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October 2009 - OCBA Corporate Counsel Section
A Vital Resource for Orange County In-House Counsel

by Wendy K. Peterson

Over 15 years ago, when I left my position as a corporate lawyer at O'Melveny & Myers and became in-house counsel for a large corporation, I had mixed feelings. I was elated to be working for a profitable, well-run corporation and knew that my years of practicing corporate and securities law would be of value in my in-house practice. I felt a bit overwhelmed, however. After a few weeks of working with our corporate executives and general counsel, I realized that I had a lot to learn about other areas of the law such as employment, real estate, products liability and patents and trademarks. I knew that I had to embark on a mission of self-study so that I could get up to speed quickly.

And then I discovered the OCBA Corporate Counsel Section. I was delighted to learn that this section could assist me in bolstering my knowledge of a wide variety of legal topics that I would confront in the course of my in-house practice (while also providing me with inexpensive CLE credit). I enjoyed learning about new developments in the law from speakers who were experts in their fields. An unexpected bonus was interacting with other in-house counsel with whom I could share "war stories," trade practice tips and discuss recommendations for outside counsel. As with other section members who had left private practice to go in house, I had traded my former, large network of law firm colleagues for a small in-house practice with two lawyers, and this sometimes led to a sense of isolation. The Corporate Counsel Section provided me with an avenue to once again enjoy the camaraderie of a large number of attorneys with similar practices.

Now, many years later, I still rely on the section as my primary resource for continuing education and networking among my peers, and I am honored to serve as Chair this year. Along with our Vice Chair Jason Weintraub, Senior Policy and Compliance Counsel of Broadcom Corporation, and our Program Chair Kyhm Penfil, Campus Counsel of UC Irvine, I am dedicated to serving the needs of the Corporate Counsel Section and its members.

The Corporate Counsel Section is the only section of the OCBA dedicated to in-house counsel practicing in Orange County. Over 170 members strong, our members hail from privately-held or public corporations, non-profit organizations, educational institutions and service organizations. Their practices are diverse-while many members practice in multiple areas such as corporate and securities law, contract law, employment law and general litigation, many other members practice exclusively in areas such as intellectual property, regulatory, products liability, construction, insurance and real estate law.

The section meets every month on the second Tuesday at noon, at the Pacific Club. Each meeting starts with a half hour of networking and lunch, followed by an hour-long MCLE program. We have worked hard to focus our programming efforts on MCLE topics that are relevant and provide value to in-house counsel. While our members' diverse practice areas present challenges in finding topics of general interest, the section has managed to find speakers who present topics that are of benefit to members and who provide "take home" tips that can be implemented immediately in our in-house practices. Some of the topics presented in the last year include:

  • How Your Employee's Divorce Can Adversely Affect Your Company
  • Ethics Issues Involved in Using Private Investigators
  • How to Avoid Criminal Exposure for Corporate Officers and Directors
  • Accounting 101 for In-House Counsel
  • Proving Your Value as In-House Counsel
  • From the FTC to Dracula . . . and Beyond: Identifying and Resolving Critical Legal Issues in the Design and Review of Advertising Materials
  • Avoiding Allegations of Fraud When Dealing with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

The section also recognizes the value of providing programs with specialty MCLE credit, and strives every year to offer several hours of ethics, substance abuse and elimination of bias credit.

The relationship among our members is highly collegial. Members frequently share in-house opportunities with each other. During the past year, this has been particularly helpful to members who formerly worked for local banks, mortgage providers and home builders, and are now searching for a new in-house position. In addition, the section typically offers a purely social event or two each year for members to network and get to know each other in more casual settings.

Membership and attendance at section meetings are limited to OCBA members who serve exclusively as in-house counsel, or have served as in-house counsel and are seeking another in-house position. While in-house counsel need not be a member of the section to attend meetings, section members are entitled to a discount on the registration fee for each meeting. If you are in-house counsel and would like to attend one of our meetings, we would welcome your attendance! For more information, please contact

Wendy K. Peterson is General Counsel, Knobbe, Martens, Olson & Bear, LLP and is the 2009 Chair of the OCBA's Corporate Counsel Section.

Orange County Bar Association | P.O. Box 6130 | Newport Beach, CA 92658 | 949.440.6700 |
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