By Rebecca Walker
Last week, I did something that I have been thinking about doing for – literally! – 20 years. Not skydiving. Not an arctic plunge. Something far more exciting than that! I helped organize the inaugural meeting of the Greater Los Angeles Compliance and Ethics Roundtable. (Acronym “LACER?” Or “GLACER?” Although we have not decided on our name yet, so all suggestions are welcome! I preview a few additional possibilities for your consideration below.) We had about a dozen people in attendance, with another 6 or 7 promising to join the next meeting. And it was a great first meeting.
Personally, as someone whose law partners are far-flung, I was excited at the prospect of an in-person meeting with a nice group of compliance professionals. But I was also a bit uncertain. With so many meetings going remote, I wondered if folks haven’t adjusted to Teams and Zoom to such an extent that they are reluctant to meet in person. And if that’s the case, why bother with a geographically-based organization at all? As soon as folks showed up to our first meeting, however, my fears were allayed.
It really was lovely to gather in person. The truth is that in-house compliance professionals can feel isolated – even in large organizations. Our jobs are difficult, and creating a nice community of professionals to commiserate with, learn from, and lean on is valuable. Plus, as one of our wonderful members suggested, with a group like this comes the promise of a holiday party!
Input from Existing Local Compliance Groups
In preparing for the inaugural meeting of the Los Angeles County Ethics Forum (LACE-F?), I asked folks from Houston (the site of the Greater Houston Business Ethics Roundtable, or GHBER), San Francisco (Bay Area Ethics and Compliance Association, or BECA), and Atlanta (Atlanta Compliance and Ethics Roundtable, or ACE) their thoughts on the value of local compliance organizations, and any pitfalls that we in So Cal should try to avoid. Thanks so much to those folks who responded for your extraordinarily valuable input. (And an aside – it is so lovely that everyone whom I asked took the time to write out a thoughtful email with tips, thoughts, and issues to address. There are some generous and wonderful people in our compliance world!)
On the plus side, I heard that local compliance organizations can provide “a collaborative and cross functional community of compliance practitioners to benchmark, share best practices, learn, and network.” Atlanta’s ACE offers members the opportunity to earn CCEP/CLE and other credits, and it even offers a student internship, which sounds amazing!
Local organizations provide the chance for members to conduct informal benchmarking and share best practices, which offers enormous value. So many of the developments in compliance occur inside organizations, which is part of the reason that practice-sharing is critical. And practice-sharing is much easier face-to-face, amongst professionals you know and respect. Of course, we can all sign on to a webinar to hear from experts, which is important. But being in a room together to benchmark and share can create greater depth to practice-sharing, which can be extraordinarily valuable.
Another compliance lawyer from a different region commented that a group of compliance professionals in his region have discussed “the dire need and value of a [local compliance organization], and how enjoyable it is to have a small, informal get together of compliance professionals to discuss and commiserate.” This is one of the benefits that I most hope to reap from the Greater Santa Monica Ethics Roundtable (“SMER” – pronounced “smear” – okay, this one is silly!).
I often comment on the beauty of the community that we in compliance have created. In my early days as a lawyer, I was a litigator, and I really disliked the necessary animosity that litigation entailed. One of the things that I have always loved about compliance is our willingness to share and support. My hope for this Southern California endeavor is that it will nurture those finer instincts of our profession in person and foster our personal and professional connections so that, when things are difficult inside our organizations (as I know they can be), we have a community in this local group to lean on.
Things to Watch Out For
One of the emails that I received in response to my query was especially helpful at providing tips for things to avoid if we want this group to be successful. Here are this fabulous compliance lawyer’s tips:
Questions to Address
The generous folks who responded to my queries provided the following as initial questions that we at the Southern California Compliance and Ethics Roundtable (“SCCER” – pronounced “sker” or “scare!”) should ask:
Next Steps for LACER/GLACER/LACE-F/SCCER/SMER/LOCER?
I’m very excited to finally – after 20 years of cogitating – be off and running with the wonderful compliance professionals in Southern California. As mentioned, we already have a LinkedIn private group, and I plan to put together a draft charter to send around for comments in the next month or so.
If you are in the Los Angeles area and would like to hear more about this endeavor, please reach out. And if you are part of a local compliance organization, we would love to hear thoughts on what benefits you think it provides and what pitfalls we should avoid. And, please, if you have ideas or thoughts on our name, we would sorely love to hear them!
Below are some fabulous names suggested by the wonderfully inventive Joe Murphy, to get your creative juices flowing:
And drawing from DII as the original compliance forum:
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The first time I saw Kristy Grant-Hart she put on a show about magic compliance dust and then brought the audience to reality by breaking the news that there is
In our years of assessing compliance and ethics (C&E) programs, my partner Jeff Kaplan and I have pinpointed several key attributes that we consider essential to an effective program, including