MBA to present 14th Annual In-House Counsel Conference

Issue November/December 2016 By David A. Parke

The Massachusetts Bar Association will be holding its 14 Annual In-House Counsel Conference on Thursday, December 1, 2016. The conference will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., at the Westin Waltham Boston, 70 3rd Avenue, Waltham. As with prior conferences, this year's conference will feature several high-level speakers on topics critical to in-house counsel.

The theme for the 2016 conference is "What Keeps Counsel Up at Night." This year's theme recognizes that in-house counsel must be accountable for various legal, risk management and compliance functions in an ever-changing, and in some ways more dangerous, environment. There are new threats to companies, and potential solutions can be complicated. Counsel to an organization must stay ahead of new risks, new laws and regulations, and areas where compliance systems are needed. To be effective, in-house counsel needs access to multiple resources.

The keynote address for the conference will be delivered by Lon Povich, chief legal counsel in the Office of the Governor of Massachusetts. We expect Mr. Povich will give us his insights on counseling from the inside in private and public organizations.

Conference attendees will also hear reflections on the recent elections presented by John Weinfurter of Capstone Consulting.

In-house counsel must guide companies in a changing regulatory environment. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the government is not allowing companies, large or small, to get away with civil or criminal wrongdoing. The conference will feature an expert panel, moderated by Conference Co-Chair Christopher Collins of Mirick, O'Connell, DeMallie & Lougee LLP, that will discuss the increasing compliance burdens, responsibilities and legal exposure placed on American business, with an emphasis on just how serious law enforcement has become to hold companies and individuals accountable for violations of the law. The panel, which will include Karen Bell, assistant U.S. attorney; Edward Seksay, general counsel, Rockland Trust; and Kenneth Pickering, Mirick, O'Connell, DeMallie & Lougee LLP, will cover the need for creating and maintaining a compliant corporate culture. Challenges of internal investigations will be discussed, along with best practices on the sharing of case management responsibilities between in-house and outside counsel. Finally, the panel will discuss some of the unique challenges of the attorney-client privilege in the corporate setting.

Another area of concern relates to increasing threats to data and information systems. Conference Co-Chair Robert Kerwin will moderate a panel discussion regarding current cybersecurity threats. The panel will address best practices for data security and management of cybersecurity risk in today's environment. The panel will include Daniel M. Lorenzo, assistant general counsel, Chase Global Financial Crimes; and Jason Avila, IT manager, Mortgage Master.

There have been several recent developments that affect an organization's HR functions. The conference will also feature a discussion of the hottest employment law issues and developments, including (1) the newly enacted Pay Equity Act and steps that can be taken now to mitigate the risk and liability associated with pay equity claims; (2) transgender rights in the workplace, including complaints raised by co-workers related to choice of restroom facilities; (3) the now effective salary threshold under the Department of Labor's Final Rule related to white collar exemptions under the FLSA and steps to ensure that companies do not run afoul of FLSA overtime pay requirements; and (4) handling difficult FMLA and ADA accommodation requests. Bart Metzger, who is the Chief Human Resources Officer for UMass Memorial Medical Center, Sunila Thomas-George, who is the longest-standing Commissioner for the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, and Robert Kilroy of Mirick, O'Connell, DeMallie & Lougee LLP will share their thoughts on these topics and other employment topics of interest.

As in recent years, the conference will include one or more brief "lightning round" presentations designed to give a quick report on legal developments that are significant to in-house counsel. Attendees will hear a presentation regarding the recently enacted Federal Defense of Trade Secrets Act by Conference Co-Chair James Donnelly of Mirick, O'Connell, DeMallie & Lougee LLP.

This year's full agenda promises to continue a tradition of providing, in a half-day conference, a wealth of valuable information that is responsive to in-house counsel's needs. A networking luncheon will follow the conference. With a robust schedule of topics and speakers, we will plan to start the conference promptly at 9 a.m. More details regarding this year's conference agenda, and registration information, can be found at the MBA's website, www.massbar.org.

David A. Parke is a partner with Bulkley, Richardson and Gelinas LLP of Springfield, and is a co-Chair of the MBA In-House Counsel Conference.

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