The new chairman of the Canadian Corporate Counsel Association says he is looking ahead to a year that will see the organization move on from the controversy of early 2011 to provide improved services to in-house counsel across the country.
“All of us are looking forward,” Geoffrey Creighton told Legal Feeds. “We had an interim executive and a number of us have stayed on from the former board and are taking office now.”
Earlier this year the Canadian Bar Association fired the entire CCCA volunteer board and replaced it with an interim one following a debate about funding and independence of the association.
Creighton says there are several members of the new executive who have come from the former board. The most notable is Fred Headon, senior counsel at Air Canada in Montreal. He was elected second vice president of CBA in April (the first in-house counsel to be elected to the position and who will be the first in-house president of the CBA in 2013), as well as Antoinette Bozac, vice president, human resources and general counsel with Canada Lands Co., in Toronto.
“They are continuing with the executive and bring some fresh thinking and input from branch chapters,” says Creighton. “One of the things I’ve learned as a lawyer is that people don’t come to fuss about what happened in the past; they want to know how you’re going to make the best of it and go forward.”
Creighton takes over the role of chairman for 2011-2012 from Nova Scotia’s Robert Patzelt. The new CCCA vice chairman is Calgary’s Grant Borbridge, executive vice president of investments and chief counsel of Emergo Group of Companies.
Creighton is senior vice president, general counsel, secretary, and chief compliance officer at IGM Financial Inc. in Toronto. He is responsible for overseeing the legal, compliance, and corporate secretarial functions of Mackenzie Financial, Investors Group, and Investment Planning Counsel. Prior to joining IGM in 2008, Creighton was a senior corporate partner with Torys LLP. He is a graduate of the University of Western Ontario (BA) and the University of Toronto (LLB).
He has been a member of the CCCA since its inception in 1988. Most recently, he has served as vice chairman of CCCA. He has also served as chairman of the National CBA Membership Committee; as CCCA representative on the Finance Committee of the CBA; participated in various regulatory submissions, including the CBA Business Law Section response to proposed insider trading amendments; and, most recently, the joint CCCA/CBA submission to the SEC on implementation of the Dodd-Frank Legislation in the United States.
He has been active on committees of the Ontario Bar Association and for 20 years was Ontario editor of the Canadian Bar Review.
“This is an exciting time for CCCA as we embark on new initiatives and expand our advocacy for in-house counsel,” says Creighton. “I am delighted to take up the position of chairman in what is clearly a time of growth of the in-house counsel bar across the profession.”
Creighton said the CCCA attendance at its conference in Halifax earlier this month was “in line” with the CBA attendance. “Overall, attendance was down because of the economy but it was respectable,” says Creighton. “We’ve had growing membership in the last year and it outpaces the rate of CBA generally.”
As of the end of May, CCCA membership was just over 10,600 (about half or more of which are not private practice laweyrs). “That’s been growing even in a down economy and on a steady upward trend since February,” he says.
While membership in the U.S-based Association of Corporate Counsel is also growing in Canada, Creighton says he does not see it as a significant threat to the CCCA.
“There are a lot of organizations that compete for membership dollars and volunteer hours, but we can say the CCCA is across Canada and serves the in-house bar as well as leveraging the strength of the 37,000 members of CBA. We can leverage off the chapter events they do,” he says. “I don’t think any organization can fixate on another as the issue to be dealt with. You stick to what you do and make sure people understand what you have to offer and that it’s what they need.”
Creighton says the goal of the executive is to focus more closely on what CCCA members want and deliver education sessions that are tailored to fit what is wanted in each region of the country.
“Membership flows from what you give people. In the survey we did people told us they don’t typically join the CCCA only for the CCCA — they join it because they get the CBA and everything it offers as well. It really comes down to a degree of communication about services. We’re revamping the executive committee to make sure there is a representative and members at large to represent the profession more broadly,” he says. “The notion is to enhance direct contact and onsite delivery and listen to what people want across the country.”
The survey also showed that while members value in-person meetings and networking, they also like the ease of desktop delivery of information education.
“The CBA has been quite successful in doing that and we’re looking at that,” he says.CCCA moves beyond controversy