In 1987 a small group within the National Bar Association Commercial Law Section met to consider ways for NBA members in business practice to meet with institutional corporate clients for the purpose of developing professional relationships and to create opportunities for institutional entities to seek out, meet and refer outside legal matters to African-American attorneys. After months of intensive planning, this core group organized the first Corporate Counsel Conference in 1988 in Chicago, Illinois.
In soliciting corporate attendance at the inaugural Conference, Commercial Law Section Chair Cora T. Walker wrote:
The purpose of the Minority Corporate Counsel Conference is to afford general counsel and chief executive officers of major corporations with an opportunity to meet NBA members from across the country and acquaint themselves with the wealth of virtually untapped resources available to them through use of NBA members as outside counsel.
The Minority Corporate Counsel Conference will provide an excellent opportunity for you to further explore the vast array of legal talent available within the NBA for use as outside counsel . . . . Over twenty-five (25) major corporations, including many insurance companies such as Aetna, Allstate, CIGNA and Wausau, and the American Insurance Association, have already chosen to take advantage of this unique opportunity and have accepted our invitation to attend the conference.
The inaugural Conference proved to be a resounding success because it enabled major corporations to meet and network with NBA members who practice in areas of substantive law affecting America’s major corporations. The event was attended by representatives from the law departments of Allstate Insurance Company, Amtrak, Consolidated Rail Corporation, DuPont Chemical, Ford Motor Company, General Motors, IBM, McDonald’s Corporation, Mobil Oil Corporation, Shell Oil Company, Sterling Drug, The Coca-Cola Company, The Travelers Insurance Company, and many others.
Throughout the years, the Corporate Counsel Conference has continued to grow in size, visibility and influence. Over the years, it is estimated that over 1, 000 NBA Commercial Law Section members have connected with well over one hundred (100) different corporations and their representatives through the Commercial Law Section Corporate Counsel Conference. Many have formed long-standing mutually beneficial attorney-client relationships. The Corporate Counsel Conference has also served as the model for similar programs which have subsequently been created by other organizations. The Commercial Law Section is proud to pay tribute to individuals and corporations who created this Conference and to all of those who have supported and attended the Conference throughout the years. We look forward to many more years of connecting the immense wealth of talent which is within the National Bar Association Commercial Law Section with those corporations and other institutions who recognize diversity as an essential component to any commitment to excellence.