What is the role of the private sector when it comes to addressing social or development challenges, domestically and abroad? Traditionally, the public has relied on the government to tackle society’s most pressing social issues. Eventually, the non-profit sector began to play a larger role where the government was either unable or unwilling to take action. But today, there is a growing recognition that no one sector alone is able to respond to today’s most pressing problems. For example, in the 1960s, private capital accounted for only 29 percent of financial flows to developing countries. By 2013, private sources accounted for 84 percent of all financial flows to developing countries, and 91 percent of all financial flows from the United States.
This class will explore the role that all three traditional sectors of society (private, nonprofit and government) can and must play, individually and together. And, we will examine the role of the law as a powerful tool in each sector’s efforts to advance positive social and development impact.
Social entrepreneurship and impact investing represent two key areas where the traditional lines among these sectors are increasingly blurring. Social entrepreneurs are individuals who develop innovative solutions to some of the world’s most pressing social and development problems. They often form social enterprises, which are for-profit or nonprofit entities that advance a double- or triple- bottom line approach (profit, social and/or environmental). Through this course, we will explore the intersection of law and social innovation, and the unique legal challenges and opportunities that social entrepreneurs and social enterprises typically encounter. We will also focus on the role that lawyers can play in advancing (or in some cases, hindering) social change.
The topics we will cover include an analysis of the traditional role of the nonprofit sector and its limitations, the evolution of traditional for-profit legal forms and the use of tandem structures (the combination of both a nonprofit and for-profit entity), potential unintended consequences of cross-sector partnerships, and the provision of and access to capital beyond traditional grants, including impact investing, blended finance, development finance and pay-for-results structures and mechanisms.
This course will provide you with the analytical and communication (oral and written) skills as an attorney to effectively counsel social entrepreneurs and to analyze the role of the law as a powerful tool, or a limiting factor, to help social entrepreneurs achieve their objectives.
This course will utilize skill-building exercises in each class so that you have the opportunity to:
- improve written (final research paper) and oral (class participation) communication skills critical to good lawyering;
- apply the relevant laws and regulations that you have learned in other core law school courses to the specific legal challenges faced by social entrepreneurs;
- exercise a multidisciplinary approach and understand how to apply existing bodies of law in different ways that address the unique needs of social entrepreneurs;
- explore and critically examine the emerging field of law and social entrepreneurship (e.g., Is social entrepreneurship law or social enterprise law a new field in itself? Where is it headed? Do we need it? How/will the law adapt and change to social innovation?); and
- become thought leaders in this emerging area to encourage further legal innovation and legal entrepreneurship within your law firm or other place of employment after graduation.