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Enlightenment values for enlightened general counsel

A thoughtful book, Susan Neiman’s Moral Clarity: A Guide for Grownup Idealists (Harcourt 2008), argues that the values of the Enlightenment thinkers – Voltaire, Rousseau, Hume, Kant and others in roughly the 18th century – still stand us in good stead. She condenses them into the importance of happiness and the right to enjoy it; the primacy of reason; reverence for nature; and hope for a better world.

Enlightenment thinkers claimed that the human capacity to reason could ensure steady progress. Science was its embodiment. Neiman contrasts those Enlightenment beliefs to views of humans as flawed, overpowered by animal passions, religious to the core, and locked into a spiral down.

A general counsel who practices and promotes Enlightenment values would try to raise employee morale. Careful thinking would be exalted and tools provided to enable it. Reverence – in a secular sense – might come from admiring the legal system through pro bono activities. A belief in progress and hope for betterment of the law department and its contributions would be manifest.

Enlightenment values occupy one part of the broad spectrum of philosophy (See my post of Sept. 22, 2005: our inabilities to comprehend complexity; Sept. 29, 2006: concepts from philosophy as they apply to law department management; Aug. 27, 2008: John Rawls’ original position; and May 23, 2008: values with 12 references; and Sept. 22, 2008: postmodernism.).

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One response to “Enlightenment values for enlightened general counsel”

  1. mariobkk says:

    Dear Mr. Morrison:
    I write in the hope that you might offer some guidance or a favorite resource to someone new to the (regional) general counsel role. More specifically, I am actually in the process of creating the role from the ground up after a decade in-house with a different company in Asia. My new employer is the local Singaporean subsidiary of a major European personal care products conglomerate.
    Previously, all legal needs at my new company were handled from London by a primary GC who would retain local counsel around the world. But the company’s new model contemplates half a dozen Regional GC’s (again, of which I am one) operating around the world with less reliance on outside help.
    It is not entirely surprising that the legal processes currently in place are jumbled and lacking in uniformity. For example, there are numerous variants of contracts floating about, and some appear to be of dubious provenance.
    As the first-hired of the new team of regional GC’s I am now working to bring consistency (and, it is hoped, enforceability) to my own region’s forms (primarily sales contracts). I would then seek to export my basic contractual model to the other regional GC’s — so as to avoid a lot of wheel reinvention — after benefitting from their collective wisdom in editing the forms as necessary.
    My objective would be for the regional GC’s to coordinate all substantive future changes to the forms, recognizing that we would still need to allow for numerous differences in the regional versions based on jurisdiction and product variations, for example. (I know Oracle makes a product that might be useful in this coordination task but I am not well-positioned at this time to urge a large investment in software. A simple central document repository is probably all we will need but I am open to other solutions.)
    I would appreciate any resource suggestions or ideas you might have on how best to proceed in the face of these challenges. Or as you might put it, “What would you do in my position?”
    Thanks again for this excellent source of information.