CCCA Serves Canada's In-House Legal Community

Sunday, October 1, 2006 - 01:00

The Editor interviews Sandra Swystun, Corporate Counsel, Agricore United, and President, Canadian Corporate Counsel Association.

Editor: What attracted you to the Canadian Corporate Counsel Association?

Swystun: I have enjoyed varied experiences throughout my legal career working in private practice and the federal and provincial governments before moving in-house about a dozen years ago. Currently, I serve as corporate counsel at Agricore United, which is the largest grain handling, crop input and feed manufacturing company in western Canada. I find in-house practice particularly rewarding because of the opportunity to develop legal skills directly applicable to and building on the ongoing business objectives of the company. The situation of corporate counsel is unique in that we see and speak with our "clients" almost daily - we understand what they want to accomplish, we learn from each other and we work together towards our corporate goals..

I became involved with CCCA through our Manitoba Chapter, which is one of CCCA's eleven local chapters across Canada. The outstanding networking and programming available through CCCA's local chapters are supplemented with the organization's other wonderful resources for in-house counsel - including two annual conferences, various continuing legal education (CLE) programs, virtual library and links with international associations, special legal-interest groups and more.

Editor: How has CCA grown?

A very strong and vibrant association, CCCA began as the National Corporate Law Section in 1988. Today we serve more than 8,000 members. About half the members are in-house counsel from a variety of backgrounds including corporations, not-for profit organizations, crown corporations and municipalities.

As we have grown, we have continued to nurture our international ties with our counterparts in other countries, including:

  • La Asociacin Nacional de Abogados de Empresa from Mexico

  • Corporate Lawyers Association of New Zealand

  • Australian Corporate Lawyers Association

  • Hong Kong Corporate Counsel Association

  • Association of Corporate Counsel
  • Editor: What contributes to CCCA's strong growth?

    Swystun: In-house counsel face a variety of challenges in their day-to-day practice. Not only do they need to stay current with ever-evolving areas of law, they must also be able to translate these legal principles into value-added advice to their companies. To help in-house counsel thrive in their positions, we host a variety of programs with excellent content at a very low cost.

    Our premier annual events are the Spring Conference in April and the Annual Meeting and Conference in August. The August Conference is held in conjunction with the Canadian Legal Conference of the Canadian Bar Association. Each year, our Conferences offer a spectacular array of substantive programs to choose from and terrific networking opportunities and events. We have received wonderful feedback from registrants, indicating that our programs are exactly what they need and more than they could hope for in a single event.

    Each year, we also host a number of CLE seminars across Canada to address topics of value to in-house counsel, such as financial reporting, accounting and analysis; e-discovery; corporate governance; arbitration and dispute resolution; litigation management; and risk management. These seminars are in addition to the local activities of our Chapters and further enhance the learning environment that we provide for our members.

    Our CCCA/Lexpert Corporate Counsel Directory and Yearbook is an invaluable resource for all our members and is provided in a print format and online. We have invested a considerable amount of resources to enhance the content and services on our website.

    I encourage your readers to visit to learn more about the many benefits of CCCA membership.

    Editor: What do you see as the key for CCCA's future success?

    Swystun: CCCA is most fortunate to have a large number of volunteers - from our Board, Chapters and beyond - and an excellent staff who provide outstanding vision in planning CCCA's programs and projects and setting the direction for CCCA's future. At our Annual Meeting in St. John's this past August, the CCCA Board of Directors approved a most ambitious business plan for the coming year that includes the national and local programs I have already referred to plus the launch of an e-newsletter and a new magazine, the expansion of CCCA's virtual library to include more material targeted to in-house counsel on best practices and the re-branding of the ways in which we communicate with our members.

    I see the following building blocks as being critical to successfully implementing the business plan:

  • Provide first class relevant CLE programs and deliver them in multiple locations and/or through online seminars and podcasts;

  • Support our local Chapter activities and extend our Chapter network into other parts of Canada needing in-house counsel services;

  • Continue to build our relationships with associations and preferred suppliers and sponsors with a view to realizing benefits for both them and our members; and

  • Communicate with our members, both substantively and visually, in new ways that are timely, effective and above all helpful.
  • Editor: What is unique about CCCA?

    Swystun: CCCA is for corporate counsel by corporate counsel. We are intimately aware of what our members need from a professional association in order to be leading corporate counsel and we are clearly focused on helping them reach and remain at that level. In this coming year, CCCA's members will see many new services and refinements in CCCA's current offerings that will please and pleasantly surprise Canada's in-house legal community.

    Please email the interviewee at with questions about this interview.