It has been a few months since the launch of the General Counsel Oath. Clare Beresford, CEO at Laurence Simons Search, catches up with Simon Zinger to find out how the initiative has developed. Since our first interview, Simon has moved on from Dentsu to join Entain plc as General Counsel.
Clare Beresford (CB): Good Morning Simon and huge congratulations on your new role. Thank you for taking the time today to talk to me about the General Counsel Oath. We are proud to support this initiative and were extremely excited to be involved with its launch. For those who aren’t aware of the Oath, please can you remind us what the General Counsel Oath is?
Simon Zinger (SZ): The Oath is a commitment made by General Counsel and other senior lawyers to follow a standard of principles and behaviours that reflect positive personal and professional behaviour; improve access to justice; promote antiracism; eliminate institutional bias; and support diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout our organisations.
CB: Why is there a need for a General Counsel Oath?
SZ: My hope is that the Oath can support General Counsel on several levels. It provides senior in-house lawyers with a path to positive work experiences, more constructive professional relationships, and a sense of common purpose with other in-house counsel and compliance professionals. The Oath also guides General Counsel in sparking change inside their own organisations and across the wider legal industry, ultimately leading to positive societal impact.
CB: How has the Oath been received by the industry?
SZ: We had a wonderful start to the initiative in terms of the awareness raised and the support received from many General Counsel and legal teams. Of course, thank you to Laurence Simons Search for supporting the Oath and helping raise awareness. And I cannot express enough gratitude to the organisations that publicly endorsed it, such as the Association of Corporate Counsel, the Minority Corporate Counsel Association, and the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
CB: We are very pleased to be involved, diversity and inclusion is of huge importance to us. How many people and organisations have committed to the Oath since its launch?
SZ: That is a challenging question because the current approach is not to keep a public register or list of supporters. I think this suits our audience, because while some General Counsel have voiced their support very publicly others have spoken to me privately to explain how they were taking the Oath forward. What is fascinating is that the range of countries, companies, industries, and size of legal teams represented has been so varied. Our latest support comes from the General Counsel of one of the world’s largest aerospace companies, and the General Counsel of a major international retail group.
CB: We are still in a pandemic. The Oath provides a consistent standard to foster diversity, inclusion, pro bono, personal development, and behaviours, do you think current changes in remote working practices across the industry make this more difficult to implement?
SZ: I don’t think so. I actually think that in uncertain and chaotic times like this, the Oath provides a steady and supportive platform to help remind us of what is important.
CB: Among other things, those taking the Oath would promise to ‘consider and provide work, promotion and internship opportunities to candidates with diverse backgrounds, looking beyond traditional or societal norms for schooling, life experience or professional achievement.’ Is this practice important to you?
SZ: Yes, very important. We have seen with the team at Dentsu the many benefits that come from hiring lawyers with different life experiences or career paths, including people from diverse educational and socio-economic backgrounds.
CB: Have you had any feedback from anyone who has changed any of their work behaviours since taking the Oath.
SZ: Yes, I recently heard from a few General Counsel who are using the Oath for both annual objective setting and wider career planning.
CB: Have you approached any situations differently since taking the Oath yourself?
SZ: Not really, but I sometimes do find myself thinking of the Oath before acting or making a decision. It is sometimes a helpful affirmation that I am on the right track.
CB: Is it too late for people to show their support for the General Counsel Oath?
SZ: It is never too late, and I hope that people find the Oath useful and continue to be inspired and motivated by it. I see many people taking action, which is fantastic, but I think that the Oath can help to support wider impact by aggregating or focusing our collective efforts.
CB: Where can we find out more information about the General Counsel Oath?
SZ: Please visit https://generalcounseloath.com/
CB: Simon, thank you very much for your time today, it has been great talking to you about the success of this initiative and the best of luck in your new role.