I’m not going to opine about who was wrong or right in the conflagration between the Canadian Bar Association and the former board and executive director of the Canadian Corporate Counsel Association, the topic of this month’s cover story, “Fighting for independence.” All I can say is that it has not been pretty, but at the end of the day, here’s hoping that corporate counsel end up benefiting from it.
The number and importance of corporate and in-house counsel has been steadily increasing in Canada over the past decade. Whereas their numbers have been increasing rapidly, services for them through professional associations have not really kept pace. The Canadian Corporate Counsel Association has been around for some time and in the last few years has increased its offerings to members in the form of both continuing legal education and conferences. For many years it was the only game in town, however, the U.S.-based Association of Corporate Counsel has stepped up its efforts to recruit Canadian in-house lawyers and within the past few years has launched chapters in Ontario and Quebec with a recent announcement that it’ll be pushing for a few more. Law firms, partially in their own interests, have also started offering CLE programs (usually for free) to both current and potential clients. The professional development front is covered.
What there isn’t much of is other types of offerings, such as research, networking, etc. There is the annual CCCA Barometer Survey and the occasional salary survey, but beyond that, not much. Look at what the ACC does. It started the whole value-billing campaign, and it conducts all manner of research and other outreach. Another U.S. group, The Minority Corporate Counsel Association, does a tremendous amount of research, it works with law schools, with in-house legal departments, and with law firms to push innovation, diversity, inclusion, and more. They are very active and focused on the needs of corporate counsel.
The CCCA has the chance for a new lease on life but it needs to get better at what it does. It needs to offer more and do things differently in order to meet the needs of the burgeoning number of in-house lawyers in Canada. Already under its new leadership, the CCCA has been given more funds by the CBA, but with so many in-house lawyers at odds with recent events, there’s a good chance a new association will pop up and, already, the ACC has made it clear it’s out to get even more Canadian members. It would seem, then, that no matter what, all this competition can only be good news in terms of services for in-house counsel.