ACC Global Chair Pursues Global Priorities: In-house group seeks cross-border perspective on legal issues

Thursday, December 29, 2016 - 14:15

The Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) recently elected a global board of directors, with Iohann Le Frapper, general counsel of industrial financing firm ChetWode, named chair. Le Frapper is a truly global in-house professional with stints in the EU, the Middle East and Asia across multiple industry sectors. He discusses below the ACC’s strategic priorities, global reach and educational and networking opportunities for in-house lawyers around the world. His responses have been edited for length and style.

MCC: Congratulations on being elected chair of ACC’s global board of directors. When and how did you become involved with ACC?

Le Frapper: Thank you. I am honored to serve my fellow in-house counsel in the role, which also coincides with my 10th year of involvement with the in-house bar. I joined ACC in 2006 while working as assistant general counsel at the French telecommunications company Alcatel. I turned to the organization because its resources allowed me to become aware of U.S. compliance best practices and the latest Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement trends. As I became familiar with ACC Europe, I enjoyed the quality of the community and networking with European peers.

The format of ACC Europe reflects the challenges of the EU – we have a myriad of country representatives but gather as one European community for many events and to govern as a whole. Despite the current challenging times that mirror the 1920s, I remain a strong believer in the strength of the EU, an imperfect but democratic organization, to serve peace (the key rationale of the European grandfathers after World War II) and transcend often shortsighted domestic agendas.

I became president of ACC Europe before serving on the global board of directors and now as chair of the board.

MCC: ACC made globalization a cornerstone of its FY2013-18 strategic plan based on member feedback confirming the importance of developing a strong international network of in-house counsel. You studied law in both Canada and France, have worked in a number of countries, including China, Qatar and France, and can be viewed as a symbol of ACC’s commitment to globalization. How can the organization best ensure it is reaching and providing relevant services to professionals such as yourself?

Le Frapper: Many of the challenges facing in-house counsel today are universal, such as law department management, legal privilege or extraterritorial regulation. Those challenges are relevant to all corporate legal departments.

At a country or regional level, ACC also serves our 42,000 members via 59 chapters, including in Australia, Canada, Argentina, Europe, the Middle East, Singapore and Israel. Much of the programming that local chapters provide is of special interest to in-house counsel working in the country/region. For example, this year we hosted a series of updates on European competition law in several European cities. We also make sure that events hosted by ACC global (our headquarters are in Washington, D.C.) are held around the world or via webinars offered in multiple time zones. This year, we will host a program on leadership skills (Law Department Leadership 2.0) in Montreal and our second General Counsel Summit in Paris. This is in addition to programs in Melbourne, Australia, and Washington, D.C., among other cities. We learn from our global colleagues and return to our companies with new viewpoints on particular issues or challenges, which is priceless to our employers.

MCC: You have moved through different industry sectors such as oil and gas, telecommunications and finance. How does your experience inform the way you look at the role of ACC in education efforts and the support the organization provides to members?

Le Frapper: I have been very fortunate to work in a number of sectors and countries, and I believe this experience has made me a better lawyer and business partner, as well as a more open-minded human being. The average in-house counsel tomorrow is also more and more likely to have a very mobile career – switching jobs, industries and locations – compared with past generations. The ACC Census Report found that 62 percent of in-house lawyers (and more than 80 percent in Europe and Asia) have cross-border work responsibilities. Thus, I believe that ACC’s educational and other opportunities should continue to encourage cross-border perspectives on all legal issues, provide support for career mobility, and instruct on leadership and “soft” skills that help in-house counsel succeed in their first job and develop their careers in a fast-changing and disruptive world. Legal professionals, irrespective of their location, will not be immune from the intermediation of online platforms to sell or buy legal services — which hopefully will be more price-affordable, for the benefit of a broader base of corporate users, irrespective of their size.  

MCC: Please share with us some of ACC’s global priorities, including any new educational or networking opportunities you plan to launch.

Le Frapper: Connecting with peers around the world is crucial to fostering innovation and success at corporate legal departments worldwide. At ACC, we want to further these relationships on a large scale for the in-house community. This means collaborating with local in-house bar associations in Europe and Asia to benefit our respective members and establish new peer networks. We will also focus on expanding our membership in Africa, Latin America and the Asia-Pacific region. In December, ACC President & CEO Veta T. Richardson traveled to our chapter in Singapore and our network in India to meet with in-house legal departments and hear their expected priorities and challenges for the New Year.

We also have two educational programs in 2017 that I believe are especially valuable to in-house lawyers in trending areas of importance. The first is the ACC Mid-Year Meeting (April 2-4 in New York), which provides advanced-level education across three tracks: financial services regulatory and technology pulse, practical strategies for effective contracts, and employment law challenges and solutions. The meeting is especially focused on in-house counsel in the financial sector, the sector of the company where I serve as general counsel, ChetWode.

As a general counsel, I’m also looking forward to the General Counsel Summit  from May 31 to June 2 in my hometown of Paris. The theme is “Leadership in Times of Disruptive Change,” and the program will provide private, exclusive opportunities to benchmark with other leaders, as the previous 2015 summit did.

MCC: Who are some of the key ACC leaders, in addition to yourself, spearheading the organization’s global efforts, and what kind of experiences and skills do they bring to the organization?

Le Frapper: We have a strong board of directors, and our diversity helps us to bring varied perspectives to each conversation. I am joined as a board officer by Bill Mordan (vice-chair), Shire plc; Jan Alonzo (treasurer), UniGroup; and Simon Fish (secretary), Bank of Montreal. We also have directors from Australia, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States. As we collaborate to advance the next ACC strategic plan (from FY2018 to FY2023), we also draw upon experience from the financial services, pharmaceutical, insurance, food and beverage, aerospace, IT, and nonprofit industries, among others.

MCC: How can in-house counsel benefit from membership, and how can they take maximum advantage of the leadership, educational and networking opportunities that the organization provides?

Le Frapper: With so much change underway in Europe and the United States, in-house counsel who work in or with those regions face a great deal of uncertainty about Brexit and the U.S. and EU regulatory landscape over the next few years. ACC provides a forum to discuss these challenges and unknowns with peers, whether it’s through educational offerings, online networks or in-person connection opportunities. The in-house community is also constantly adapting to a more connected world, accelerated by an unprecedented pace of technological changes. Big data, artificial intelligence, blockchain technology and connected objects will revolutionize businesses across all sectors and the legal profession itself. It’s an exciting yet challenging time to be an in-house lawyer. As we navigate these changes, ACC’s focus on strong peer connections, continuing education, and access to instant but global and local information will enable members to serve their companies at such a critical time.

Iohann Le Frapper, general counsel of Paris-based industrial financing firm ChetWode, is chair of the global board of directors of the Association of Corporate Counsel. He can be reached at acc.chair@acc.com.