Atlanta - Corporate Counsel Professionalism - The Hallmark Of Georgia's Legal Community

Thursday, April 1, 2004 - 00:00

The Editor interviews Mary Ulmer Jones, Assistant General Counsel-Senior Vice President, Bank of America, and President of the Georgia Chapter of the Association of Corporate Counsel.

Editor: What attracted you to ACC's Georgia Chapter?

Ulmer Jones: I am energized by what I see. The Georgia Chapter is more than just a good group of people. They exemplify the highest standards of professionalism.Not only are they outstanding in their corporate practice, they also seek continuing legal education, pursue preventive activities and mentor new lawyers as they come along. They readily share their best practices, as well as their perspectives and approaches to achieving long-term compliance with the spirit of the law. I get very motivated when I see what other corporate counsel are doing.

Editor:What are some of the challenges that in-house counsel face today?

Ulmer Jones: As an employee, in-house counsel must have an interest in shareholder value, watching expenses and securing profits. An in-house counsel's position, however, differs from many others within a company. On occasion, the in-house counsel needs to step away from what the business unit is doing and play the role of a "watchful eye."

Editor: How is the Georgia Chapter helping its members to meet the challenges of their day-to-day practice?

Ulmer Jones: Through monthly "Lunch and Learn" programs, our chapter has evolved into a very strong group for networking. We have good topics, good discussions and great turn outs. Participants meet corporate counsel from small, medium and large companies. Exposure to different opportunities can be great for a career.

At last month's program, Altman Weil presented its 2004 Law Department Compensation Benchmarking Survey. Published annually in partnership with ACC, the survey collects data on salary, bonus, total cash and stock options for nine in-house positions. Altman Weil's annual presentation of the Survey is one of our Chapter's many popular events.

We recently co-sponsored a program with the Atlanta Bar Association that featured an extraordinary panel of 21 general counsel of major corporations and 17 leaders of major law firms. They gave practical advice and strategies for in-house and outside counsel to work together more effectively in (1) selection processes, (2) fee arrangements and billing procedures, (3) marketing practices, (4) litigation, (5) transactions, (6) compliance, (7) ethics and professionalism, and (8) diversity. All registrants received a copy of Successful Partnering Between Inside and Outside Counsel, compiled by Robert Haig of Kelley Drye & Warren LLP and published by West and ACC.

Editor: What would you like to accomplish during your term as the president of the Georgia Chapter?

Ulmer Jones: In working on this year's strategic plan, our chapter's leaders decided that we would like to keep it simple and do one or two things really well. We are looking at a formal sponsorship program that would give our chapter funding to do more outreach activities, such as offering scholarships.

We are also looking to revive our committees to help our members address substantive issues within their specialties. We have about 585 members and would like to help them pull together resources in such areas as litigation, bankruptcy, intellectual property and employment law.

Editor: What advocacy and public service activities does your chapter support?

Ulmer Jones: Last year we joined with the Corporate Counsel Section of the Atlanta Bar Association in addressing the issue of multi-jurisdictional practice. I'm happy to report that we were successful. Our judiciary adopted the model rule proposed by the American Bar Association, which allows an in-house counsel who is a member in good standing of another state's bar to practice for a corporation in Georgia.

In the public service arena, we continue to explore ways we can help corporate counsel to contribute in a meaningful way. One example is our involvement with Emory Law School's endowment for students who want to do their summer clerkships or work during the law school term in the non-profit sector. To make their work economically feasible for the students, the endowment supplements whatever pay they may receive from the non-profit organization. We think this is a very worthwhile idea, and we do what we can to support it.

Editor: How is your chapter helping to support diversity in the legal profession?

Ulmer Jones: Our leadership has done a great job in pulling together a slate of officers and board of directors who are diverse in so many ways - including area of practice as well as age, gender, race, ethnic background and other characteristics. We also have a very active diversity committee.Among the committee's activities is looking for ways to work with the Minority Corporate Counsel Association. I am very excited about the interest we've had in building our relationship with that organization and building our diversity efforts.

Editor: Thank you for telling us about your chapter.Where can our readers learn more?

Ulmer Jones: They can visit Georgia Chapter's web page at I'd like to encourage any in-house counsel in Georgia to come join us.