The Global Alliance of Impact Lawyers (GAIL) focus is on the contributions that impact lawyers make to the wider global impact ecosystem. Impact lawyers are legal leaders working to have a positive impact on people and planet – personal success is measured in positive impact, not profit.
Many are business and finance lawyers, some are litigators, some have other forms of expertise. Some work at major firms, others small. Some are senior, some junior. Some are practitioners, others academics.
Impact lawyers work in many of the areas below to influence the impact economy and the practice of impact law.
- Impact investing
- Climate change and the law
- Sustainable finance
- Environmental, social and governance factors
- Development finance
- Blended finance
- Business human rights
- The social role of business
- Corporate governance and corporate social responsibility
- Benefit corporations and B Corps
- Social enterprise and ‘for benefit’ enterprise
- Social value commissioning and procurement
- International cooperation
- Philanthropy and civil society
- The rule of law
- Future economic paradigms
- Systems change
- Public policy
- Sustainable supply chains
- Innovation and the law
In February 2022, esela – The legal network for social impact joined with the Benefit Company Bar Association (BCBA) and Red Latinoamericana de Abogados de Impacto (RLAI) to form the Global Alliance of Impact Lawyers.
These networks saw a need for a global community of legal leaders using their careers to have a positive impact on people and the planet.
esela – The legal network for social impact was a non-profit global network of lawyers, advisors, academics and entrepreneurs. Their members shared a vision to create a sustainable and inclusive economy that promotes positive social impact.
Red Latinoamericana de Abogados de Impacto (RLAI) was a group of Latin American lawyers who worked to produce, systematize and disseminate knowledge and analysis on the legal aspects of an economy focused on creating a positive social and environmental impact on public policies, investments and commercial activities.
The Benefit Company Bar Association (BCBA) was comprised of lawyers who advise benefit corporations and other forms of business organisations that have as part of their purposes creating positive benefits for society and the environment. The association sought to share the knowledge and experience of its members, to educate other lawyers and the public at large, and to promote the concept of doing business in a responsible and sustainable manner.
In 2013, the European Commission asked the consultants ICF and the UK law firm Bates Wells to undertake a study to map the shape and nature of social enterprise activity in 29 European countries as part of its flagship ‘Social Business Initiative’.
The idea of a legal network for social impact developed naturally from the mapping study, as it became clear that no such network of experts existed. At a roundtable event hosted by the European Economic and Social Committee in Brussels in January 2015, the European Social Enterprise Law Association (ESELA) was formed.
In 2018, ESELA became esela -The legal network for social impact. The rebrand of esela reflected the network broadening beyond social enterprise into impact in its broadest sense, as well as the growing membership outside of Europe.
In 2015, Red Latinoamericana de Abogados de Impacto (RLAI) was founded as a result of collaborative, open and committed work of many. It originated from groups of lawyers from many countries engaged in public policy discussions and initiatives led by Sistema B. Together, we made it possible.
RLAI contributed to debates on legal structures and the institutional environment related to business practices, legal formats and impact investments. It supported initiatives and organisations in the impact ecosystem in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Our Latin American identity and desire for integration is linked by the understanding of the role of lawyers among the power of positive impact and of the legal design as a means to achieve justice, equity, diversity and social inclusion and to foster responses to the climate crisis.
In 2016, the Benefit Company Bar Association (BCBA) was formed by lawyers who were active in the enactment of benefit corporation laws in various U.S. states. The purpose of the BCBA was to build a community of lawyers who advise benefit corporations and other forms of business organisations that create positive benefits for society and the environment.
The BCBA sought to share knowledge and expertise, and encourage collaboration amongst lawyers interested in promoting positive change in business practices and business law.
The BCBA promoted and conducted conferences, seminars, and workshops to share global guidance and court decisions. Its programming equipped the BCBA community of lawyers to better assist their clients to conduct business in a responsible and sustainable manner.
GAIL adheres to The Imperatives for Economic System Change, co-created by Imperative 21 coalition.
Design for Interdependence
- Recognize the interdependence of healthy people, planet, and economies
- Balance the relationships between the private sector, government and civil society
- Ensure that everyone has access to free and fair markets
Invest for Justice
- Remove structural inequality
- Ensure leadership and ownership are more inclusive, and investment more accessible
- Use technology to advance democratic ideals and human rights
- Promote greater voice, power and opportunity for those currently marginalized
Account for Stakeholders
- Measure success based on credible common metrics of sustainable value creation for all stakeholders
- Create incentives that reward business and investments creating social and environmental value
- Enhance standards of fiduciary duty
William H. Clark, Jr
Mr. Clark recently retired as Senior Counsel at Faegre Drinker Biddle and Reath LLP, but continues to practice in the areas of corporate governance and general business law. He has served for many years as pro bono legislative counsel to B Lab and drafted the model legislation that has been the basis for the benefit corporation legislation that has been enacted in 39 U.S. jurisdictions and 7 other countries. He is the Reporter for a special committee of the ABA Business Law Section that prepared the comprehensive revisions of the Model Nonprofit Corporation Act approved in 2008 and 2021. He has served for over 25 years as the Reporter for the Title 15 / Business Associations Committee of the Pennsylvania Bar Association and in that capacity has written all of the major entity law legislation adopted in Pennsylvania since 1988. He is a fellow of the American Bar Foundation, a member of the American Law Institute, and a Pennsylvania commissioner to the Uniform Law Commission. He is listed in The Best Lawyers in America and Who’s Who in America. He graduated summa cum laude from Amherst College and received his J.D. magna cum laude from Temple University. He also has a masters degree in theology from Westminster Theological Seminary.
Co-founder, Keidos Legal Impact
Constanza Connolly is an attorney at law from the Universidad de Buenos Aires and she obtained her Masters in Corporate Law from Universidad Austral.
She is specialized in corporate law, corporate governance, mergers and acquisitions. She has a vast experience in business seeking social and environmental positive impact. She advises on the design and development of impact funds aimed at boosting sustainable finance and focusing on ESG (environmental social governance). She specialized in sustainable value chains and complex structures for the creation of solutions for non-traditional figures, including organizations with non-profit and for-profit “hybrid-structures”.
She recently co-founded Keidos Legal Impact, a consultancy focused on generating, facilitating and/or escalating the impact of organizations seeking to make sustainability central to their DNA. building the impact market in Latin America, and on developing public policies for the new impact economy.She co-founded the “Latin American Impact Lawyers Network” to boost impact businesses in the region and she is a member of its Board. She has been appointed as Vice President of GAIL Global Alliance of Impact Lawyers. She is also a board member of Argentina NAB – GSG Impact Investment Task Force. She actively participates in the “Latin America Payment by Result Network.
Director, Centre for Social Finance Law
Michael Ryland is the principal and founding director of the Centre for Social Finance Law.
Michael has over 35 years of broad ranging experience in corporate finance, investment funds and commercial law, including 20 years as a partner at global law firms Ashurst and Herbert Smith Freehills. He has worked in Australia, Japan and Indonesia, and has spent two years as a full time Commissioner of the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC).
Michael has particular experience in the law relating to social investment, working with a range of for-purpose and for-profit clients on social impact projects, both domestic and cross-border. This has included work on social investment fund structures, social impact bonds and other financial instruments, social infrastructure projects, social and affordable housing, disability services and accommodation, and community initiatives and projects.
United Kingdom Representative
Associate, Ropes & Gray LLP
North America Representative
Attorney, Feagre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP
North America Representative
Founder, Center of Global Consciousness
Juan Diego Mujica Filippi
Latin America Representative
Corporate Responsibility, Universidad de Lima
Partner, Meyerlustenberger Lachenal Froriep Ltd
Partner, Bates Wells
Founding Partner, Impact Advocaten
United Kingdom Representative
General Counsel, AgDevCo
Senior Associate, Bates Wells
Rachel Avellar Sotomaior Karam
Latin America Representative
Partner, Trotta, Eberhart, Sotomaior Karam
Head of ESG and Impact, Legance
Asia Pacific Representative
Partner, Parry Field Lawyers Limited
Asia Pacific Representative
Solicitor, Stephenson Harwood
Executive Director, Global Alliance of Impact Lawyers
Sarah is the Executive Director of the Global Alliance of Impact Lawyers, a community of legal leaders who are using their careers to have a positive impact on people and the planet, and to accelerate the just transition.
Sarah runs GAIL from the offices of Bates Wells, the first UK law firm to become a B Corp, where she was previously Impact Economy Manager.
Sarah is a Fellow of On Purpose, the profit with purpose leadership programme. Her career has spanned impact investment at Big Society Capital, as well as improving access to justice in the UK as Head of Trusts at Support Through Court, and in Kenya and Uganda at African Prisons Project.
She has been called to the Bar of England and Wales and holds qualifications in Law and English. Outside work, Sarah is chair of trustees of KDC Theatre, a central London arts charity.
Associate, Global Alliance of Impact Lawyers
Finance Manager, Bates Wells
Bates Wells is the secretariat of the Global Alliance of Impact Lawyers and a Founding Member.
Bates Wells is a London law firm with a difference. The firm focuses on positive social impact as much as it focuses on being commercially successful. Bates Wells’ top tier legal advice is coupled with a real desire to drive change. It was the first UK law firm to achieve B Corp status, a certification awarded to businesses that balance purpose and profit, following a rigorous audit of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency.
Bates Wells’ clients are diverse –from corporate household names, to public bodies, to start-ups. Work for NGOs, not-for-profits, socially-focused investors and other impact organisations represents around 65% of the firm’s business.
Bates Wells has influenced some of the major developments in the UK social investment and purposeful business space, including:
- the design of community interest companies and social investment tax relief,
- advising the UK Government Inclusive Economy Unit on governance options for inclusive and purpose-driven businesses, and
- the creation of the statutory social investment power for charities.
Bates Wells challenges what is possible in legal expertise delivery. Learn more at bateswells.co.uk/better-business.