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Written by Norman Clark
Published: 01 October 2015
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seedling held in a hand before a forest

Does your firm know about social entrepreneurship? Should you be thinking about it as a possible strategic initiative? The answer to both questions should be "yes."

Some law firm clients of Walker Clark are already considering ways to expand their traditional practice areas and specialties into a new area, social entrepreneurship, which will become increasingly important in the world's economic development between now and 2030. By being one of the early entrants into this new practice space, even relatively small law firms can establish a substantial market position that could produce a solid return on their investment over the next 15 years. Players in the emerging social entrepreneurship sector require a special blend of sophisticated legal services and support, delivered as cost-effectively as possible. Moreover, their efforts will be -- not can be, but will be -- a significant force for improving the political, economic, and social environments for businesses and individuals who previously had been largely excluded from access to legal services, either because they didn't need them or could not afford them. Social entrepreneurship will be one of the most important factors in improving economic opportunity and living standards worldwide, conditions in which the legal profession and our clients who are not social entrepreneurs also will thrive.

Note that social entrepreneurship is not charity and it is not pro bono legal work. Instead, our firm's investigation of this new sphere of economic activity, which cuts across many industry sectors, strongly suggests a high potential for sustainable profitability and a differentiating market position for small firms and large ones alike.

In short, by developing a social entrepreneurship practice, law firms can do well, while also doing good.

How can you find out more about the strategic potential of social entrepreneurship for law firms?

First, if you are attending the 2015 Annual Conference of the International Bar Association in Vienna, Austria, come to room 2.15 on the second floor of the Austria Center at 0930 on Wednesday, 7 October 2015 for a session on "The role of lawyers in advancing development and the rule of law: working with social entrepreneurs" presented by the Poverty, Empowerment and the Rule of Law Working Group, with the support of the Rule of Law Working Group, the Human Rights Law Working Group, and the Pro Bono Committee of the IBA.

Here is a synopsis of this session:

Session Chair:

Professor Neil Gold University of Windsor, Windsor, Ontario, Canada; Senior Vice Chair, Poverty, Empowerment and the Rule of Law Working Group

Introductory Speaker:

Norman Clark, Walker Clark LLC, Fort Myers, Florida, USA; Chair, Poverty, Empowerment and the Rule of Law Working Group

Social entrepreneurs represent a new way of doing business with a clear double focus: to grow a business by helping people or the environment. Social entrepreneurs benefit society as a whole and the poor particularly, by developing innovative product or service solutions to compelling social and environmental problems. The legal profession's support is critical for empowering social entrepreneurs to achieve their goals.

The session will be organised in a very interactive format whereby all attendees will engage and participate in the discussion. This session will explain the nature of social entrepreneurship, a hybrid figure between non-profit and for-profit entities. Also the range of opportunities for lawyers and law firms to collaborate internationally to facilitate the work of social entrepreneurs will be explored, clearly portraying their most urgent needs.

Additionally, aspirational legal needs will be addressed, with the hope to come up with a proposal of an ideal global legal framework for social entrepreneurs, new players in the global market. A convenient legal vehicle to reflect the singularities of the business structure; taxation and social security incentives to pursue the companies' goals; legal formalities relating to fundraising and agreements with investors and social impact funds; pursuing law and social reform, etc.

Speakers

Eoghan Mackie,  Challenges Worldwide, Edinburgh, Scotland

Ian McDougall,  LexisNexis, New York, USA

Professor Luz Nagle,  Stetson University College of Law, Gulfport, Florida, USA; Member, IBA Human Rights Institute Council

Kurt Peleman, European Venture Philathropy Association, Brussels, Belgium

Second, start learning. A good place to start is with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 and its implementing initiatives. Click here to go to the United Nations Sustainable Development website, which probably is the most comprehensive source of current information.

Finally, be sure to read our report on Social Entrepreneurship and Law Firm Strategywhich will be published in the October issue of our firm's electronic newsletter, Walker Clark WorldNotes. If you are not a subscriber, you can join our mailing list by clicking on the SUBSCRIBE button at the bottom of this page.

Click here for more information about how Walker Clark can help you to determine whether social entrepreneurship should be a strategic priority for your practice.

Norman Clark