Some 400 delegates gathered in Rome from 22-24 May 2016 for the annual Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) conference in Europe. The premium quality of the surroundings were, as customary, entirely in keeping with the event, from the Cavalieri Hotel for the conference itself to the beautiful Villa Miani for the Gala Dinner, offering stunning views of the Vatican and the City.

But what really sets the event apart? Naturally, the quality and experience of the participants is crucial, and few other conferences come close in this respect in what is a crowded market. However, I believe the real answer lies in the content. The number of plenary and breakout sessions is impressive in itself, but the depth, variety and significance of the topics is exemplary. Three sessions in particular stood out: ‘Protecting and enforcing your IP rights in China – understanding the changing environment’. While it was noted that visibility of IP had greatly increased in the region in recent years, protection and enforcement remains a significant challenge. Indeed a fascinating insight was provided by Maria-Giovanna Marletti, In-house Counsel at Ferrero, as to the considerable obstacles her company has faced in the courts in China.

The session ‘EU Data Protection Regulation’ was equally interesting, stimulating considerable debate around the practical implications for companies of new EU regulations, with the views from  Giovanni Buttarelli, European Data Protection Supervisor, with a particular discussion on the hotly-debated EU-US Privacy Shield.

Finally, I had the personal pleasure of moderating an excellent session, ‘The Road Well Travelled’, aimed at exploring ways in which in-house lawyers can more expertly manage their careers. The panel’s participants delivered interesting and highly instructive personal testimonies, from reasons behind decisions to leave the US to work in Europe through to tips on how to develop a broader commercial skillset. Greg Ritts, GC at Altisource in Luxembourg, advised young lawyers climbing the career ladder to roll up their sleeves and never say ‘no’ to a project; Leslie MacIntosh, GC for IATA in Switzerland, counsels lawyers to attend ‘non-legal’ courses to enhance their learning, such as in the skill of Project Management; and Gayle Gorvett, MD of Gorvett Consulting, gave a valuable insight into how lawyers moving jurisdictions can successfully adapt their approach to different cultures.

From a personal standpoint, the session and conference overall was conclusive proof, if ever it were needed, that whatever our profession, everything we do always comes back to the value of people and relationships.

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Lisa Owens