Dave Inder Comar on Corporate Culture and Law as a Creative Force

Dave Inder Comar is an attorney and founder of law practices Comar MollĂ© and Just Atonement. He has an amazing ability to humanize law, approaching it with creativity and empathy to make policy something people can use that helps them navigate the changes organizations face today. He’s a bold leader, having led a case against George W Bush Administration for illegal acts of aggression in the Iraq War, getting so far as the 9th circuit where it was acquitted due to the immunity provided to high ranking officials by federal law. In this episode we talk about law in business and the workplace, and how it can be a creative, generative function for businesses:

  • The dual-entity structure of his practices and how it enables him to be flexible and creative in his practice.
  • How a social science background has helped him break the mold of law firms and humanize law.
  • Why process is an important complement to making policies and laws work for people and organizations, and how meeting human needs can avoid unnecessary legal risk and costs.
  • Why compliance and the culture and processes around it are critical for business success, including retaining institutional knowledge.
  • How and why companies need to implement policies that address the changes we’re seeing from compliance to the move to remote work and online infrastructure.
  • Inder’s thoughts about the role of the Chief Ethics Officer.
  • Why he recommends clients struggling to retain employees and clients should re-manifest with values into a more values-explicit and innovative company
  • Why the most rewarding parts of being a lawyer is the human impact.

References and resources:

Select highlights:

  • “We’ve tried to create a nurturing space where lawyers who share those values can come and have an economic foundation and have some economic security from the practice, but we also want to give people freedom to do the things that they wanted to do… I think that’s something that not a lot of firms can not say, and so as a result, we’re able to attract some really awesome lawyers.”

  • “We’ve created at the firm our own ecosystem where we’re cultivating those values. And those values start to emerge in the lawyers themselves. So that is a really important product of the firm itself, that type of professional development is something I’m most proud of.”

  • “Culture is the river, and the rules and regulations are the dam. You can impose some structure, but the culture is the river, and ultimately a good lawyer will know how to inspect the culture and come up with a set of documents that people can actually use and will be incorporated into the company’s culture.”

  • “A lot of times people just want to be heard. A lot of people get a lawyer because they haven’t felt heard. And so if you provide a mechanism where people can feel heard, you might be able to resolve it before it gets miscommunicated and misconstrued in different ways.”

  • “I think compliance is evolving. That would have been a surprise to me years ago to predict that. I think there is an understanding that there has to be some dignity at work.”

  • ” I think that’s something every company should do and it starts from the board all the way down, and that’s create a culture of compliance.”

  • “Like everything in life, there’s a psychological bias that it isn’t a problem until something terrible happens. As lawyers we can see the things down the road that are coming… I do think lawyers can have a lot of value in terms of compliance, and also creating the culture of compliance where any person can feel comfortable saying I dont actually know if this is compliant with our internal policies.”

  • “People should feel safe at work. And if the workplace doesn’t feel safe, that’s a terrible indictment of the company.”

  • “The ultimate value should be, in my view, creating a place for human dignity to thrive.”

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