Login to MyACC
ACC Members

Not a Member?

The Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) is the world's largest organization serving the professional and business interests of attorneys who practice in the legal departments of corporations, associations, nonprofits and other private-sector organizations around the globe.

Join ACC

Highlights from the #ACCAM20 Virtual Meeting, including recaps of keynote speakers and popular sessions.

Registered for the meeting? Login and view these sessions and more in the Replay Café! As a registered attendee, you'll have access to the ACC Virtual Annual Meeting platform until Jan. 31.  


In this follow-up Q&A from the AM Session, "Navigating Through a Crisis - How to Overcome Challenging Situations," the panelists answer attendees' questions and offer real-life examples. 

From the AM20 Keynote Presentations

Keynote: Agility, Courage, Fortitude: The New Leadership Standard

Session leaders Michelle Nettles, chief people & culture officer at ManpowerGroup; Friso van der Oord, senior VP, Content at NACD; and the Hon. Cari Dominguez, Chair, US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (Ret.) and Corporate Director at ManpowerGroup, presented at AM20 on what it takes to be a leader in today's challenging and constantly changing world. 

Key Takeaways: 

1. Speed, complexity, and responsibility are increasing on boards. Boards must adapt quickly to change in order to survive, but they also need to create and sustain shareholder and stakeholder value. Board workloads during the current crisis have doubled, and boards are now communicating more often. Traditional risk management has become too narrow, as demonstrated by the current crisis; and boards and GCs need to think more broadly about the risks that can topple an organization (for example, government action and climate change).

2. DEI and ESG are now front and center. Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), as well as issues of environmental, social, governance (ESG) are elevated today. As one panelist mentioned, businesses that present DEI as a business imperative will win out over those that do not. These issues are not going away, but are increasingly coming into mainstream consciousness. Employees, for example, can vote with their voice on social media. If management and boards are not paying attention, a “big disconnect” can occur.  

3. The CLO/GC is no longer just a lawyer. Chief legal officers and general counsel cannot “sit back” and fulfill traditional legal functions (interpret law, driving compliance, addressing risk). In today's environment, they must also take into consideration all legal nuances and be proactive. CLOs and GCs must partner across the C-suite and think not just about the shareholder, but also stakeholders, which includes communities the organization affects. These legal leaders need to become a strategic asset and ensure that their boards are continuing to learn even in the environment of constant change we find ourselves in. Words that describe a good CLO: Good judgment, effective communicator, coordinator, and engaging. 

am20 keynote monday
Speakers Michelle Nettles of ManpowerGroup; Friso van der Oord of NACD; and the Hon. Cari Dominguez, retired chair of the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.


4. Communicate, and do it frequently. Boards need to communicate both internally (directors themselves) and outwardly to stakeholders. GCs need to help boards tell a compelling narrative. Being transparent is important especially to employees. 

-Jonathan Huie 

Keynote: Leadership in Times of Crisis

How do you prepare an organization for the unexpected? During this year’s Annual Meeting, 3M General Counsel Ivan Fong gave helpful insights on how an organization can prepare for the worst.

Key Takeaways:

First, leadership is key in times of crisis, and in-house counsel should be at the forefront. Leading through a crisis should be a core competency for in-house counsel. Second, organizations should realize that “by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” While there is no uniform cookbook for crisis management, there needs to be a tailored approach, one that that is appropriate for the organization. Those plans need to identify best and worst case scenarios. And those plans, whatever they may be, must be tested.  As Ivan put it, “practice, practice, practice!”  

In his experience before 3M, and as general counsel of the US Department of Homeland Security, Ivan learned that "black swan events" are the ones that cause the most harm purely because they are so unexpected. To protect against this, leadership teams must develop and test their contingency plans to discover those factors, however small, that will affect their outcomes.

Third, leadership teams need understand the three P’s: Priorities, People, and Pivoting. Leadership teams must identify their priorities, protect their people, and pivot when necessary. Priorities need to be clearly defined and communicated to everybody in the organization a simple and quick message will suffice. As Ivan put it, “A simple message beats a complex message any day of the week." People are also just as important; organizations should take care to take care of their human capital before, during, and after any crises. This includes making sure their talent is comprised of the right people. The fable of the fox and hedgehog is illuminative here. While the fox may know many things, the hedgehog knows one BIG thing. Organizations, to be successful in crises, need to have both kinds of employees. Doing so will pay dividends  both figuratively and literally.  

3M Senior Vice President, General Counsel & Secretary Ivan Fong presents at AM20


Finally, firms should not be afraid to pivot from adverse events. They need to respond positively and productively to adverse occurrences. Ivan’s own experiences at 3M clearly demonstrate this. 3M, in response to the pandemic, needed to ramped up its respirator production. Yet 3M, prior to the pandemic, had no preexisting plan to fight respirator fraud. In response to the crisis, the company quickly marshaled 80 members of its legal team to help address issues of fraud and set up a a global hotline to facilitate in the reporting of fraudulent respirators on the market.  

To quote the great philosopher Mike Tyson, “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” Companies can lessen that pain through effective leadership, planning, prioritizing (both its strategic objectives and its people), and pivoting. 

-Jonathan Huie

Keynote: Navigating Through a Crisis - How to Overcome Challenging Situations

From global pandemics and natural disasters to racial injustices and toxic workplaces, crises have become the new normal in 2020. Judy Smith, real-life crisis management expert who inspired the hit TV show Scandal, Blank Rome LLP Partner Shawn Wright, and McDonald's Corporation Vice President, General Counsel Mahrukh Hussain discussed crisis response during their keynote on “Navigating Through a Crisis, How to Overcome Challenging Situations."

In a discussion moderated by ACC Associate Vice President of Editorial Strategy Tiffani Alexander, Judy, Shawn, and Mahrukh broke down crises into three categories: public safety, financial loss, and brand damage. They explained that the first step in any crisis preparedness is determining what type of crisis would pose the biggest threat to your company. With this assessment, the organization should then form a crisis management team or teams (depending on company size and geography) to develop a crisis management plan. With a plan in place, these experts recommend acting out simulations regularly to be prepared for the real thing. 

Shawn suggests thinking of a crisis management plan like insurance: “You should have it even if you don’t know if or when you’re going to need it.”

Diving deeper into proactive preparation for a crisis, Judy stressed the importance of building relationships with key stakeholders before tragedy strikes, noting, “When you're in a crisis, it's hard to make friends.” Similarly, legal should develop relationships with crisis professionals before their company is dealing with an emergency. Mahrukh added to this by recommending that companies actively invest in ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) factors and building a positive reputation during calm times so that they are better able to weather a crisis down the road. 

All the speakers agreed that once crisis strikes, legal has to drive the crisis communication strategy, preferably with the assistance of trusted crisis professionals. They also recommended lawyers consider the importance of keeping communications with crisis professionals privileged from the beginning.   

AM 20 Keynote Speakers
Crisis expert Judy Smith, Blank Rome LLP Partner Shawn Wright, and McDonald's Corporation VP & GC Mahrukh Hussain present “Navigating Through a Crisis, How to Overcome Challenging Situations”


Tackling the big topic of navigating social media during a crisis, Judy cautioned that it could help or hurt the company, but ultimately stressed the importance of controlling the narrative: “If you're not getting your message out, someone else is.” Be quick, accurate, and consistent. The messaging conveyed to your shareholders and employees is also critical. Mahrukh and Shawn noted these groups could be asked about the crisis by friends and family, the media, or government agencies, so it is best to prepare them. 

Looking towards the future, these experts expect crises to continue to center around natural disasters (pandemic, environment), personal injury, social justice issues, workplace culture, and data protection. 

-ACC Staff 

Keynote: Understanding Burnout and Anxiety

During this year’s Annual Meeting, Dr. Lily Brown, assistant professor of Psychology in Psychiatry and Director at the Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, presented on finding peace in a burned out world. 

According to Dr. Brown, when we think about burnout, we often think about people who are striving to succeed, those who have a hard time setting boundaries and saying no, and perhaps those who take on more to be of service to others or to support their own career goals. Studies have shown that there are gender differences when it comes to anxiety, for example, women often are at a higher risk for anxiety and burn out. 

Burnout may occur when one has too many tasks to complete and feels overwhelmed. People who struggle with burn out (lawyers are often in this group!) also often struggle with perfectionism. These two, in tandem, create a vicious cycle of procrastination, where anxiety breeds avoidance, which further reinforces the former.  

Equally important in contributing to burn out is worrying. Often people find themselves in a psychological place of constantly trying to predict when the next shoe will drop. Dr. Brown referred to these as “worry cycles.” People trapped in this vicious cycle may think that if they don’t worry, they will miss something. Lawyers typically do this. The issue is that worrying is counter productive. People worry, thinking that they are problem solving, but this is distinctly different from actual problem solving. Worrying breeds more anxiety, while problem solving actually lowers anxiety.  

Often there are predictors of increased anxiety. Take COVID for example, the following are predictors of increased anxiety: 1) social media exposure; 2) general exposure to media; 3) focusing on COVID can all increase anxiety. 

Yet there are also factors that point to lower cases of anxiety. Again, taking the COVID stressor, the following are predictors for decreased anxiety: 1) social support; 2) organizational support from their work; 3) hygiene in the organization (availability of PPE and sanitizer, for example); and 4) emotional regulation.*

Emotional regulation, which refers to the capacity to regulate one’s emotional experience in specific circumstances, is strong a predictor for lower anxiety. The following are tips to help with emotional regulation and to escape worry cycles. 

Lilly Brown Presentation
Dr. Lily Brown presents on dealing with burn out


What to Do About It?  

Understanding: understand that every emotion is composed of three components: 

  1. Cognition: things we tell ourselves about our emotional experience
  2. Behavior: behavioral urges or choices
  3. Physiology: what we experience in our bodies

Understand that these three components interrelate to one another. That is, each one has an effect on the other. For example, a person is working in a high stress environment and there’s family stress while working from home. This person may be having thoughts about not being able to handle his/her workload. He or she may then be tempted to avoid working on a particular project. More avoidance (behavior) will increase anxiety (feeling) which may have an effect on the body (physiologically). In short, the way we think about affects our behavior, which in turn affects physiology.

Redirect attention [worry cycles]: 

Focus on the present moment when feeling anxious. Consider the 4x4 breathing exercise: 1) take an inhale to the count of four; 2) hold your breath to the count of four; 3) exhale to the count of four; hold again to the count of four; repeat four times. Consider having your feet flat, hands up on lap to make yourself more open. 

Create space between urge and behavior [emotional regulation]:

Every urge (to avoid, send a nasty email, etc.) reaches a peak and eventually subsides. If we can give ourselves space and time to let the urge happen and let it ride, the urge will eventually correct itself. By taking this approach, we will make ourselves more resilient going forward and are likely to have fewer of those urges in the future.  

-Jonathan Huie

AM20 Session Highlights

ACC Value Champion Series: Creative Ways to Apply Tech Solutions in Any Legal Department

Legal departments, whatever their size, can benefit from a systemic and thoughtful approach to finding and applying technology solutions. Dana Huppert, vice president and head of Legal Operations at PineBridge Investments, and Brian Meyer, partner, co-chief operating officer and general counsel at Fir Tree Partners, gave a helpful roadmap for how legal departments can approach identify, selecting, and deploying technology resources.

It is important to identify: 1) the time drains within an organization, 2) know the costs and ROI of the firm’s current technologies and available options, 3) invest in the right resources vis a vis to strategic vision; and 4) deploy properly. 

1. Assess the Problem 

In order to figure out what, if anything, needs to change in an organization, legal departments should take time to determine low value tasks and process bottlenecks, as well as those that are ripe for automation. In Brian’s organization, for example, he was able to identify those challenges that were both administrative and time consuming, or legal operations that were both ad hoc and subjective, which meant that the firm could not adequately capture key information drivers. To diagnose this problem, companies may consider a time study, which as Dana explained is where the legal department tracks their use of time and assigns a value to the time spent. In her organization’s case, this study found low value repetitive tasks where a technological replacement was appropriate. Additionally, this data was used to prepare a business case for a legal operations person who could help develop more efficient approaches. 

Crucial questions to answer at this stage include:
•    What legal functions can we make more efficient?
•    Are our existing functions and technology adequate?

2. Identify the Resource

Once bottlenecks are identified, decisions need to be made about what exact resource is necessary. This can come in the form of internal reallocation, external hires, or a temporary consultant for certain problems. In other areas, such as e-billing, resource and financial management, and knowledge management, a technology solution may be appropriate, as in the case of Brian’s firm. At Dana’s organization, the time study served as the business case for any new technology to be selected. Often when interactive with vendors, it helps to have a solid strategy (see below). Where there is a clear strategy and requirements of a technology platform, vendors may self-select in responding to RFPs, further saving the legal department’s time. 

Critically, if a technology is appropriate, organizations should understand what are the crucial needs they have for the platform versus what they want

value champs am session
Brian Meyer of Fir Tree Partners presents a technology solution to help track outside counsel selection and spend

3. Prepare the Strategy

Firms should take care in determining their strategy and may do so analyzing current technology and their returns on investment. Ripe for change are those that are high dollar, but low return platforms. Additionally, leadership should identify the main pain points for key stakeholders and figure out what solutions and how those selected may address concerns. Dana identified and summarized those concerns, and created a pictorial chart that helped leadership understand issues and how technology could help address those. For Brian’s organization, they started with the ACC Maturity Model for the Operation of Legal Departments chart, which is a tool to asses and benchmark the maturity of legal operations They then took that maturity model, repurposed it, and determined where they were and where they wanted to go. Brian cautioned that not everything may be replaceable with technology. 

Firms should choose those options that best for their strategic vision.

Organizations should answer the following questions:

•    Where do we want to go? Determine those goals and desired outcomes.

•    How will we get there?   

4. Deploy

Implementing the strategy requires buy-in from multiple sources, including executives and stakeholders who will ultimately use the resources being deployed. It is crucial to both involve and continuously communicate with stakeholders during the roll-out process. Additionally, seamless training guides that provide information at users’ fingertips and collecting post-deployment feedback is also necessary to success. Lastly, legal departments should measure the results against KPIs to see if any modifications are necessary.  

This roadmap may be applicable to any legal department, regardless of size. Both Dana and Brian and their respective firms have realized savings by taking this approach.  

-Jonathan Huie

Hiring in the Era of COVID-19: Innovations, Onboarding, and Remote Work

While the job market is not as tight as it once was, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought its own set of challenges to hiring. Companies are now stressing work/life balance benefits and trying to provide work-from-home amenities. “There isn’t a one-size-fits all for hiring during COVID,” says Lesley Marlin, senior corporate counsel, labor and employment, Northrop Grumman. “People are looking for companies that reflect their values.”

This session devotes part of the discussion to hiring persons with autism and other neurodiverse individuals. Anthony Pacilio, vice president and global head of autism at work for JP Morgan, talks about his company’s approach to recruiting neurologically diverse talent. 

It’s important to remember that innovation, such as working remotely, does not negate existing employment laws.

Presented by 

  • Eboneé Lewis, Assistant General Counsel – Employment, Becton, Dickinson and Company (BD)
  • Lesley Marlin, Senior Corporate Counsel, Labor and Employment, Northrop Grumman Corporation
  • Anthony Pacilio, Vice President and Global Head of Autism at Work, JPMorgan Chase & Co.
  • Liz Washko, Shareholder, Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C.

-ACC Staff

Thank you for a great (Virtual) Meeting: View this special message from Team ACC!


More than 2000 In-house Counsel Joined the Virtual Meeting

#ACCAM20 was a success! Attendees can access programming and materials through Jan. 31, 2021. 

Access AM20 Programming