsel. Although no one knew how the invitation would be received, 53 out of the 55 invited general counsel showed up. This overwhelming response demonstrated that a common chord had been struck.
In turn, 51 of the 53 general counsel in attendance supported the formation of an independent organization separate from the ABA. Each of these 51 counsel pledged to enroll their entire legal departments for several years so that the new organization would have a sustainable membership base. And so what began as a brainstorming session only months earlier ended with a flurry of activity in 1982: the American Corporate Counsel Association had been born, officers were elected, and initial membership totaled 2400 in-house counsel. Robert Banks served as the first Chairman of ACC Southern California Board of Directors.
From its founding, ACC's stated purpose was clear: To provide an organization for the promotion and improvement of the common business and professional interests and responsibilities of attorneys who are engaged in the active practice of law on behalf of organizations in the private sector and who do not hold themselves out to the public for the practice of law. This premise remains true today.
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In Southern California, Peter Zeughauser (The Irvine Company), Oscar Glass and several other talented in-house counsel took the initiative in late 1984 and founded the Southern California Chapter of the Association of Corporate Counsel to serve the professional interests of ACC members in Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura, and Santa Barbara counties, as well as portions of Riverside and San Bernardino counties. Mr. Zeughauser later served as the 1991 Chair of ACC- Southern California's Board of Directors.
Since the founding of ACC Southern California hundreds of energetic, civic-minded, and service-oriented in-house attorneys of diverse backgrounds have volunteered their time and talents to serve as Officers, members of the Board of Directors, and Committee Members for ACC Southern California. In addition, many other ACC Southern California members have served in leadership positions at the national ACC level, such as on the Board of Directors and as National Committee members. To date, ACC Southern California has over 1,700 members in Southern California, all of whom are in-house counsel.
The distinguished past Presidents of ACC Southern California (and their employers at their times of service) include the following:
1985 Oscar Glass – Burroughs Corporation
1986 Kenneth Bornholdt – Bixby Ranch Company
1987 Charles “Chuck” Axen – TICOR Title Insurance Company
1988 Timothy Conley – Nissan Motor Corporation USA
1989 Kenneth Kaufmann – First Interstate Bancorp
1990 Harriet Burns Feller – Western Financial Bank
1991 Larry Steckmest – Occidental Petroleum Corporation
1992 Eugene Erbstoesser – Ernst & Young LLP
1993 David Henri – California Federal Bank
1994-95 Daniel Hedigan – California Pacific Homes, Inc.
1996 Michael Cahill – Trust Company of the West
1997 Jess Womack – Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO)
1998 Trischa O’Hanlon – Kaiser Permanente
1999 Hayward “Dan” Fisk – Computer Sciences Corporation
2000 Robert Lindquist – Ingram Micro, Inc.
2001 Timothy Wahl – The Geneva Companies, Inc.
2002-03 Michael Dwyer – NMB Technologies Corporation
2004 Julie Pierce – Toshiba America Business Solutions, Inc.
2005 Vincent Gonzales – Sempra Energy
2006-07 Jonathan Block – Salem Communications
2008 Zachary Zaharek - The First American Corporation
2009 Renée D. Benjamin - CalPortland Company
2010 Bernard A.Gaffaney - Cisco Consumer Products LLC
2012 Teigue Thomas - ACER/Gateway
2013 Manisha Merchant - Union Bank N.A.
2014 Peter Ching - Tealium
2015 Melanie Sims Frank - Panavision Inc.
The countless hours of hard work and selfless devotion of these and hundreds of other volunteer leaders have contributed to both ACC and ACC Southern California evolving into, in the words of one ACC Southern California member who is the General Counsel of a Fortune 100 company, "the best professional association choice that any in-house counsel could ever make." With the continuing efforts of in-house attorneys of similar character, leadership, and vision as those who came before them, ACC and ACC Southern California will continue to grow to better serve our profession, our companies, and our communities, and to be the best professional association available to all in-house counsel.
In nine out of the last fourteen years (1996, 1999, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013 and 2015), ACC Southern California was recognized by ACC as the “Outstanding Large Chapter of the Year” due to its exemplary leadership, outstanding programs, and great service to its members.
ACC Southern California welcomes involvement from in-house counsel who want to make a positive difference in the way we work.