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NAM Hosts Inaugural Manufacturing Legal Summit

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Manufacturers face a minefield of legal and compliance issues every day—and too often, in-house counsel are forced to navigate some of the biggest issues affecting the industry alone.

The NAM’s Legal Center sought to change that dynamic at the first-ever Manufacturing Legal Summit, which took place Nov. 15–16 in Washington, D.C., where in-house counsel from manufacturing companies across the nation had a unique opportunity to convene and learn about the latest pressing challenges across the legal and regulatory landscape.

“The summit offered real-world, practical advice that will help in-house manufacturing counsel deal with their legal and regulatory challenges,” said NAM Chief Legal Officer and Corporate Secretary Linda Kelly.

Kelly and NAM Deputy General Counsel for Litigation Erica Klenicki told us more.

Exploring issues: The summit covered a range of topics, including the following:

  • National Labor Relations Board: A session led by NLRB board member John Ring and labor law experts from Fisher Phillips provided critical insights on the priorities and activities of an aggressively pro-labor NLRB, and how manufacturing employers can prepare for the many significant legal changes coming in the weeks, months and years ahead.
  • Supply chain: A panel centered around supply chain challenges, featuring the perspectives of GE Appliances’ vice president and general counsel and including an array of experts from the law firm Foley & Lardner, covered issues like supply chain due diligence and drafting contracts to prepare for inevitable supply chain bottlenecks.
  • ESG: A panel of experts from McDermott, Will & Emery that also included Brunswick Corp. Executive Vice President, General Counsel, Secretary and Chief Commercial Officer Chris Dekker explored how the ever-evolving concept of ESG is affecting both public and private companies—including what manufacturers should expect from the Securities and Exchange Commission’s forthcoming climate disclosure and human capital management rules.
  • Supreme Court: Another session covered the impacts of last year’s Supreme Court decisions and the likely outcomes of this year’s cases on issues of importance to manufacturers and the general public alike.
  • Product liability: This panel featured in-house counsel from Johnson & Johnson, The Sherwin-Williams Company and Toyota North America, along with experts from the law firm Shook, Hardy & Bacon, discussing recent efforts by the trial bar to circumvent the traditional limits of product liability law. The panelists laid out the types of bad-faith product lawsuits that manufacturers often face—and how manufacturers should approach them.
  • Drugs in the workplace: Especially at a time of legal ambiguity around marijuana, it can be challenging for employers to make and enforce rules about drug use. This session led by workplace legal expert Matt Nieman of Jackson Lewis laid out helpful approaches to creating a modern drug-free workplace.
  • Cybersecurity: As cyberattacks against manufacturers rise, it’s important for lawyers to understand their responsibilities around protecting confidential company information and preventing breaches. Thanks to the expertise of representatives from Miller Johnson, a member of the Meritas network, participants learned about these topics through the lens of an attorney’s ethical obligations.

Building relationships: In addition to practical and engaging content, the event also offered participants opportunities to connect with one another and with the NAM legal team.

  • “One of the many goals was to build a network, and there was a lot of enthusiasm for that,” said Kelly. “The event also brought greater visibility to the work of the Legal Center and helped show the legal departments of member companies how the NAM can be an effective partner.”

Convening talent: More than 120 participants registered for the event, comprising in-house counsel representing large and small manufacturers from every industrial sector, as well as legal experts from top law firms across the country.

  • “This is the first time this group was in a room together,” said Klenicki. “It’s a group that faces a lot of the same pressures, so having everyone in the room together thinking through these issues was extremely valuable.”

A representative reaction: “The event brought together a terrific collection of manufacturing CLOs and senior law department leaders to discuss legal issues of importance to manufacturers,” said Dekker. “The informative and timely content was presented primarily by panels that included outside attorneys and in-house counsel ensuring the advice was actionable and practical.”

An annual affair: The Manufacturing Legal Summit will return Nov. 7–8, 2023, in Washington, D.C.

  • “Being in the nation’s capital, where law and policy unfold, hearing from experts on these issues—it’s an exciting experience,” said Klenicki.
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