While COVID has put the kibosh on most in-person gatherings this year, it hasn’t kept the Colorado chapter of the Association for Corporate Counsel from connecting members of Denver’s in-house legal community.
According to Jessica Borchers, chair of ACC Colorado’s programs committee, the chapter initially “hit pause” on its scheduled events when the pandemic arrived in the spring. “But, obviously, we all saw that this is not going away anytime soon,” Borchers said. “So ACC really looked at how we can continue to provide value to our members, even though we’re in this virtual-only environment.”
“And we’ve been really thrilled and privileged to see our sponsors stick with us through this and nimbly transition their programming to virtual as well,” she added. The chapter’s platinum sponsors are Armstrong Teasdale, Holland & Hart, Kilpatrick Townsend, Merchant & Gould, Perkins Coie and Shook Hardy & Bacon.
Starting in the spring, the organization held a series of webinars on COVID-related issues, then transitioned to webinars on employment law, intellectual property and other topics. In October, ACC Colorado held its annual In-House Counsel Forum. The event is usually a half-day seminar followed by networking, but this year’s virtual seminar took place over two afternoons.
On Dec. 2 and 3, the chapter will hold its 14th Annual Ethics Day. The virtual event is free for ACC members and will allow attendees to earn up to seven CLE ethics credits. This year’s program covers topics such as the ethical challenges of contracts and client-drafted engagement letters, whistleblowers, mediation and immigration issues.
ACC Colorado has also held social evenACC Colorado has also held social events, such as virtual happy hours, throughout the pandemic. Borchers said some of the most popular events have involved sending participants items in advance, including wine and craft whiskey, then gathering online for interactive tastings. According to Borchers, one virtual whiskey event in October was so popular that sponsor Shook, Hardy & Bacon decided to throw a second one in November.
On Dec. 8, ACC Colorado will be holding a “Painting with a Twist” event sponsored by Holland & Hart. Prior to the event, which has already sold out, attendees will receive a canvas and paints so they can create a masterpiece while chatting with colleagues over Zoom. Attendance at the online social events has been capped to make conversation easier.
The chapter has also hosted a virtual book club, where group members have read titles such as “The Leadership Pipeline” and “Let My People Go Surfing.” “It’s about reading something that’s more on the professional or personal development side of things that can help you be more well-rounded as a lawyer to help with the business side of our jobs as in-house counsel,” Borchers said.
Networking with other in-house attorneys offers insight into how other legal departments operate, according to Borchers. “I think there’s so much value in comparing and contrasting notes with your colleagues who are at other companies and work in other industries and have different types of legal departments from you,” she said.
“For me, personally, being at a large department, we do things a certain way. But I’ve learned so much from talking with my colleagues who are a solo GC or in a smaller department,” said Borchers, who works for Lumen Technologies.
“I think there’s a lot that can be learned there that gives you perspective on your own job.”
ACC Colorado also helps to connect in-house attorneys with new career opportunities. “Especially in this environment, where there have been challenges,” Borchers said, “it’s important for people to keep up those personal networks.”
Despite the pandemic, now is a good time to get more involved with ACC Colorado, according to Borchers, because almost all of the chapter’s virtual events are free to members, whereas similar in-person events typically came with a charge. “You can come get CLE content for free and come to networking events without a cover charge,” Borchers said. “So there’s a real opportunity there.”
Going into 2021, the chapter plans to offer more virtual programming during the first half of the year, Borchers said, with the goal of switching to in-person events in the second half. Events in the works for next year include a multi-part series on labor and employment law as well as a webinar on Colorado’s new Equal Pay for Equal Work Act, Borchers added, as well as a possible financial course for lawyers that would be held in partnership with the University of Denver.