Don't shoot the messenger

Issue November 2012 By Christina P. O’Neill

Best practices of in-house counsel theme of upcoming conference

The role of in-house counsel is not an easy one. Just ask James C. Donnelly Jr., co-chair of the MBA's 10th annual In-House Counsel Conference. The person in that role must not only give management cutting-edge thinking about a broad range of topics - "sometimes they have to give management messages that management is not going to be happy to receive," he said.

The conference, he says, "frankly addresses the challenge of being the legal watchdog at the same time that you are a corporate officer. And then it gives [attendees] the opportunity to interact with other in-house counsel."

The half-day conference takes place Friday, Nov. 30, from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at MBA headquarters at 20 West St., Boston.

Lauren Stiller Rikleen's opening remarks will focus on practical tips for managing a multi-generational workforce and the clients they serve. The Millennial generation and the generations that predate them have differing approaches to the workplace. They communicate differently and have different expectationshe with regard to work-life and other key workplace issues, including the use of technology and social media. Lauren will address what the workplace - and Millennials - can do to strengthen intergenerational teams.

This year's best practices theme presents in-house counsel with information from in-house practitioners, outside counsel and experts in selected areas of current interest to in-house counsel. Co-chairs include Donnelly, Peter D. McDermott of Banner & Witcoff, Ltd; Robert J. Kerwin of Tarlow, Breed, Hart & Rogers P.C.; and David A. Parke of Bulkley, Richardson and Gelinas LLP.

"In the past, this program has received excellent reviews, and we are hoping again to present a conference that participants will find rewarding," said Parke, noting the variety of topics to be presented, such as cybersecurity issues, insurance planning, and developments in the areas of patent law and internal investigations. "We are fortunate to have presentations by judges from the Superior Court Business Litigation Session, and to have Lauren Stiller Rikleen open our conference with remarks concerning multigenerational relationships in the workforce. Those who arrive early will be treated to breakfast and some remarks by John Weinfurter, of the consulting firm of Witt Associates, regarding what in-house counsel can expect from the recent elections."

Also on the agenda is an update from the Business Litigation Session of the Superior Court Department regarding the BLS Pilot Project. Donnelly calls it "an underutilized tool," which offers the advantages of expediting and simplifying litigation in ways that people associate with out-of-court arbitration, while keeping it within the court system, retaining rights to appeal novel issues of law, he says.

A segment on Traps for the Unwary focuses on Independent Investigations. Judges have recently been setting higher standards of proof of impartiality. While in-house counsel may be tempted to take investigative matters into their own hands, "their decisions are suspect because they are part of the organization."

Two intellectual property segments include a preview of the first-to-file patent system to be implemented in March 2013, and another segment on patent validity challenges by a licensee. The conference will also address insurance planning, particularly targeting gaps in insurance coverage.

The conference will again have brief "lightning round" presentations of five minutes per presenter, concerning current developments of interest to in-house counsel.

"My fellow organizers and I are looking forward to another successful conference," co-chair Parke said.