Impact Lawyering – Beyond the Desk
When I committed in early 2009 to focus my practice on the representation of “impact investors” and “social enterprises,” I also committed that I would spend time in the places in which I was seeking to have a positive impact. Since that time, I’ve travelled to India and Africa about a dozen times on trips ranging from 2-4 weeks. On those trips, I have had the good fortune to meet countless inspiring people and to visit with dozens of businesses in the field.
I start another such trip today. My first stop is in London. Just a couple of weeks ago we joined ANDE, and I’m looking forward to attending my first event as a member in London. Following that, I will be spending a few days in Oxford as part of the Skoll World Forum. Then it’s off to India for Sankalp (I’ll be speaking on a panel) and to spend time with our partner law firm in India, Impact Law Ventures. I end my trip with a week in E. Africa to visit with clients and partners.
It has felt important to make these trips for a few reasons. For one, many of our clients are now located in India and Africa. Phone and Skype cannot substitute for the relationship building that comes from meeting face-to-face. Second, I think we are better able to serve our clients when we have a direct understanding of the contexts in which they are working. Third, as I spend time in the field and meet the customers that these businesses are serving, my commitment to this work is strengthened. Finally, I would be lying if I didn’t admit to enjoying the adventure of exploring far away places and learning about different cultures.
I am immensely grateful to have had the opportunity to make these trips, and I’m conscious of the resources that are expended – both in terms of my firm’s finances and the environment. And these trips could not happen without the support of my colleagues and clients in the US, who have been extraordinarily patient and understanding with my extended periods of absence. On this trip, I will also be leaving a new fiancée, Courtney Zenner, whom I will very much miss and whose commitment to adventure and cultural understanding was one of the early inspirations for my work in this area.
Given that it takes the support of so many to make these trips happen and that my motivation is to be of as much benefit to the world as possible, I decided I should experiment with sharing more about my experiences. I am someone who has often vowed to blog and very rarely does – and this could go the same way. I encourage you to provide feedback and ideas, as I’m sure that will help to motivate me to continue to post content. In fact, I was considering giving up on this idea altogether until Morgan Simon from Toniic mentioned that she looked forward to hearing about what I learn. I’m guessing there are probably others that feel that way. So stay tuned.