09 September 2020

GC urges in-house leaders to sign up to Hippocratic-style oath to drive social change

Simon Zinger

Simon Zinger is seeking a 'shift in awareness and behaviour' among general counsel

Dentsu GC Simon Zinger wants 'General Counsel Oath' to set common global standards for behaviour

Dentsu Aegis Network general counsel Simon Zinger has launched a global initiative to encourage legal and compliance leaders to commit to an oath to drive positive changes across the profession, their organisations and society.

The ‘General Counsel Oath’ is inspired by the Hippocratic Oath and is designed to build on existing professional and ethical rules by focusing on personal behaviours that support social justice and other progressive issues.

Senior in-house lawyers who have signalled their support for the initiative include Jonathan Leiken, chief legal officer at Diebold Nixdorf, Tim Devine, general counsel at Detroit Land Bank Authority,  Lee Reichert, chief legal and government affairs officer at Molson Coors, and Emma Swain, head of legal at Unlimited Group.

"This is a much needed initiative at a critical time," said Thomson Reuters chief legal officer and company secretary Thomas Kim in a LinkedIn post. "I am all in." 

Zinger said: “My goal is to raise awareness about the Oath so that general counsel and other legal and compliance leaders, no matter where they are in the world, commit to the oath and translate that commitment into action. Their commitment would naturally be followed by a shift in awareness and behaviour – which should then lead to the broader intended consequence of positively impacting organisations and society.”

The oath is broken down into sections covering leadership, diversity and inclusion; social impact and pro bono; internal clients; external parties; and personal behaviour, and then outlines a series of rules that GCs are expected to follow.

For example, under the leadership, diversity and inclusion pillar, the oath calls on GCs to be alert to acts of prejudice, discrimination, exclusion or micro-aggression – whether intentional or unintentional – that are directed towards their team or others in their organisation, and to speak out against such behaviours and encourage their team to do the same.

Zinger hopes the oath will create a common global standard that encourages GCs and other legal and compliance professionals to go beyond offering legal and compliance expertise and become leaders and role-models on issues related to diversity, equality, inclusion, pro bono work and other actions and education related to anti-racism. 

In-house legal and compliance leaders are encouraged to take the oath and raise awareness of their pledge across their team, organisation and professional network. 

The initiative is supported by the Minority Corporate Counsel Association, Washington DC-based GC membership group AdvanceLaw, the Women’s Law Center of Maryland and the Maryland State Bar Association.

Zinger has been at London-headquartered global advertising giant Dentsu since 2003 having previously been assistant GC at Vivendi. He has also worked in private practice for Baker McKenzie in San Francisco.

His initiative follows the formation of the US grouping GCs for Law Firm Diversity in 2019 after 170 US general counsel and corporate legal officers signed a letter calling on law firms to improve their diversity record; their European counterparts following suit in March of that year

In January, The Black General Counsel 2025 initiative to double the number of black general counsel at Fortune 1000 companies launched its official website.

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