Regional Compliance Organizations

What benefits do they provide? What makes them successful? Can you help us find a name?

Rebecca Walker

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:

  1. Do not create an organization that is driven by the strength of one individual. If you do, then when that person moves on, the organization will likely flounder.

    I can very happily report that our first meeting was attended by a dozen amazingly talented and experienced compliance professionals, so I’m not terribly worried about this issue for the LA and Orange County Compliance and Ethics Roundtable (“LOCER” – pronounced “loser?” or “looser?” or “looker?” – maybe not that one…)
  1. Do not allow your organization to become a sales pitching ground for vendors. While vendors can add tremendous value, if they use the meetings to sell, it will drive away attendance.  On the other hand, organizations run exclusively or primarily by in-house folks are especially vulnerable to career changes and scheduling conflicts.

    In this area, because the co-founders (Benjamin Dunlap and I) are a compliance consultant and outside compliance counsel, respectively, we are very much hoping that the group will permit vendors to be members! However, we solemnly promise to avoid all sales pitches!  The remaining ten or so attendees at the first meeting are all in-house compliance professionals, so we have a nice balance already, I think.
  1. Do not worry about the size of the organization or meeting attendance. Bigger is not always better because, as the organization gets larger, it runs the risk of hosting presentations that are less relevant to the core group as well as concerns about frank discussions.

    We did not yet address the question of whether meetings will be conducted under the Chatham House Rule, but that seems like a good idea.  (Under the Chatham House Rule, participants in a meeting are free to use the information discussed, but they may not identify the speaker or her company or who else was in attendance.)
  1. Be careful about becoming exclusionary in terms of lawyers versus compliance professionals or larger compliance functions versus smaller functions.

    Based on our first meeting, I can happily report that our goal is to be as inclusive and supportive of all compliance professionals as possible.
  1. Find topics for your meetings that are applicable across industries and organization size because local compliance groups tend to be very diverse in membership.

    For this, we decided to send out a questionnaire or poll to ask members what topics they would like to address at the next meeting. Our initial thinking is to spend an hour doing a “deep dive” into a topic of interest to a large number of people, then to spend the next hour opening the meeting up to questions, queries and concerns.  We also plan to let people ask those questions or pose those concerns prior to the meeting itself so that others can do some homework on their own practices (facilitating benchmarking) if they wish.

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:

  1. Should you create an online presence, like a LinkedIn group or website? Should you have an email address?

    I can happily report that the organization’s co-founder, Benjamin Dunlap of JR&H LLC, has already set us up with a LinkedIn private group, so we’re off!  This will be a forum for us to consider the meeting agenda (what topics we will address), to pose questions to each other, and to continue benchmarking and commiserating between meetings.
  1. Do you want to ask for membership dues to cover things like travel expenses for special speakers, refreshments, and the holiday party!

    We decided that we don’t want to ask for dues, especially given that we are at the very early stages of this organization.  We want to be as inclusive as possible, and I am very happy to schlep my “purchased-for-those-PTA-events” coffee urn to all future meetings!
  1. Do you want to find a permanent meeting space or rotate amongst members?

    We plan to rotate hosting amongst our members.  We will also provide a Zoom connection for folks who cannot attend in person. 
  1. Do you want to consider affiliating with a university?

    At our first meeting, we discussed asking local academics to join, but we haven’t yet addressed the question of whether to try to affiliate.  We will keep you posted!


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!

A Postscript

Below are some fabulous names suggested by the wonderfully inventive Joe Murphy, to get your creative juices flowing:

  • ​CEFLA – Compliance and Ethics Forum of LA 

And drawing from DII as the original compliance forum:

  • LACI – Los Angeles Compliance Initiative
  • LACEI – Los Angeles Compliance & Ethics Initiative 
  • SOCALCI – Southern California Compliance Initiative
  • SOCALIF – Southern California Integrity Forum
  • LLLCEF – LaLaLand Compliance and ethics forum 
  • LAX Compliance Forum (I can speak for the group in saying that we do not want to be associated with LAX in anyone’s mind!)
  • CSCER (pronounced Caeser!) – City of Stars Compliance & Ethics Roundtable  (This one makes us sound a bit more glamorous than we perhaps deserve)
  • GBHER – Greater Beverly Hills Ethics Roundtable (This one is very similar to GHBER, but what could be more ethical than stealing someone else’s acronym?)

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