Debevoise, LawWorks join forces to help social entrepreneurs

The London office of US firm Debevoise & Plimptonand pro bono charity LawWorks have launched a legal advice clinic to assist ‘social entrepreneurs’ to set up charities, community projects or businesses with social aims.

Launched in collaboration with UnLtd, a foundation that provides funding and other support for social entrepreneurs, the clinic offers UnLtd clients legal advice on topics including charity law, company and contract law and on the most appropriate legal structures to adopt for their projects.

UnLtd chief executive Cliff Prior said: “Demand for the clinic has been very high as so many social entrepreneurs need advice on issues such as the best legal structure for their projects or drafting contracts with third parties.

“Many of our award winners are in the very early stages of developing their projects and simply could not afford to pay lawyers. Having access to free legal advice helps them to move their projects forward.”

UnLtd clients meet Debevoise lawyers at UnLtd’s office on a pro bono basis to discuss their legal concerns and are then provided with written advice on their queries.

Debevoise partner Geoff Burgess said the firm also works at other clinics in London, including in Hackney, where the firm provides consumer advice.

“We’ve been actively searching for a new clinic and we felt that the work at UnLtd is more closely attuned to what we do in our day-to-day work,” Burgess said. “Part of the challenge for corporate firms such as ours is finding work that our lawyers are comfortable giving advice on.”

Clinics project manager at LawWorks Rebecca Wilkie said LawWorks and UnLtd were hoping to expand the scheme to UnLtd’s regional offices.

“This is an innovative project, as unlike most other legal advice clinics, which help members of the public, it provides much-needed corporate and transactional advice to social entrepreneurs,” she said.

LawWorks is the organisation formerly known as the Solicitors Pro Bono Group.