Home » What does it mean to be an impact lawyer? Four myths and four opportunities | The Social Enterprise Magazine

What does it mean to be an impact lawyer? Four myths and four opportunities | The Social Enterprise Magazine

“Impact advocates” are those who work to make a positive impact on people and the planet – they are legal leaders who measure their personal success by the positive impact they make, not just the profit they make achieve.

But being a relatively new field, there are a number of misconceptions about what it means to be an advocate for lawyers, as revealed in a conversation I moderated last month by the Global Alliance of Impact Lawyers (GAIL) was held. The panel also discussed ways to practice and further develop impact law.

Our panelists were Allen Bromberger (Bromberger Law, USA), Ammara Farooq Malik (AFMalik Law, Pakistan), Constanza Connolly (Keidos Legal Impact, Argentina), Ivana Calgano (YOUHUB, Uruguay), Michael Ryland (Centre for Social Finance Law, Australia). ). ) and Samheeta Rao (Gamechanger Law, India).

four mis notions

1. Impact Law is a “side practice”

IContract law is increasingly part of established legal practiceagreed the panellists. Michael Ryland pointed out that Impact Law is a holistic approach that aims to address the systemic issues facing businesses while resolving legal issues and addressing client needs. The issues lawyers want to address are central to modern global business and best practice laws future always require an impact consideration. Allen Bromberger noted that business clients increasingly need and expect technical expertise in impact law disciplines from their legal advisorswhile Constanza Connolly highlighted the increasing importance of impact and ESG practices in major law firms in Argentina. right of effect is for this reason a fast-growing area of ​​expertise, business development and legal innovation (a recent example is Patagonia’s decision to pursue “Go Purpose”).

2. Impact Law renounces profit

Impact lawyers bring tremendous value to clients and their work is becoming increasingly complex. As Ammara Farooq Malik saidPurpose and profit must come together because without profit is the purpose for which a company exists – including a legal transaction – is not sustainable. So Lawyers must consider both profit and purpose as conditional components of a sustainable business model; eEmbedding purpose and thoughtful governance in the business can help ensure bottom-line is sustainable. Samheeta Rao observed this influence the legal profession used to be considered a bastion of non-profit organizations, but, in India there are now more law firms trying to specialize in impact law. Therefore, the Impact Law does not sacrifice profit for purpose. Rather, it increasingly sees the two as working together to build a sustainable business future.

In general, impact law is a sustainable core area of ​​legal work

With the development of the legal sector Alternative fee arrangements and new pricing models are bound to continue to prevail, particularly for early-stage customers where affordability of full rates can be challenging. influencefocusEd Legal Work can adopt these new pricing models, but in general, impact law is a sustainable and central area of ​​legal practice in the panelists’ experience.

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3. Impact lawyers only work for charities and social enterprises

Given the multitude of businesses looking to make a positive impact (including their diversity in size, shape and industry), panelists identified a need for multidisciplinary legal services. Large multinational organizations are increasingly considering impact-driven business models such as B Corps, which adopt one stakeholderdriven business model that puts people and the planet next to profit. The diversity in size, industry and complexity of B corps demonstrates the breadth of expertise required to serve impact-focused clients.

Additionally, we’re increasingly seeing models that some would describe as “B-Corp Plus” — like that of Patagonia, which is pioneering innovative ownership models, and Faith in Nature, which has appointed a CEO to represent the interests of nature. These developments should encourage all Impact lawyers: ImpactfocusSpecialist advice is increasingly required across all sectors and in all companies.

4. Impact Laws are only widespread in the UK and US

Impact Law is a global movement that increasingly sees collaboration between lawyers in multiple jurisdictions, as evidenced by the range of Countries represented in the GAIL network. Impact in business is clearly more than just a UK/US model – nations around the world are looking for meaningful ways to respond to climate, improve governance and embed a purpose beyond profit in their businesses, and they will need impact lawyers to help them as they do develop.

Four Opportunities

1. Legislation

Legislation has been a significant catalyst in changing the impactconcentrated commercial and legal work. For example, Rao commented that a step towards more impactfocused work was clearly visible afterwards Introduction of the CSR regulations in India in 2014, which require companies above a certain threshold to spend at least 2% of their profits on CSR. This change in the law has helped to catalyze a shift in the field of impact law in India.

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More than 1 in the UK,500 companies and other organizations are now supporting the Better Business Act, a proposed law that would supplant the doctrine of shareholder primacyas a guiding principle for board decisionsin favor of a triple bottom line: Profit, People and Planet. And in the US and Latin American countries, the passage of utility laws has begun to enforce a triple bottom line approach to business.

2. Customer demand

It is becoming increasingly clear that legislation and regulation are not the only drivers of change. For example, as Ryland noted, “one of the real drivers I’ve seen for the concept of impact law in Australia actually comes from the financial industry – banks and corporations are saying we want to see climate and social justice commitments as part of what we’re doing, and they’re looking for attorneys to respond.” Impact law opportunities often arise directly from clients who want their legal advice to reflect their impact priorities.

Opportunities often come directly from clients who want to see legal advice reflecting their impact priorities

3. Cooperation with like-minded people across borders

Representing India, Pakistan, Australia, Latin America, the UK and the US, the GAIL panel of impact lawyers demonstrated the global reach of impact law and the Opportunity for cross-border cooperation. Wherever you are in the world, despite the regulatory or legal challenges you may face, there are many around the world willing to work together to continue the global expansion of impact law.

4. Innovation in business design

influenceFocused business is increasingly finding concrete legal expression in the form of new legal forms. An example in the UK is the ccommunity Iinterest company (CIC), introduced by the Companies Regulations 2005. Innovative legal structures aid in understanding and adopting impact companies. Bates Wells B Corp certification has impacted the company’s approach and strategy of acting for clients who want to make a positive impact. The panel discussed the B Corp movement and the prevalence of bbenefit cBusinesses in the United States and a number of other jurisdictions a corporate governance revolution serving as a proof of concept for campaigns like the Better Business Act. For jurisdictions without a specific legal form, the impact market is still nascent and model adoption is more tailored. As Ivana Calcagno noted, “Being an impact advocate means providing companies with tools to help them transition into the new economy. We need to innovate in legal design to create businesses that lead to a more humane society.”

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effect in the heart

The key thought that resonated throughout the panel was that this is impact law very personal but also professional. As Bromberger said: “Being a commercial lawyer is not a matter of technical practice, it is about what is close to your heart. For me, being an Impact Lawyer is a personal commitment to using your skills to make a positive difference.”

And as Malik noted, “Pakistan is at the center of a vast climate catastrophe… the moment is right to push for sustainable business models [and] This is where an impact attorney can play their role.”

Impact Law offers lawyers an opportunity to think: what do you want to do with your time and expertise in this world?

  • Louise Harman is a partner in the law firm of Bates Wells, the first UK law firm to be B Corp certified.

Header image by tiko33 on Freepik.

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