News On Purpose
In This Issue
- Another Banner Year, 2023 in Review
- Activating Humanitarian Resources Near Rafah
- Bringing Safe Water to Schools
- New Canadian Bar Association President Leading By Example
Thanks to the generosity and support of Lex Mundi member firms and attorneys, 2023 was another banner year for the Foundation. Last year, the Foundation matched 204 matters on behalf of 150 social entrepreneurs. This means that since inception, 132 Lex Mundi member firms have worked on 2,486 projects for 1,147 social entrepreneurs. These numbers are a testament to the commitment of this incredible network to have a positive impact on communities around the world.
In addition to the Foundation’s matchmaking program, we attended several convenings and connected with many of the Foundation’s collaborators and clients in person. Events included MIT Solve in Cambridge, MA, Opportunity Collaboration in Miches, Dominican Republic, SOCAP in San Francisco, CA and the Schwab Foundation and Global Alliance Annual Summit in Geneva, Switzerland. We were able to host office hours and provide legal mentorship to social entrepreneurs, disseminate resources, and share more about Lex Mundi’s work with some of the world’s leading changemakers.
Isis Bous, our Managing Director, also traveled to New York City during the UN General Assembly and Climate Week. While in New York, she participated in the Clinton Global Initiative annual convening and attended Sustainable Development Impact meetings with our long-time partners at the World Economic Forum’s Global Alliance for Social Entrepreneurship. Isis had the opportunity to connect with new and existing colleagues, discuss future collaborations, and explore ways to scale the impact of social enterprise worldwide.
This year, we were also honored to be finalists in the “Corporates” category of the 2023 Catalyst 2030 Awards alongside Deloitte, Ernst & Young (EY), and Ambev. Lex Mundi President and CEO, Helena Samaha, represented Lex Mundi and the Foundation at the awards ceremony, which took place at the Spencer House in London. The awards honor pioneering organizations that have collaborated with Catalyst 2030 to design transformative solutions to systemic challenges, and we look forward to continuing our work with both Catalyst 2030 and the other finalists for years to come.
As we reflect on 2023, we are grateful to have a seat at the table among leaders in the social impact space and appreciative of the recognition that the Foundation has received. It would not be possible without the support of Lex Mundi staff, member firms, and attorneys. We look forward to carrying the success of this past year into 2024, and to continue championing the social entrepreneurship movement.
In light of the ongoing humanitarian crisis near Rafah, Shalakany (Egypt) generously provided guidance for NGOs seeking to activate resources in the area. The efforts were spearheaded by Omar Sherif, a partner at the firm. Omar and his team answered questions addressing: (i) the regulatory framework for incorporating a foreign NGO in Egypt; (ii) challenges associated with the incorporation of a foreign NGO in Egypt; and (iii) available alternative forms of registration. The firm’s responses are available here and can be shared with anyone who may be interested.
In addition to providing this guidance, Omar generously offered pro bono consultations to organizations seeking additional assistance. We have shared this information with attorneys, clients, and collaborators, and have received an outpouring of thanks from organizations around the world.
We are incredibly grateful to Omar and the team at Shalakany for volunteering their time and expertise to help those in need. Please feel free to reach out to the Foundation team if you or anyone you know would like to learn more, or to request a consultation. While capacity is limited, Shalakany is willing to assist as many organizations as possible.
In 2010, the UN General Assembly recognized access to water and sanitation as a human right. Sadly, today, billions of people still do not have access to safe, clean, water. The problem is particularly acute in schools in low-income regions that cannot afford to boil or purchase water for their students, leaving children at risk of water-related illnesses.
Danny Wright, Founder and Executive Director of Gravity Water, is working to solve this problem. Gravity Water is a non-profit focused on turning rain into safe water for schools. They are currently operating in Nepal and Vietnam, and plan to expand pilots to Taiwan, Malaysia, and Indonesia.
Danny approached the Foundation, seeking assistance protecting Gravity Water’s intellectual property. He noted, “As a small non-profit, we felt lost on how to secure protections for our intellectual property, including new technology that helped schools operate entirely off of rainwater. We didn’t have the required skillset or financial capacity to hire professionals to start the process and didn’t know how to move forward in furthering our mission in a responsible way.” Attorneys at Steptoe (USA, D.C.) and other Lex Mundi member firms quickly stepped in to help, agreeing to register trademarks for the organization’s name and logo and handle Gravity Water’s patent applications. Because of the support provided by these teams, Danny identified IP as one of Gravity Water’s key wins for 2023. He said, “Their attention to our needs and kind and professional demeanor helped us navigate IP law and gave us confidence in bringing our important work, and the name behind it, to the world.”
With their legal issues shored up, Gravity Water is now partnering with Apple to bring their technology to over 130 schools in Vietnam. In the first year alone, they plan to provide an additional 30,000 children with access to safe drinking water, while conserving 15.4 million gallons of groundwater. In November, this initiative was recognized in a White House briefing as a key partnership and investment in the Asia-Pacific region. It is clear that the private sector can play a tremendous role in helping social enterprises scale their impact. We cannot thank the Lex Mundi volunteer attorneys enough for advancing this important cause. Their support means fewer children must choose between thirst or drinking contaminated water.
John Stefaniuk, a partner at Thompson Dorfman Sweatman LLP (Manitoba, Canada), was appointed President of the Canadian Bar Association (CBA). He assumed his role in September 2023 and now leads a community of more than 38,000 lawyers, judges, notaries, law teachers, and law students across the country.
Among his top three key priorities is encouraging lawyers to give back to the profession and to their communities. John’s actions over the years show his strong commitment to volunteerism and public service. He traveled to Africa four times with the CBA and Global Affairs Canada to improve women’s positions in communities affected by resource extraction and was a member of the CBA’s Truth and Reconciliation Task Force. In addition to his extensive pro bono work, John also served as the Board Chair of The Friends of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. He helped in the $150 million capital campaign that ultimately resulted in the building of the museum. It is very meaningful to have such a staunch proponent of pro bono, volunteerism, and public service in this position. It demonstrates that pro bono work is increasingly being recognized as an integral part of the legal profession both in Canada and around the world. John serves as a wonderful example of someone who uses his skills as an attorney in the service of others. At the Foundation, we are excited for his leadership and to see how attorneys across Canada are inspired to give back.
In This Issue
In light of the ongoing humanitarian crisis near Rafah, our Lex Mundi member for Egypt, Shalakany, has generously provided high-level guidance for NGOs seeking to activate resources in the area.
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The 14th Annual Lex Mundi Pro Bono Foundation Awards were announced during the 2023 Lex Mundi Connect + Collaborate Annual Conference in San Francisco on Thursday, May 4, 20023. These awards honor Lex Mundi member law firms that provide critical pro bono legal services – helping to strengthen the global rule of law, support the global social entrepreneurship movement, and improve lives, the environment, and communities around the world.
This guidance responds to specific questions OFAC received related to earthquake relief efforts in Syria and explains how to provide legitimate humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people in compliance with U.S. sanctions.