Clare Beresford, CEO at Laurence Simons Search, discusses with Simon Zinger, Group General Counsel at Dentsu Aegis Network Ltd, the newly launched General Counsel Oath.
Clare Beresford (CB): Good Morning Simon, thank you for taking the time today to talk to me about the new General Counsel Oath. We are proud to support this initiative and extremely excited to be involved with today’s launch. Please can you tell us what the General Counsel Oath is?
Simon Zinger (SZ): Good morning Clare, and a huge heartfelt thank you to you and your colleagues for all the time and support you are investing in backing the Oath. The Oath is inspired by the Hippocratic Oath for doctors and reflects a commitment to help others made by someone in a position of power and influence. The Oath is meant for General Counsel and others in similar leadership positions in legal departments, so that we can foster a consistent and global approach to actions that can be taken across certain critical areas – actions which I believe can lead to stronger legal teams, increased diversity and inclusion, better organisations and positive societal change.
CB: Why is there a need for a General Counsel Oath?
SZ: As lawyers we have professional and ethical rules that guide us, but nothing that provides a consistent standard for actions that foster diversity, inclusion, pro bono, personal development, and behaviours that create positive impact beyond legal teams or our own legal profession. This Oath provides that direction and consistency.
This effort is also based on a desire to create meaningful progress across the legal profession in the areas of diversity, equity and inclusion. My hope is that General Counsel will take the Oath and use their power and influence to put it into action and create real change.
CB: Why did you decide that the time is right to introduce a General Counsel Oath?
SZ: It feels to me that there are so many difficulties that need better focus, attention and resolution in society today, and I want to harness the collective power and influence of General Counsel to do so.
CB: Please can you explain what prompted the Oath? Had you witnessed behaviour that prompted the Oath to be created?
SZ: I would say that the impetus is primarily focused on a lack of coordinated and collective behaviour. But yes, to be honest, there are areas of the Oath around asking people to commit to positive personal behaviours that are based on negative behaviours witnessed during my legal career.
CB: How does the Oath support diversity, equality and inclusion?
SZ: You will see in the Oath a commitment to these areas in terms of both legal teams (how General Counsel recruit, manage teams and offer development and training opportunities), but more widely in terms of how General Counsel behave, interact with and influence their organisations.
In terms of the wider legal profession, which I am hoping to galvanise as well, there is a very strong statement in the Oath as follows:
I will implement education and action plans to foster diversity, inclusion and anti-racism, and will promote these objectives and values across my organization and in my relationships with law firms, recruiters, and others in the legal profession.
CB: Why do you think an Oath of this depth has not been introduced previously?
SZ: Great question! I am not sure, but the time feels right for us as General Counsel to do more, to help others, to show our organisations the way, and to be catalysts for meaningful change.
CB: How can people show their support for the General Counsel Oath?
SZ: My goal is to raise as much awareness about the Oath as possible so that General Counsel and other legal team leaders, no matter where they are in the world, commit to the Oath and put that commitment into action. Our level of success will very much depend on getting the Oath in front of as many General Counsel as possible. Once General Counsel see it, I hope that their support of it leads to a positive shift in awareness, action and behaviour, which then hopefully leads to broader organisational and social impact.
CB: Where can we find out more information about the General Counsel Oath?
SZ: Please visit www.generalcounseloath.com or reach out to me to discuss how you might help support this initiative. If a General Counsel supports it, I urge them to celebrate and communicate that fact – inform their teams, non-legal colleagues, and wider professional networks about that support. I think that the Oath can help General Counsel be better leaders and innovative role models across their organisations.
CB: Simon, thank you very much for your time today, it has been great talking to you about this great initiative, and we very much hope for its success.