Rachel Okolski currently serves as assistant general counsel and manager of legal resources at the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) in Washington, DC. Her responsibilities include providing legal counsel to the organization, as well as managing the development of ACC’s legal resources and educational programs on topics related to compliance & ethics, corporate & securities law, and financial services.
ACC’s first ever all-compliance conference — Protecting Your Company: Training Your Employees to Comply with the Law — was held on May 1-2 in New Orleans. Member feedback deemed the event a huge success, and as a result, I have no doubt that it will join Corporate Counsel University and the ACC Annual Meeting as a regular ACC conference. As an attendee, this is what made the event feel unique to me.
My favorite aspect of the conference was that it debunked the common misconception that compliance is boring. Interactive sessions provided a fresh approach to topics that are usually addressed by panels of talking heads. The event was engaging and even got attendees involved in the teaching process.
Compliance should not be a hard sell in any organization, but as people in the room began to speak up, we came to find out that it all too often is. The session, “How Do I Convince My CEO that We Need a Robust and Effective Compliance Program?” sparked an extensive back-and-forth Q&A, during which members attempted to demystify the challenge. The message was clear: If compliance isn’t a part of your role, start educating yourself because it might be soon. Recent changes to the regulatory landscape, such as the Dodd-Frank Act and ongoing FCPA enforcement initiatives, are making compliance part of everyone’s job, to some extent.
During the workshop session “Structuring Your Compliance Program,” panelists posed hypotheticals to small groups and challenged team representatives to defend their conclusions. It gave attendees a taste of what it might be like to testify at a politically charged Congressional hearing, be asked loaded questions at a press conference or report unfortunate findings to an audit committee. A number of members in the room had real-life experience dealing with situations like this, and each team representative handled it like a pro. Hearing their war stories helped further bring the scenarios to life, and provided even more tips and tactics for managing compliance issues.
The environment was friendly and fun, yet professional, and it seemed that most attendees left having built new relationships, which will form the foundation of their compliance support network going forward. Given everything we learned about the compliance challenges we face as in-house counsel — perhaps even unknowingly, and often as one of few lawyers at our organizations — we’re going to need the support.
In addition to what we covered in the sessions, program materials contained a number of highly practical takeaway checklists, outlines and more. We took them home and can now apply them to building the compliance program we learned to structure, implement and carry out during our time in New Orleans.
Speaking of New Orleans and favorite things about the conference: Being in the Big Easy right in the middle of Jazz Fest was a great highlight. Most everyone seemed to agree. Who dat?
Didn’t get to attend Protecting Your Company: Training Your Employees to Comply with the Law? The practical materials will be available for purchase soon and will provide a discount on 2013 program registration. Please email email@example.com for more information.