9 Top Trends making the ACC Annual Meeting the kickass event for in-house lawyers

On October 15-18 in Washington DC more than 4000 of the world’s top in-house counsels gather and debate on the future of law. It is a golden time for the in-house legal profession. Only last week the Financial Times branded in-house lawyers “the new pathfinders”, arguing that “the most innovative legal expertise is often close to home in organizations.”

These top 9 trends, show what lawyers at the world’s top companies are predicting as the major priorities for in-house lawyers at the conference.

1. Innovation through collaboration

Blake T Bilstad, SVP and General Counsel, of World Wrestling entertainment (WWE),  says the learning and networking opportunities at the ACC Annual meetup “are unparalleled for in-house lawyers.”

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Bilstad adds: “I find that our ACC Annual meetings provide a welcome ‘time out’ to the daily grind of an in-house practice — a chance to hit the reset button on learned behaviors over the years and to sit back and study with one’s peers as if we were back in law school, just on a more practical level.” It is a sentiment echoed by Jolene Marshall, Director of Legal at collaboration platform, Smartsheet. 

2. Swag 

Look we are all human, and getting the best free stuff is one of life’s true pleasures. For the uninitiated, MerriamWebster dictionary says: “The freebie swag, sometimes also spelled schwag, dates back to the 1960s and was used to describe promotional items. According to our files, early swag was everything from promotional records sent to radio stations to free slippers for airline passengers.”

Hundreds of these robots are available from LawGeex at the ACC Annual Meeting

Rob Falk, General Counsel, at the Human Rights Campaign Foundation says his French coffee maker picked up at an ACC Annual is now a regular part of his 5am wake up routine, calling it “the best swag from an ACC annual meeting”. There are lots of booths offering promotional items. Of note: the first 30 attendees to the ACC Law Department Management committee  lunch will get miniature bottles of Jack Daniels, to help get through the later conference sessions.

3. Washington Politics + Legal Coming together 

The conference will bring out legal lessons from the new-ish US administration. “Place is important” says Welly Tantono, Country Counsel, Hewlett-Packard in Asia Pacific.  “With the changes in the U.S political landscape, I think it’s a great chance for me to experience DC and gauge for myself the current feel of the U.S administration and the people who work in the Government.” Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta (who has served in three presidential-appointed, Senate-confirmed positions)  will provide an update on the state of the American workforce. The political theme continues with sessions including “Regulatory Turmoil During Trump’s First Year: Providing Advice When US Regulatory Change or Repeal Is Occurring, Imminent, or Uncertain”; Government Affairs and the General Counsel, and Planning for Brexit: What In-house Lawyers Should Do Now.

4. Legal technology adoption for in-house lawyers 

Don Tapscott opens the ACC Annual Meeting 2017

Don Tapscott, bestselling author of Blockchain Revolution: How the Technology Behind Bitcoin Is Changing Money, Business, and the World opens the conference, which then maintains a distinctive tech focus. Another session is entitled: What to Deploy Now: A Candid Discussion about the What, Where, When and How of Deploying Existing Technologies in your Legal Department.  This features tales of legal technology adoption from Stephanie Lambert, VP, Associate General Counsel, Staples; Ravi Kiran Mamidanna, Senior Counsel at Abbott Laboratories and Ann Marie McLaughlin, Director of Legal Knowledge and Vendor Management at Liberty Mutual Group. (For more on this theme check out The In-House Counsel’s LegalTech Buyers Guide – a free, downloadable guide that showcases technology solutions lawyers need to know).

5.  Legal Rockstars leaving legal shook up

There are several chances to hear from winners of the ACC Value Champion series, sharing scars and victories in creating landmark processes including client firm partnerships and driving legal savings.

Speakers who are winner of the top innovation accolade include Urmila Paranjpe Baumann, assistant general Counsel at Express Scripts; Brad Lundeen, senior corporate attorney at Cabela’s Inc; Jami Segota, SVP GC at Ricoh USA; Michael Tucker, General Counsel at Avis Budget Group, and Mick Sheehy, General Counsel at Telstra. Then there is chance to meet Elvis himself (below).

6. Legal management from Elvis 

In the rapidly changing profession, the ACC Law Department Management Committee (LDMC) committee is focused on management of people, workflow, information, knowledge, legal service providers.

Stephen Roth, Vice President of the committee and General Counsel at JTV, has the task of bringing Elvis. He says: “The LDMC’s slogan for this year is “Best Content. Most Fun. Elvis is there to inject extra energy into our committee meeting and lunch.  It’s also meant to give people a reason to come check us out and learn more about what the committee does.” (Please book ahead if you are attending the LDMC lunch via the registration form online); and to learn entrepreneurship from Elvis see here.

7. The rise and rise of AI

The boom in legal AI has changed the landscape of the in-house profession forever. The ACC asks a number of interesting questions in sessions: Rise of the Machines, Can Compliance and Litigation Keep Up? In another session, presenters debate: AI for Corporate Departments: What is Real Now? The questions raised include: will it eventually be considered negligent not to use AI to identify and monitor compliance risks? What are the possibilities of AI in core legal work from contract review, to litigation, prediction of jury verdicts and Ediscovery?

8.  Legal Operations and the new norm 

There is a movement towards a (more commercially-minded) Legal Operations role in businesses (26% of general counsel have legal operations functions, up from 16% in 2016). The ACC has helped lead the revolution, and the annual meeting highlights legal operations for the first time in its history. Catherine J Moynihan, ACC Associate Vice President, Legal Management Services says: “Well over 300 have signed up to come to the session for General Counsel who are considering adding a legal operations function (session titlled “How to Set Up a Best in Class Legal Ops Function”). Moynihan adds: “There is lots more to come to meet demand for training, including monthly webcasts and a toolkit on the 14 topics featured in the ACC Maturity Model for the Operations of a Legal Department.”

9. The future of the Contract 

The changing nature of contracts and technologies role in a digitized, global, and software-driven world is a major subplot. In Key Issues in Negotiating and Drafting Subscription Services Agreements, panelists will discuss best practices and recent trends in Software as a Service (SaaS) contracts, including practical advice on key clauses and terms found in these perennial software contracts.  Then, the wry master contract drafter Ken Adams, author of a deceptively brilliant blog about modern contracting, provides a masterclass on clear and efficient drafting.

In an interactive game-show format, the ACC International Legal Affairs Committee, will talk contracts in Deal or No Deal: Negotiating and Drafting International Contracts.

To check out AI contract review platform LawGeex and find out how businesses can quickly answer the question “Can I sign this?” come visit the booth near the entrance (you may also get a free robot).

Jonathan Marciano, Communications Director at LawGeex, is  originally from London. He is  currently in Tel Aviv, helping to bring about the legal revolution. Follow him on Twitter. @J_Marciano