On December 1, 1981, Robert S. Banks, then general counsel of Xerox Corporation, hosted a luncheon that would change the legal profession. Conversation ranged from the changing role of general counsel to whether resources available from national, state, and local bar associations were adequate for in-house counsel. Those in attendance agreed that while there were considerable resources for lawyers practicing in firms and working in government, there were not enough resources for in-house counsel.
In addition, in-house counsel had very few networking opportunities. Although several American Bar Association committees attempted to address some corporate practice issues, they were neither for nor made up of in-house lawyers. No organization really represented the specific interests of in-house counsel.
Gray Castle, former general counsel of Xerox, Cigna, and the Mutual Life Insurance Company of New York, as well as a past partner in major law firms, remembers, "[We needed] a national organization, especially one that would help raise the sights of in-house counsel and provide a unified voice for our profession. It was not until the 1981–1982 meetings, however, that things really got rolling."
A second meeting in 1982 attracted more than 50 in-house counsel, who discussed the nascent organization in further detail. Most of those present pledged to enroll their entire legal department, at least for the first few years, so that the fledgling group would have a sustainable membership base.
On March 11, 1982, the American Corporate Counsel Association (ACCA) was officially born with a meeting at Amfac Hotel and Resort in Dallas, TX. The first official Board of Directors — ACCA's founding fathers — included:
A quick tally showed membership at 2,400 in-house counsel. The members chose Washington, DC, for headquarters, drew up the bylaws and charter, and began the search for an executive director. More importantly, they hammered out details about how best to serve new members' needs, with education, networking, and effective representation of in-house counsel at the top of the list.
Those services continue to anchor ACC's mission today. As the association has grown, so has the scope of our work, interests, and outreach. In 2003, ACCA became ACC, the Association of Corporate Counsel, reflecting our increasingly global interests and the needs of our ever-growing membership.