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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.

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Justin & Mei

Justin Coss reflects on his term as President and an introduction from incoming President, Mei Ramsay

Following my retirement in February as ACC Australia National President for 2 years and Vice President for 2 years prior to that, I have had occasion to pause and reflect on my time as an office bearer for our great association and what ACC means to me.

Returning to Australia from a 9 year stint working on London, my wife and I and our then baby girl, settled in Sydney in early 2006. As we both grew up in Brisbane, we had few friends in Sydney and our local professional networks were pretty flimsy at best. Leaving private practice in late 2007 and finding my first Australian based in-house role, it was not long before I discovered ACC, or rather ACC discovered me, and I soon found myself in 2009 on the New South Wales ACC Executive Committee and regularly attending ACC events.

I became NSW Vice President in 2012, followed by NSW president in 2014 and joined the National Board where I am now chalking up my 8th year as a Director, with 2 more to go as Immediate Past National President.

So after 13 years of involvement with ACC and most of those years spent as an office bearer of some kind, what have I learned? Well, in short many things but in particular, I can probably summarise my take outs as falling with one of the following four categories.

Outstanding Networking

ACC has broadened my professional and personal network more than I could have guessed when I joined back in 2009. From attending simple CPD events here in Sydney to the State in-house counsel days across the country, to National Conferences held in Sydney, Melbourne, Hobart, Brisbane, Adelaide, Coolum and Alice Springs and finally to the Global conferences held in Washington and Austin, Texas, ACC has literally taken me all over Australia and the world! It has also not only introduced me to individuals who I would easily describe as lifelong friends but it has resulted in professional connections that have directly assisted me to secure the last two roles I have held as GC of significant publicly listed entitles.

Offering High Quality Professional Development

As our programs are tailored by in-house counsel for in-house counsel, (as our tag line says), the content of ACC seminars provided to our members is focused on what we need as in-house lawyers to better service our internal customers. 

A sense of Belonging and Purpose

I firmly believe that people deliver their best if they have a sense of belonging or purpose. Whilst sometimes being a sole in-house lawyer or a lawyer in a small team, belonging and purpose can be challenging, being part of something bigger and giving back to the profession through ACC is enormously satisfying and I think has helped me to have that overriding sense of purpose and enthusiasm in life.

Developing New Non-Legal Skills

Many in-house lawyers struggle to develop and hone non-legal skills including leadership, public speaking, developing and executing commercial strategy, understanding and interpreting financial statements and the list goes on. Whilst my various workplaces have taught me some of these skills to a point, my time with ACC and in particular my role on the board of ACC have forced me to develop these commercial skills and they in turn have helped me in the workplace and beyond.

In summary, then, I’m enormously grateful for the opportunities that ACC Australia has afforded me and I would like to think that in return, I have contributed to make ACC and the in-house profession just a little bit better.

The baton has now been passed to our new leadership team in Mei Ramsay as National President and Teresa Cleary as Vice President. Having worked on the Board with both Mei and Teresa for a number of years, and in particular having received such amazing support from both Mei and Teresa during my Presidency, I know that the Association is in excellent hands. 

Having recently developed ACC Australia’s 3 year strategic plan, I will hand over to Mei to tell you a little bit about the Board’s goals for this period and how we intend to get there.

Incoming President - Mei Ramsay

As incoming President for ACC Australia, I want to acknowledge the immense contribution and leadership provided by Justin Coss to ACC not only as President of the Association for the last two years, but also for the many years of involvement in the lead up to his tenure as President.  Justin has worked tirelessly in many and varied roles to represent our member’s interest, but particularly over the last two years which have been riddled with uncertainty and ever changing demands due to the pandemic.  Justin has led the Board and the organisation through these rapidly changing times with wisdom, foresight and a good deal of hard work. I am very pleased to advise that Justin will be staying on the ACC Australia Board in his capacity as Immediate Past President, so we will continue to have the benefit of his wealth of knowledge and experience.

With the passing of the baton by Justin, I now have the opportunity to work with our new Vice-President, Teresa Cleary. I congratulate Teresa on her appointment and know that the Board and our Association will be very ably supported by Teresa in this role, and I am looking forward to working with Teresa over the next two years.

My thanks also goes to all the members of the ACC Australia Board for their contribution both as Directors and key members of their respective State Committees. All our Directors and the members of the State Committees volunteer their time to help create our leading in-house program and wonderful networking opportunities for our members, as well as support the advocacy work and many other programs that ACC Australia runs. 

I would also like to extend my heartfelt thanks to Ingrid Segota, Executive Director Australia  , and the whole ACC Australia management team. Our extremely hard working management team hosted about   100 events in the last 12 months, seamlessly pivoting from face to face, to virtual, to hybrid and back to face to face in the ever changing environment we find ourselves in. Without this dedicated team, everything that ACC Australia does for its members would not be possible.  I have great confidence that the team will continue to provide an excellent program of events for all members in the coming year.

As Justin mentioned, one of his last tasks as President was to oversee the formulation of our new 3-year strategy. The strategy articulates the five key priorities that will see our Association go from strength to strength. 

  1. Grow our membership – we exist for our members and growing our membership base is critical to our success as an organisation - the more we grow, the more quality services, events and experiences we can provide to our members. 

  2. Deliver the leading Learning & Development program tailored for in-house counsel – we are an organisation of in-house counsel, and we know best what we want and need when it comes to learning and development. Continuing to deliver a leading L&D program is one of the key offerings we can provide as an organisation to our members.  

  3. Advocate for and amplify the voice of in-house counsel – we are the peak body for in-house counsel in Australia and, as such, it is incumbent on us to ensure we represent and advocate for the views of in-house counsel in all relevant communities. The more we can raise the profile of in-house counsel and the issues that are important to our members, the better off our profession will be. 

  4. Strengthen connections across local, national and global communities – now more than ever being connected is vital to the success of our members, both professionally and personally. ACC Australia is uniquely placed to provide a community for our members to create new connections, both locally and globally, as well as strengthen existing connections. 

  5. Build a resilient, responsive & financially secure organisation – it goes without saying that resilience, both from an operational and financial perspective, is a key area of focus for the ACC Board and management. In addition to continuing to build a resilient organisation, we are also focused on ensuring that we build a responsive organisation, one that is quick to adapt to changing circumstances and the external environment. If there is one thing that we have learnt from the pandemic, it is that being a responsive organisation is a key factor to being a resilient one. 

On behalf of the Board, we are very much looking forward to working with the management team to implement our strategy over the coming years and see our organisation continue to grow and provide leading services to our members.  

Finally, thank you to you, our members, for your support, participation and making ACC Australia what it is today. I am looking forward to a busy, productive and fun 2022, and to meeting as many of you as possible at one of our upcoming events.