About the Forum

Overview and Mission

The Texas General Counsel Forum has been serving in-house leaders since 1998. The Forum is a community and network of general counsel and senior managing counsel representing more than half of the Fortune 500 companies headquartered in the state as well as prominent companies and organizations in each chapter city. 

The Forum strives to be the best at discovering, benchmarking and sharing best legal practices, and delivering them to members in a local, peer-to-peer community. No legal department – even the largest and most well-funded – knows it all. In-house innovation comes from diverse sources, and the most direct path to those solutions is from the innovators themselves. This is the power of collaboration: the power of a forum.

To meet our mission objectives, the Forum hosts networking and educational events in chapter cities, in a multitude of venues and program formats. Events include breakfast, lunch and dinner meetings with and without speakers; cocktail parties in prominent GCs' homes; sporting events; awards dinners; conference meetings; and special one-off meetings.

Unlike similar organizations, our mission is advanced by Forum members partnering with valued underwriters and sponsors who share and support our mission. This partnership helps the Forum achieve its mission to improve the professional lives of in-house leadership through the discovery and sharing of best legal practices.

 

Mission Statement

The Texas General Counsel Forum is a legal community that strives to improve the professional lives of general counsel and managing counsel.  The Forum endeavors to be the association of choice serving legal department leaders through meaningful opportunities for peer group interaction and knowledge exchange, mentoring through professional development in best practices, ethics, governance and compliance.

A Vision for the Future

In 1997, Roland Castañeda left the private practice of law to be the general counsel of the Dallas Area Rapid Transit Authority (DART). Though his years of practice had prepared him as a lawyer, he had received little education and training in leading and managing a large legal department.
 
In the fall of 1997, he met with one of his Dallas outside counsel, Forrest Smith (partner with the Dallas firm of Bell Nunnally & Martin), and discussed starting an organization in which legal best practices could be shared between in-house leadership in corporations, non-profit organizations and government agencies. Forrest believed that busy general counsel would not take the time to meet with other general counsel for general networking and to discuss best practices.
 
Roland deferred the idea, but it continued to gnaw at him. In a few months he was talking with Forrest again about the idea and Forrest suggested vetting it with several of Forrest’s general counsel clients. They met with Tom Everhart (Raytheon), Keith McDole (GC, Occidental Chemical), Rod Miller (GC, Southern Baptist Annuity Board), Ron Taylor (GC, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas), and Terry Taylor (GC, ClubCorp). Roland outlined his proposal and the other general counsel thought it was a terrific idea. Forrest offered to provide the initial funding to pay the expenses required to set up the organization and in the fall of 1998, the Dallas-Fort Worth General Counsel Management Practices Forum (“DFWGCMPF”) was founded.
 

A Different Business Model

Roland and the initial founders designed the Forum as a partnership between in-house and outside counsel and legal service and product providers. Members are general counsel and senior managing counsel with significant leadership and management responsibilities in a corporation, non-profit organization or government agency.
 
Underwriters are principally law firms, plus a few legal service and product providers who pay an annual fee.  They are provided with access to the members through chapter board membership, attendance at quarterly educational meetings, and the annual conference. The annual underwriter fees have allowed the Forum to maintain low annual member dues and cover most of the organizational overheads. Today annual member dues are $600, with discounts for large legal departments, non-profit organizations, and government agencies.
 

Less is More

In November 2000, the DFWGCMPF changed its name to The Texas General Counsel Forum, referred to by members as the Forum.  At the same time, the leadership determined that the Forum needed to hire staff to support their volunteer efforts, and they hired the first Executive Director, Sandra Contreras.  One of the founding Underwriters (Gardere Wynne & Sewell) provided office space, and within a year of hiring Sandra, an additional staff person was hired.
 

Leadership

 Between 2001 and 2003, the Houston Chapter and Austin-San Antonio Chapters were founded. From 2000 to 2003, the Forum grew to 220 members, but stayed at that level through 2005. In early 2005, the President of the Forum, Craig Glidden (then SVP and GC of Chevron Phillips Chemical) recommended that the Forum hire a Chief Operating Officer.  On July 1, Lee Emery joined the Forum as the first Chief Executive Officer with the mandate to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the association, expand membership, and launch the organization nationally.
 

Programming

The Forum’s 2005 Conference of General Counsel is held in November, and was designed and led by a committee of members and underwriters under the chairmanship of Ron Barger (then SVP and GC of the Archon Group, Irving, TX) and David Runnels (Partner of Andrews Kurth, Houston, TX).  Barger and Runnels created a legal conference that was atypical of other legal conference, introducing several innovations that made the conference unusual and spectacular.
 
Though it was not unusual to have a conference theme, they took it one step further and designed a one-day conference centered on a single book (Make the Rules or Your Rivals Will, by Dr. Richard Shell). The other session speakers were asked to read the book, and integrated their sessions with the overall theme of the book. The conference theme was “Getting Back to Business: 360º of Legal Strategy,” and addressed the major subjects outlined in Shell’s book.
 
As veteran conference attendees, Barger and Runnels had attended many legal conferences that had panel after panel of lawyers and experts discussing various and often diverse topics focused on the practice of the law. Most of these sessions were held in well-lit conference ballrooms and meeting halls, and quite often the attendees were seated in rows of classroom seating. Each session was punctuated by 15-30 minute breaks between sessions.
 
They invited nationally recognized speakers to join Dr. Shell, and make their presentations in stand-up fashion, before an audience in a darkened ballroom. It was as much theater as it was a conference.
 

Leadership Institute (formerly known as FILL)

In 2006, the Forum founded a rigorous in-house leadership and management program in association with the Executive Education Department and Business School of the Southern Methodist University.

Unlike similar programs that are designed by academicians and law firm attorneys, FILL was designed “by” general counsel and “for” general counsel and senior managing counsel.  True to the Institute’s name, the relatively small classes (no more than 35) focus on the skills and tools needed to lead an in-house legal department through the fiscal, cultural, organizational and management hurdles faced by in-house leaders today.

Students meet in three, two-day sessions in February, March and April, and participate in 46 hours of classroom study, discussion, and small group projects.  Each class is led by an SMU professor, most of whom have been with the Institute since its founding.  Continuing Legal Educations credits awarded by the Texas State Bar are 20.5 hours of participatory, plus 6.75 hours of ethics.

Many of the companies that participate in the program have for several years.  Company participants include AT&T; BP America; PepsiCo; Kimberly Clark Corporation; Celanese Corp.; ConocoPhillips; Flour Corporation; McAfee; 7-Eleven; and Texas Instruments.

 

The Forum Today

Today, the Forum has nearly 700 members representing more than 450 companies.  About 70% of the members are general counsel, and the larger chapters have 15-20 meetings and events each year.
 

The Forum strives to be the best at discovering, benchmarking and sharing best practices, and delivering them to members in a peer-to-peer community environment.  No legal department, even the largest and most well-funded, knows it all.  In-house innovation comes from diverse sources, and the most direct path to those solutions is from the innovators themselves. 

New CEO

On June 15, 2016, Lynn Switzer Bozalis joined as the new Chief Executive Officer of the Texas General Counsel Forum. 

Lynn received her Bachelor of Arts from University of Texas and her Juris Doctorate from Southern Methodist University, Dedman School of Law. She practiced as a trial associate with Baker Botts LLP before turning her focus to non-profit and academic organizations. Over her 25 year career, Lynn has developed lasting relationships throughout the legal community and acquired remarkable experience in programming, leadership, strategic collaboration, fund-raising, and special events. In addition to this background and experience, Lynn brings a tremendous amount of enthusiasm for the position and for the Forum's mission.

Building on the Forum's strong foundation, Lynn's unique credentials and proven leadership will ensure the future progress of the Forum.