ACC goes all out in Canada expansion

The Association of Corporate Counsel is preparing an aggressive expansion into Canada.

The ACC plans to open a permanent office in Canada and add chapters in Alberta and British Columbia to supplement its existing ones in Ontario and Quebec, says a letter sent to its members.

The ACC also sent another letter to 4,200 non-member Canadian in-house counsel, urging them to join the organization. “We appreciate in-house counsel these days can belong to multiple industry groups, and we believe ACC should be top of that list,” says the letter, signed by some of Canada’s top general counsel.

In signing the letter, ACC board members David Allgood of the Royal Bank of Canada and Martine Turcotte of Bell Canada are joined by 20 other senior chief legal officers or general counsel representing companies in Halifax, Ottawa, Montreal, Regina, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton, and Vancouver. These include people like Daniel Desjardins of Bombardier Inc. and Simon Fish of the Bank of Montreal.

ACC logoThe letter promises ACC will provide expanding Canadian services, professional development programs designed by Canadian in-house counsel, and more Canadian advocacy initiatives. It also offers the invited in-house counsel trial access to members-only services on the ACC web site.

The ACC drive comes in the aftermath of the conflict between the Canadian Bar Association and its in-house counsel subgroup, the Canadian Corporate Counsel Association, which has had the dominant market position in Canada and for years provided many of the Canada-wide services the ACC is now trying to expand on. And the ACC appears be going after CCCA members. Though it won’t specify who the 4,200 in-house counsel are who received the invitation, that is roughly the same number of in-house counsel members of the CCCA.

Based in Washington, D.C., and with a global, but primarily American, membership, the ACC is a more recent arrival to Canada than the homegrown CCCA. The ACC has nonetheless had members here since 1987. By 1999, there were more than 60 members in Canada, and now that number is more than 800, according to ACC’s head office.

It differs from the CCCA in that the membership price, at $250 per year, is less than half of that of the CBA-CCCA’s roughly $650, but it has not had the geographic reach provided by the CBA-CCCA. And unlike the CCCA, which accepts law firm lawyers and government counsel, the ACC is open for in-house counsel membership only.

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