Certification program aims to bulk up in-houses’ business skills

The Canadian Corporate Counsel Association and the Rotman School of Management are teaming up to launch a certification program for Canadian in-house counsel that will in many ways mirrors an executive MBA.

At it’s annual Spring Conference held in Toronto this week the CCCA announced the Certified In-House Counsel Canada program — referred to as a “business leadership program for in-house counsel.”

The CCCA has worked with the Rotman for the last year to develop the program, which is geared to new to mid-level in-house lawyers who ultimately want to become general counsel or a member of the executive team of a company. It is also being positioned as a program for those who are the only legal officers in their companies and want to grow their management/leadership skills and in-house lawyers who are specialists in large legal departments who want broader skills.

While in-house lawyers will be given first consideration, lawyers currently employed in law firms can also apply to the program, but all graduates must have three years of in-house experience to qualify for the designation.

“When we first started looking at this two years ago, we realized that while law school and continuing education programs do a fantastic job of teaching lawyers substantive law, what it doesn’t do is prepare you to be an in-house counsel,” said Grant Borbridge, chairman of the CCCA.

Often lawyers who go in-house have been working as associates directed by law firm partners and suddenly they find themselves in environments completely different from the law firm ecosystem.

“They may be surrounded suddenly by accountants, engineers, and finance people and law school doesn’t teach someone to be a business person and it doesn’t provide the necessary leadership skills,” he told Legal Feeds. “This is intended to fill that gap in learning.”

The CIC.C program is modeled after Rotman’s Institute of Corporate Director program. Borbridge said senior general counsel who are members of the CCCA’s Leader’s Forum reviewed the outline of the program and compared it to taking an executive MBA.

Successful completion of all three phases of the program will give graduates the designation of CIC.C.

Phase 1 of the curriculum:
  • Module 1: Understanding and navigating the organizational dynamics (in-person component)
  • Module 2: Practical/business application (online component)
  • Module 3: Developing as a manager (in-person component)

Phase 2: (Prerequisite is three years in-house counsel experience)
  • Module 4: The effective general counsel: from manager to leader (in-person component)

Phase 3: the CIC.C assessment, expected to be an oral exam based on case studies.

Participants can split the program and cost over two calendar/fiscal years and it is expected to take between 12 months and two years to complete.

The first module will take place in Toronto at Rotman at the University of Toronto Feb. 28 to Mar. 2, 2014 and the cost is $9,100. Applicants must complete an application form available on the CCCA's web site and have two references and a written expression of interest.

A pilot project will roll out this fall with senior-level general counsel who will take the program at a discounted rate to review it with the idea they will then recommended it to their staff.

It is expected the program will partner with additional Canadian universities across the country, with Calgary the first on the list as it is home to the second largest group of in-house counsel in the country.

While some in-house counsel have or are pursuing MBAs, Borbridge, who has an MBA, said the advantage of the CIC.C program is that it is more specifically targeted to the job of in-house counsel, can be done while working and costs less than an MBA.

He hopes one day the certification becomes so recognized in the in-house bar that it becomes the “gold standard” for hiring.

“It would make me smile if one day I see a job posting for an in-house counsel that says the CIC.C. designation is an asset,” says Borbridge.

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