We have reached a moment when it is right to look around and consider the future. Global movements are burgeoning that seek to integrate impact into all aspects of business. Social impact is not a passing phenomenon. Lawyers are a key part of this, shaping the market as they structure transactions. There is a growing community practitioners across countries and continents who are seeking to learn from each other.
ESELA is committing itself to this movement and to social impact. Over the coming years we will seek to harness knowledge from across the globe to stimulate new practices in the market.
In April 2013, the European Commission asked the consultants ICF and the UK law firm Bates Wells Braithwaite 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’. From this, a network of social enterprise lawyers grew naturally as it became clear that no such network of legal experts existed. At a roundtable event hosted by the European Economic and Social Committee in Brussels in January 2015, ESELA was established.
Since then, its scope has expanded to include law relating to impact investing, social procurement, not for profits, co-operatives and mutuals, and profit with purpose businesses of all sizes.
Increasingly, lawyers and advisors are seeing impact as integral to their work. Our network is broadening to include boutique firms with a focus on social impact, lawyers who are just beginning to embed impact in their practice and lone specialists at large firms. The specialisms of our members now extend beyond social enterprise and into impact in its broadest sense.
To reflect the changes we are seeing, ESELA is redefining itself. From today, we will no longer be called the ‘European Social Enterprise Law Association’. We will be styled as ‘ESELA – The Legal Network for Social Impact’. We hope you will welcome our new name and logo, which brings together our past and future paths.
As well as our name, we have re-defined our vision and mission.
We believe the best way to serve this growing field is by opening up our membership to individuals from firms of all sizes, and allowing the wider community to benefit from the deep knowledge of impact and the law that is held within our network.
To achieve this, our membership structure will change. There will be an accessible graduated scale for individual member fees and a flat rate for Strategic Partner Firms who are supporting ESELA to catalyse a network that is using law as a force for good. More information can be found on our membership pages.
Some things will not change. We remain a network that is committed to recognising and learning from the work our members are already doing, and supporting their developing practices. We will continue to provide a forum for thought-leadership, collaboration, networking and knowledge-sharing.
We hope you will join us in this conversation the next time we meet, at the ESELA Annual Conference at the London School of Economics on 11-12 April 2019, hosted by the Marshall Institute.