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Lawyers Journal

Practice group for in-house counsel gears up with new programs, events

It may have taken a while to get revved up, but the newly invigorated In-House Corporate Counsel Practice Group is sparing little time in reaching out to attorneys who work directly for private companies and public agencies.

Under the direction of Chairman Claude Lancome, the In-House Corporate Counsel practice group is underway. Following an initial meeting in November where more than 10 in-house counsel - including one who phoned in from California - joined, the practice group is taking on new direction as it gears programs and services to attorneys whose needs are far different than their counterparts who work in their own practices or for firms.

"It's going to be an active group with a good mix of professionals with various degrees of seniority and a good mix of different industries across the public and private sector," said Lancome, executive vice president of Coast And Harbor Associates, Inc., a Lynnfield firm specializing in construction management services. "We are going to focus on issues of particular interest to in-house counsel as opposed to general ones for lawyers."

MBA President Joseph P.J. Vrabel, who is the first in-house counsel to become MBA president, also attended the meeting, along with MBA Executive Director Abigail Shaine.

Recognizing a need to offer more services for in-house counsel, Vrabel said he is making the practice group a higher priority than it has been in years past.

Vrabel wasn't aware of the unique issues in-house counsel face until last year, when he became general counsel and managing partner at Capital Risk Management Inc., a Framingham firm.

Rather than focusing solely on one practice of law, in-house counsel balance a variety of issues - from human-resources issues to service contracts.

"The differences never struck me until I became in-house counsel after 25 years of private practice," Vrabel said. "By developing more programs specifically geared to their needs, I think we can give a huge benefit to our members who have that sort of approach."

Lancome said the practice group had a variety of interesting speakers in the past two years that he has chaired the committee. However, he said, the practice group is taking on a stronger focus this year.

Attorneys who attended last month's meeting immediately had several ideas on programs they would like to see the MBA offer. Those ideas may culminate into an in-house counsel forum on a wide variety of topics.

Included among the issues mentioned are:

•  When companies or agencies should hire outside counsel, and how to manage outside counsel once they are hired;

•  New issues related to corporate governance;

•  When attorney work products become public records for in-house counsel employed by public agencies; and

•  Ethical questions and demands that arise for in-house counsel who work for both a board of directors and a chief executive officer.

Other attorneys also said they would like more opportunities to talk with other in-house counsel, because they can become insulated in their own companies or agencies. It will be helpful having a group of people to turn to when an attorney is faced with a new legal issue, they said.

©2014 Massachusetts Bar Association