Alicia Plerhoples, Author at socentlaw - Page 5 of 6


I’m heartened by all of the events around social enterprise that are happening in D.C. Here is another — the DC Benefit Corporation Education Seminar hosted by B Lab and Drinker Biddle and Reath on 2/7/13. Registration here.

PunchRock D.C. Legal Events for Social Enterprises

There are two events happening in Washington, D.C. that will likely be of interest to those in the social enterprise field, both hosted by PunchRock, a collaborative community space for social entrepreneurs. The first event is “Legal Advice Workshop for Social Entrepreneurs” today (Tuesday, January 22nd) at 6:30pm at PunchRock’s office, and co-hosted by the DC Social Innovation Project. The second event is “What Should the Law of Social Enterprises Be?” next Tuesday, January 29th at 6:30pm, co-hosted by UnSectored and American University College of the Law, also at PunchRock’s office. I plan to attend both and am looking forward to meeting more of the D.C. social enterprise community.

Interest Convergence – Or Why Social Enterprise is Not a Fad

Because I have spent the last three years of my career (a long time considering that my legal career began eight years ago) immersed in the social enterprise field, it often occurs to me whether social enterprise is just a fad, and more important whether corporate engagement and interest in social enterprise will wane just as quickly as it has developed. Consider, for example, constituency statutes that were promulgated in many states in the 1980s to protect local corporations in response to increased out-of-state takeover activity. Generally, a constituency statute allows directors to consider the interests of non-shareholder constituencies when making business decisions for the corporation. Non-shareholder constituencies include employees, customers, creditors, suppliers, and the communities where the corporation is situated or does business; the national, state, and local economies; and both the long-term and short-term interests of shareholders and the corporation. And yet, constituency statutes never became relevant in empowering mission-driven corporations to “just say no” to multinational conglomerates acquiring them (for example, consider the often-referenced takeover of Ben & Jerry’s by Unilever which occurred after a constitutency statute was adopted in Vermont).

The fate of the benefit corporation and other new organizational forms created to facilitate social enterprise may be the same as constituency statutes—an inspirational goal to protect social missions, but never really relevant to the actual accomplishment and sustainability of those missions. “Hybrid” legal structures may never be used in significant numbers or adjudicated by courts in meaningful and useful ways. They just may never ripen to their full potential. Additionally, an economic boom could decrease the urgency of corporations to focus on the drivers of their interest in social enterprise—namely, increased global demand for natural resources, unprecedented economic disparity and inequality, and in-your-face evidence of climate change. (I don’t think that it is a coincidence that social enterprise has developed so rapidly during an economic downturn.)

I happen to believe that social and environmental sustainability issues are important to the well-being of the world’s economic, financial, and social health, and therefore worth pursuit. On that issue I agree with Cass Brewer’s earlier post. However, corporate managers or other people don’t have to agree with my sentiment in order for corporate interest in social enterprise to be sustained over the long run. My interest in social enterprise comes from a place of caring for the fate of humanity and our planet. But corporate interest in social and environmental sustainability issues often comes from the very thing that social entrepreneurs are trying to alter—pursuit of profits. Corporate managers see an untapped potential in pursuing social and environmental objectives because greater social, environmental, and economic equality and sustainability will lead to larger markets of customers and consumers for their products and services. Those markets are at the base of the pyramid and present a new area of growth for companies working in the saturated markets of the developed world. So while I may advocate equality and sustainability for their own sake, corporate managers may advocate it because, in the long run, it opens up new markets and more profits.

For example, Proctor & Gamble (P&G) operates an initiative called “Protecting Futures: Keeping Girls in School” through which it partners with non-governmental organizations to provide puberty education, sanitary protection, and sanitary facilities to girls in developing countries. The goal of the initiative is to provide the means for girls to attend school during their menstrual cycles (purportedly girls in the targeted countries miss school a few days a month while managing their menstrual cycles). While the goal is admirably, undoubtedly corporate managers at P&G must also see the potential to capture the loyalty of future customers and expand into a new market—if the girls stay in school, do well, and obtain employment they will have the funds to continue using the P&G products by purchasing them. Similar logic is the basis of many corporate social responsibility initiatives or other forays into projects that create social or environmental value, including those corporations who establish and/or fund educational programs—these companies see the need to continue to educate their future workforce, often with technological skills in math, science, and engineering. Even pure (non-CSR) social enterprise like the Rickshaw Bank in Guwahati, India is successful in large part because private banks sees a new avenue of profits in the rickshaw drivers that pay them to rent and eventually own their own rickshaws.

There is no denying that corporations also have to contend with the effects of climate change, increased global demand for resources, and social/political unrest on their manufacturing, supply chains, workforce, product distribution, consumer market, and other business operations. It will not be easy, or profitable, for corporations to continue business as usual without some understanding, acceptance, and incorporation of sustainability and/or social innovation goals. Nonetheless, these corporations are adapting and hell if they’re not going to make money while doing it.

This is why social enterprise is so brilliant! And why it is thriving and will continue to thrive. Social enterprise promotes a convergence of interests—financial interests and interests in humanity and the planet. So far, it’s a win-win situation.

Social Innovation Resource Guide

With some reservation, my research assistant Ari Dropkin and I created a Social Innovation Resource Guide. You can find it here and the description of it is below. I say that we created it “with reservation” because the social innovation world is far too vast to be captured in any one guide, nor maybe should it be. We originally created it for the law students in my social enterprise courses at Georgetown Law — it is an instrument that they will use to learn about the field and conduct their research as they represent social enterprise clients in my legal clinic. I’m happy with the way it turned out but hope that people will send me more resources that we have failed to include.

Official description:

This Social Innovation Resource Guide is a work-in-progress that attempts to capture various resources that assist, advise, and document social innovation. Social innovation–defined by the Stanford Social Innovation Review as “a novel solution to a social problem that is more effective, efficient, sustainable, or just than existing solutions and for which the value created accrues primarily to society as a whole rather than private individuals”–is drawing widespread academic interest. This Resource Guide began as an instrument for law students enrolled in the Social Enterprise & Nonprofit Law Clinic at Georgetown University Law Center. In it you will find find foundations that support social innovation, organizations that are creating metrics to measure social innovation, attorneys who counsel social innovators, centers and incubators that grow social enterprises, and much more. This Resource Guide is meant to be collaborative and dynamic, and useful to all. Please email us with suggestions for the guide at social [email protected]


Jenny Kassan of Cutting Edge Capital will run a Legal Bootcamp for Social Entrepreneurs at Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco. If you’re not already familiar with Cutting Edge Capital’s crowdfunding and alternative ownership legal work, you’re missing out. More information on the bootcamp can be found here. I hope to host a similar bootcamp in Washington, DC through my Social Enterprise and Nonprofit Law Clinic next year when the law clinic launches.

Three “Sharing Economy” Legal Resources

Today I had a wonderful conversation with Janelle Orsi, lawyer at the Sustainable Economies Law Center in Oakland, and author of Practicing Law in the Sharing Economy. She pointed me to three websites that SELC recently launched that contain excellent legal resources and may be of interest to lawyers practicing in the social enterprise field: one dealing with co-op laws, another on bartering law, and yet another on urban agriculture law. As I launch my social enterprise and nonprofit law clinic at Georgetown Law, I know that I will be trafficking these websites and consulting with SELC frequently. I would also be remiss in not mentioning Law for Change, a legal resources website for social entrepreneurs run by Lex Mundi Pro Bono Foundation.

D.C. Benefit Corporation Legislation May Pass Next Week

The District of Columbia is on track to be the thirteenth jurisdiction to pass a benefit corporation statute. The Benefit Corporation Act of 2012 received initial approval of the D.C. Council on December 4, 2012, and is up for a final vote on December 18. It is expected to pass as 11 council members voted affirmatively on the 4th (two council member votes were absent or vacant but none voted against the bill). Here is the bill. I very briefly reviewed the proposed legislation and it seems to follow the model legislation, with no variations as California and Massachusetts have added.


Here is a symposium on social enterprise hosted by the Center of Social Value Creation at University of Maryland’s School of Business: No information as to speakers or content yet but this is probably one to keep your eye on given past conferences and the work that has come out of the Center, including that it runs with


On November 29th, Ashoka’s founder Bill Drayton will discuss the future of social entrepreneurship in an interview with David Bornstein from the New York Times. Event takes place at LiquidNet in New York. Tickets to the event and more info here. I wish that I was able to attend in person but I will be sure to follow along on Twitter using #FutureSocEnt.


The Social Enterprise and Nonprofit Law Clinic at Georgetown University Law Center is seeking a Graduate Teaching Fellow.

Description of the Clinic

The Social Enterprise and Nonprofit Law Clinic at Georgetown University Law Center will open in Fall 2013. The Clinic introduces and orients law students to the materials, expectations, interactions, and vocabulary of corporate law practice while also challenging students to reflect on and innovate legal reforms that further nonprofit law and the social enterprise movement. The Clinic embraces a focused and explicit use of clinical education to enhance law students’ commitment to laws and business practices that promote triple-bottom line corporate sustainability, which in its most expansive meaning includes financial and environmental sustainability as well as the physical, psychological, and social well-being of individuals and communities.

In the Clinic, law students learn about corporate governance and contexts, shareholders and stakeholders, business relationships and operations, and business documents. Students are taught how to become partners in enterprise for their clients with the understanding that innovative business lawyers understand both the legal and non-legal incentive structures that drive business organizations.

The Clinic’s clients consist of (1) social enterprises, i.e., nonprofits and select for-profit small businesses that employ innovative business strategies with the primary mission of accomplishing social and environmental goals, and (2) nonprofit organizations and foundations working in a wide range of fields including social services, education, youth development, technology, health, sustainable agriculture, and civil rights.

Description of Fellowship

The two-year fellowship is an ideal position for a transactional lawyer interested in developing teaching and supervisory abilities in a setting that emphasizes a dual commitment—clinical education of law students and the promotion of triple-bottom line corporate sustainability. The fellow will have several areas of responsibility, with an increasing role as the fellowship progresses. Over the course of the fellowship, the fellow will: (i) supervise students in representing nonprofit organizations and social enterprises on transactional, operational, and corporate governance matters, (ii) share responsibility for teaching seminar sessions, and (iii) share in the administrative and case handling responsibilities of the Clinic. Fellows also participate in a clinical pedagogy seminar and other activities designed to support an interest in clinical teaching and legal education. The fellowship start date is July 1, 2013, and the fellowship is for two years, ending June 30, 2015.


Applicants must have at least 3 years of post J.D. legal experience. Preference will be given to applicants with experience in a transactional area of practice such as nonprofit law and tax, corporate law, intellectual property, real estate, or finance. Applicants with a strong commitment to economic justice and corporate sustainability are encouraged to apply. Applicants must be admitted or willing to be admitted to the District of Columbia Bar.

Application Process

To apply, send a resume, an official or unofficial law school transcript, C.V., and a detailed letter of interest by December 1, 2012. The letter should be no longer than two pages and address a) why you are interested in this fellowship; b) what you can contribute to the Clinic; c) your experience with transactional matters and/or corporate law; and d) anything else that you consider pertinent. Please address your application to Professor Alicia Plerhoples, Georgetown Law, 600 New Jersey Ave., NW, Suite 434, Washington, D.C. 20001, or electronically to [email protected]

Teaching fellows receive an annual stipend of approximately $53,500 (taxable), health and dental benefits, and all tuition and fees in the LL.M. program. As full-time students, teaching fellows qualify for deferment of their student loans. In addition, teaching fellows may be eligible for loan repayment assistance from their law schools.