Lex Mundi Firms Help Root Capital Fight Poverty In Economically Vulnerable Areas
Root Capital is a nonprofit social investment fund that is pioneering finance for grassroots businesses in rural areas of developing countries. The organization provides capital, financial management training, and market connections to small and growing businesses that build sustainable livelihoods and transform rural communities in poor, environmentally vulnerable places. Since their launch in 1999, Root Capital has provided more than $200 million in credit to 290 small and growing businesses representing 375,000 smallholder producers in 30 countries.
Lex Mundi member firm lawyers have helped Root Capital review loan agreements, conduct due diligence on a prospective loan, and establish regional offices in multiple countries.
Individuals that contributed to these efforts include:
- Shirin Philipp, Essence McGill Arzu, Michael Glanz, and Richard Schaul-Yoder with Foley Hoag LLP, Lex Mundi member firm for Massachusetts, USA
- Ernesto Hütt Crespo with Facio & Cañas, Lex Mundi member firm for Costa Rica
- Ana Raquel Villeda with Mayora y Mayora, S.C., Lex Mundi member firm for Guatemala
- Luis Pellerano and Isabel L. Andrickson with Pellerano & Herrera, Lex Mundi member firm for the Dominican Republic
Commenting on the value of the legal services to his organization, William Foote, Founder and CEO of Root Capital, said, “Root Capital’s success and continued growth is dependent upon our ability to serve small and growing businesses in some of the world’s poorest rural communities. The support and guidance that we have received from Lex Mundi member firms has been critical. It has ensured access to quality legal counsel across borders and buttressed the loan documentation we use to finance otherwise ‘unbankable’ enterprises, thus building a strong foundation from which to scale our efforts. We are very thankful for Lex Mundi's guidance and dedication.”
Lex Mundi Member Firms Help Sustainable Harvest Coffee Importers Encourage Transparent Markets for Coffee
For generations, coffee farmers did not know who purchased their product, how it tasted, or if they would sell to the same buyer again. Sustainable Harvest is changing this cycle with the “Relationship Coffee” business model. Relationship Coffee operates with complete transparency and brings coffee farmers, importers, and roasters together on a level playing field. Since 1997, Sustainable Harvest has purchased more than $100 million in coffee from farmers in Latin America and East Africa. They have also channeled significant investments — nearly $1 million in 2009 — to these coffee-growing communities.
Lawyers at a number of Lex Mundi member firms have helped Sustainable Harvest promote fair and transparent markets for coffee by providing trademark support for a coffee traceability software program, assisting the organization in resolving work visa issues, filing for nonprofit status in Peru, protecting business methods and processes, and providing general counsel for ongoing legal needs.
Libby Evans, Director of Farmer Development Programs at Sustainable Harvest, commented, "Sustainable Harvest has been able to focus on improving the livelihoods of more coffee farmers worldwide as a result of partnering with the Lex Mundi Pro Bono Foundation. Lex Mundi member firms have allowed us to focus on our work, while providing us with effective and efficient legal counsel."
The following lawyers at Lex Mundi member firms have generously contributed their time and expertise:
Lex Mundi Member Firms Empower Lumni to Make Higher Education More Accessible
Over the last three years, numerous Lex Mundi member firm lawyers have helped Lumni Inc., a pioneer in the field of Human Capital Financing, make higher education more accessible.
Lumni designs, markets and manages "Human capital funds", an innovative investment vehicle for financing higher education. Students agree to pay a fixed percentage of their individual incomes for a predetermined number of months after graduation. This allows individuals with low incomes to receive higher education when they would otherwise be unlikely to secure a loan without collateral or a cosigner.
A number of Lex Mundi member firm lawyers have provided Lumni with advice on securities and fund formation, tax law, and lender regulation; drafting novel contracts for financing human capital; and registering trademarks in over 30 countries. These individuals include:
- Larry Silverman with Akerman Senterfitt, Lex Mundi’s member firm for Florida, USA
- Ranjan Negi with Amarchand & Mangaldas & Suresh A. Shroff & Co., Lex Mundi’s member firm for India
- Daniel Del Río Loaiza with Basham, Ringe y Correa, S.C., Lex Mundi’s member firm for Mexico
- Carlos Umaña Trujillo with Brigard & Urrutia Abogados, Lex Mundi’s member firm for Colombia
- Vivian Poon with Deacons, Lex Mundi’s member firm for Hong Kong
- Tatiana Campello Lopes with Demarest e Almeida, Lex Mundi’s member firm for Brazil
- Danielle van der Kolk with Houthoff Buruma, Lex Mundi’s member firm for the Netherlands
- Alfredo O'Farrell with Marvel, O'Farrell & Mairal, Lex Mundi’s member firm for Argentina
- Stacey Johnson with Steptoe & Johnson LLP, Lex Mundi’s member firm for the District of Columbia, USA
Felipe Vergara, Co-Founder & CEO of Lumni Inc., explained, “Several Lex Mundi member firms have made a critical contribution to developing Lumni’s innovative model for financing higher education. Their work has allowed Lumni to create and refine legal tools, resulting in 1,000 students funded to date and setting the groundwork for tens of thousands more in the coming years. Lawyers like Carlos Umaña from Brigard & Urrutia and Stacey Johnson from Steptoe & Johnson have gone the extra mile by tackling complex challenges with the highest professionalism and quality. It has been inspiring to see so much commitment for a financial innovation that is benefiting talented young adults from who would otherwise never get a chance.”
Steptoe & Johnson Lawyers Assist Network for Good's Giving Platform
With the outpouring of charitable giving in the wake of 9/11, the founders of Network for Good – AOL, Cisco and Yahoo! – came to the realization that it is far easier for people to “buy online” than to send a charitable donation by check. Network for Good makes it easy for donors to research and make contributions to more than 1.5 million 501(c)(3) organizations listed by Guidestar, a non-profit that collects and publicizes information helpful in philanthropic decision-making. Since its creation, Network for Good has processed over $300 million in donations to over 50,000 nonprofits. For more information please see www.networkforgood.org.
Since being introduced by the Lex Mundi Pro Bono Foundation in 2008, William Pecau, R. Whitney Winston, Rachel Hofstatter and other lawyers with Steptoe & Johnson LLP, Lex Mundi’s member firm for Washington, D.C., have been assisting Network for Good in a wide variety of matters, ranging from technology transactions to trademarks.
Steptoe lawyers have reviewed and negotiated numerous technology agreements on behalf of Network for Good, including:
- The offer of Network for Good web services to Guidestar and its customers;
- A software license with a leading provider of email marketing services;
- Advertisements and promotions with a leading domain name registrar;
- Software development to provide new and enhanced functionality to Network for Good’s website;
- Hosting and maintaining volunteer opportunity databases for the Executive Office of the President and the states of California, Illinois and New York; and
- Credit card promotions and acceptances with a retail electronic payments network operator.
Steptoe lawyers have also been involved in enforcement of Network for Good’s trademarks, including:
- Investigating unauthorized use of Network for Good’s trademarks;
- Sending cease and desist letters protesting infringements of Network for Good’s trademarks; and
- Negotiating agreements for the co-existence of the mark NETWORK FOR GOOD with other potentially conflicting marks in the charitable fundraising industry.
Chief Executive Officer of Network for Good, Bill Strathmann, explained, "I first met David Roll and was introduced to the Lex Mundi Pro Bono Foundation at the Fast Company Social Capitalist Awards. We were immediately matched with Steptoe & Johnson LLP here in DC. To help drive more dollars to more charities, Network for Good forms a lot of partnerships with corporate partners large and small. So we're in pretty much constant need of legal counsel during these contract negotiations. Without the timely, specialized, and high quality pro bono services of Steptoe we'd certainly not be sending $100MM to 50,000 nonprofits this year."
Lex Mundi Member Firms Help Grassroot Soccer Fight AIDS Among African Youth
Grassroot Soccer is an international organization that aims to utilize soccer and powerful role models to reduce HIV transmission among youth in Africa. They have developed a cutting edge curriculum that uses activities and games to provide youth with comprehensive HIV prevention and life skills education. To date, more than 270,000 youth in 13 countries have graduated from the Grassroot Soccer programs.
A number of Lex Mundi member firm lawyers have worked together to support the mission of Grassroot Soccer by providing critical international pro bono legal services. These individuals include:
- Lise Conradie, Nadira Deonarain, Linda Mabhena, Annette Olivier, Vicky Stilwell, Mike Wagener, Emma Whitelaw, and Mike Wilter with Bowman Gilfillan, Lex Mundi’s member firm for South Africa
- Thomas Barnes with Davis Graham & Stubbs LLP, Lex Mundi’s member firm for Colorado, USA
- Chris Helm with Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, Lex Mundi’s member firm for Alaska, Oregon and Washington, USA
- David Angus, Kevin Moriarty and Paul Ode with Downs Rachlin Martin PLLC, Lex Mundi’s member firm for Vermont, USA
- Shirin Philipp with Foley Hoag LLP, Lex Mundi’s member firm for Massachusetts, USA
- Eleanor Kerr with Maclay Murray & Spens LLP, Lex Mundi’s member firm for Scotland
- Erik Phelps with Michael Best & Friedrich LLP, Lex Mundi’s member firm for Wisconsin, USA
- Amanda Sanchez and R. Tracy Sprouls with Rodey, Dickason, Sloan, Akin & Robb, P.A., Lex Mundi’s member firm for New Mexico, USA
- Thomas Stephens with Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal LLP
- Timothy Bickham with Steptoe & Johnson LLP, Lex Mundi’s member firm for Washington DC, USA
David Harrison, the US Office Manager for Grassroot Soccer, described the critical legal support his organization has received: “As a result of opinions provided by pro bono legal services through the Lex Mundi Pro Bono Foundation, we have accomplished a number of things we probably would not otherwise been able to do. We have revised the By-Laws of the organization, obtained the legal permits necessary to carry out fund raising in a number of States, and developed policies about accepting donations and for setting standards for accepting volunteer service. Thanks to advice from participating attorneys, we have also successfully managed several sets of circumstances as regards employment issues. We have benefited from counsel having to do with trademark and other intellectual property issues as well.
We have been and continue to be the grateful recipients of the legal counsel provided to Grassroot Soccer through the Lex Mundi Pro Bono Foundation. It is no exaggeration to say that such counsel is service we could not have afforded in the earliest years of our corporate existence...at a time when we had the least experience ourselves to which to turn when legal issues arose.
As we have grown, the issues have become more complex and we take great comfort in knowing that the Lex Mundi service is available to us. I cannot tell you in strong enough terms how comforting it is to know we can turn to you for assistance.”
Students at one of the HIV education soccer camps
Lex Mundi Member Firms help Video Volunteers Raise Awareness of the Issues Facing the Global Poor
Video Volunteers is a nonprofit organization that seeks to create a global community media network by using high quality video content to bring awareness to impoverished communities and empower community members to take action. Currently, they have 15 Community Video Units (CVUs) across India in six states, ranging from the largest slum in Asia to the most remote tribal regions of the country.Lex Mundi Member Firms Snell & Wilmer and Mayora & Mayora help Synergo Arts Maximize the Health and Prosperity of Artisans Around the World
Artists and artisans in numerous cultures suffer from preventable injuries because they spend much of the day kneeling or sitting in difficult positions. Synergo Arts, the leading provider of resources in ergonomics education, consulting, and design, helps communities of artists and artisans use ergonomics to prevent such injuries and in turn enhance their health, income, performance, productivity, and the quality of their art or craft.Lex Mundi Member Firms Provide Pro Bono Legal Support to the Genocide Intervention Network and its Anti-Genocide Movement
The Genocide Intervention Network (GI-NET) is an organization that empowers individuals and communities with the tools to prevent and stop genocide around the world. GI-NET envisions a world in which the global community is willing and able to protect civilians from genocide and mass atrocities.Lex Mundi Member Firms Help Medair Bring Life-Saving Relief and Rehabilitation to Individuals Affected by Disaster, Conflict and Other Crises
Medair is a non-governmental organization (NGO) that brings life-saving relief and rehabilitation to individuals affected by disaster, conflict, and other crises. With its headquarters in Switzerland, Medair works in difficult-to-access regions and with people who are often unrecognized by the world at large.Teams from Richards, Layton & Finger and Bowman Gilfillan Help mothers2mothers Support Mothers and Children with HIV in Africa
The organization mothers2mothers (m2m) offers an effective, sustainable model of care that provides education and support for pregnant women and new mothers living with HIV/AIDS. To date, Richards, Layton & Finger, P.A., Lex Mundi’s member firm for Delaware, and Bowman Gilfillan, Lex Mundi’s member firm for South Africa, have provided invaluable pro bono legal support that is helping m2m achieve its great success.Lex Mundi Member Firm Lawyers Help Recycla Chile Revolutionize Chile’s Approach to Electronic Waste
Recycla Chile (“Recycla”) was the first social entrepreneur organization in Latin America to develop a sustainable business model to properly recycle the growing amount of electronic waste. Recycla is a “triple bottom line” organization that incorporates environmental innovation with management strategies based on social, economic and environmental sustainability.Alston & Bird and Bowman Gilfillan Assist SELF to Bring Solar Technology to Three Rural Schools in South Africa
SELF seeks to assist developing communities and governments around the world in the acquisition, financing, and installation of decentralized solar electric systems that convert sunlight directly into electricity. Using the latest solar-electric technology, SELF helps rural families achieve energy self-sufficiency and make the leap from the 19th to the 21st Century.Basham, Ringe y Correa, S.C. Helps Lumni Bring its Innovative Student Educational Financing System to Mexico
Lumni designs and manages innovative funds that finance the education of low income students using financial instruments that reduce the student's risk to invest in their own education. Read about Basham, Ringe y Correa's work to bring Lumni's innovative student financing system to Mexico.Worldbike Praises Foley Hoag For Invaluable Pro Bono Assistance
Worldbike is an international social entrepreneur that provides energy efficient transportation solutions and creates income-generating opportunities for the world’s poor. The organization designs, builds and distributes higher-strength, longer-wheelbase bicycles with integrated cargo capacity for people and goods.Ashoka Fellow Praises Lex Mundi Indian Member Firm for its “Rock-Solid” Commitment
An Ashoka Fellow developed a bamboo gasifier to produce environmentally clean electricity to a village in India, where a family’s average income is less than $1 USD per day. The project was serving to revive the village and its stagnant economy. However, persons with vested interests tried to block the client’s initiative by presenting a memorandum to the Bihar State Pollution Control Board (BSPCB), claiming that the gasifier violated environmental standards and regulations.Disability Awareness Organization Thanks Lex Mundi Member Firms in Germany and the Netherlands
Dialogue in the Dark is a disability awareness and rights group based in Hamburg, Germany. It conducts exhibitions throughout Europe, Asia and America in which visitors are led by blind guides through specially constructed darkened rooms and exposed to the scents, sounds, temperatures, and textures that convey the characteristics of a normal day to a blind person.First Book Praises Steptoe & Johnson for Professionalism and Utter Support
Jane Robinson, CFO of First Book, expressed her appreciation to Scott Katzman and Julie Vinyard of Steptoe & Johnson LLP (Lex Mundi's member firm for Washington D.C.) for the work they did to close a large loan for First Book that enables the organization to greatly expand the volume of books it distributes.Additional Comments
Social entrepreneurs, collaborators and lawyers speak out about the value of Lex Mundi Pro Bono Foundation's support and pro bono legal counsel.