Connect, Collaborate & Celebrate
Last month, the Lex Mundi Pro Bono Foundation was thrilled to gather our Board of Directors in person for the first time since 2019. The meeting took place during the 2022 Lex Mundi Connect + Collaborate Annual Conference in Edinburgh and involved lively discussions around the Foundation’s current work and future plans. The Foundation’s Managing Director, Isis Bous, also had the honor of sharing impact stories and presenting the winners of the 13th Annual Lex Mundi Pro Bono Foundation Awards during a dinner for members, corporate counsel, and guests at the National Museum of Scotland.
The awards honor member law firms that demonstrate an exceptional commitment to pro bono legal services and generously share their time and expertise with social impact organizations. The 2022 winners are Claro & Cia., Abogados, member for Chile; Liedekerke Wolters Waelbroeck Kirkpatrick, member for Belgium; Morrison & Foerster LLP, member for USA, California; Noerr, member for Germany; and The Legal Circle, member for Bangladesh.
The Lex Mundi Pro Bono Foundation was established on the principle that innovative social entrepreneurs can have a tremendous impact on the world. Even the smallest social enterprises can touch countless lives. Unfortunately, many cannot afford or otherwise do not have access to legal services. Early, high-quality support, like that provided by Lex Mundi member firms, helps these organizations scale faster, expand reach, secure funding, and ultimately achieve greater success. Learn more and see examples of the diverse social entrepreneurs supported by this year’s honorees here.
Working to Address Gun Violence
On Tuesday, May 24, 2022, an 18-year-old opened fire at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, USA, killing 19 students and two teachers in the deadliest school shooting since the 2012 attack at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The massacre in Uvalde has left the world reeling as we mourn the devastating loss and grapple with an evolving narrative. It is a poignant reminder that we must work together to address the epidemic of gun violence in the United States.
The team at Sandy Hook Promise, a nonprofit founded and led by family members whose loved ones were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School, has worked tirelessly over the years to end school shootings and create a culture change that prevents violence. “All of us at Sandy Hook Promise are devastated by this shooting, haunted by the shocking similarities to the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy. We are sickened under the weight of our sadness as we watch another community of families suffering their worst nightmare.”
Sandy Hook Promise envisions a future where children are free from shootings and acts of violence in their schools, homes, and communities. The organization employs a holistic approach that combines research, community organization, advocacy, and education. This includes their Know the Signs programming, which teaches students and educators how to identify at-risk behaviors and intervene to get help, as well as the Say Something Anonymous Reporting System that allows students to provide anonymous tips regarding mental health and safety concerns.
Since its inception, Sandy Hook Promise’s impact has been tremendous. Their work has prevented over 60 acts of violence with a weapon, averted eight planned school shootings, and saved at least 296 lives through crisis intervention. Over the years, the Foundation has connected Sandy Hook Promise with several Lex Mundi member firms for pro bono services. Most recently, attorneys at Foley Hoag LLP, Lex Mundi member firm for USA, Massachusetts, conducted legislative research across thirteen states on behalf of the organization and advised on issues vital to Sandy Hook Promise’s operations.
We are incredibly grateful for the work Sandy Hook Promise does to protect children and to the Lex Mundi attorneys that have volunteered their time and expertise in furtherance of this mission.
Thought Leadership that is Making an Impact
It has become increasingly clear that innovation and collaboration across countries and sectors are necessary to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals. In the face of unprecedented global crises, we’ve seen a huge increase in social enterprises worldwide, and their positive impact is undeniable. However, social enterprises often aren’t supported by and don’t fit neatly into existing legal structures.
Recognizing this, Catalyst2030 commissioned a report to create an overview of current frameworks and identify legal structures and policies that can be implemented to promote the advancement of social enterprises worldwide. Morrison & Foerster LLP graciously agreed to lead the project, and the Foundation coordinated efforts as more than 60 member firms conducted research and completed extensive surveys addressing topics ranging from formation and tax structures to investing and fundraising regulations in 83 jurisdictions. The findings for each country are available through an interactive appendix, allowing social entrepreneurs to easily access the information, compare laws, and ultimately make informed decisions when forming social enterprises. Dozens of lawyers at Morrison & Foerster reviewed, analyzed, and distilled the information to create a report setting forth six key recommendations for policymakers.
Legal reform as a catalyst for social enterprise: an international social enterprise law & policy report was launched in early 2022, and the response has been tremendous. OECD (the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) incorporated insights into a policy manual for the European Commission; the World Economic Forum (WEF) and Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship utilized the analysis to bolster their own report discussing the social economy, which was presented at the 2022 WEF Annual Conference in Davos; and Catatlyst2030 is coordinating country-specific panels of Lex Mundi lawyers, local social entrepreneurs, and government officials to discuss paths forward.
We are extremely grateful to the team at Morrison & Foerster and the hundreds of Lex Mundi attorneys across the network who dedicated countless hours to make this possible. Very special thanks go to Alfredo Silva, Olga Terets, and Rachel Williams for leading efforts at Morrison & Foerster on this project. A legal report of this depth and breadth did not exist in the ecosystem prior. In just a few short months, it is already an invaluable tool in hands of influential policymakers. By facilitating changes that allow social enterprises to flourish, we can work towards a more just and equitable future for all.
Coming Together for Ukraine
Like so many around the world, attorneys across the Lex Mundi network are working to support Ukraine and its people. As millions have been forced to flee their homes, governments have rapidly implemented new laws and policies to address the humanitarian crisis.
Lex Mundi mobilized to create an online resource center to assist those most impacted by the war. Here, member firms share country-specific guidance for Ukrainian citizens on relocation and access to social services. The resource center also includes information on the legal requirements to establish non-profits and NGOs for those that plan to create new entities or otherwise expand operations. This guidance has already proven useful. Mercy Corps General Counsel, Alexa Holmes, noted that the timely and substantively rich legal assistance, “allowed our humanitarian teams to respond quickly at a fraught time for Ukraine, Europe, and the world.” Finally, the center provides global guidance on economic measures and legal sanctions imposed.
The goal is to provide a single point of reference that accounts for ongoing developments across countries and supplements individualized pro bono services. The Lex Mundi Ukraine Crisis Resource Center continues to be updated as events unfold, and we encourage you to visit the site regularly. We appreciate your support in sharing this information and hope for peace as soon as possible.