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Gene Takagi has been a friend of Innov8Social nearly from the start. He demonstrates a dedication to nonprofit and social enterprise law and uses social media in innovative, nuanced ways. It was a pleasure to interview him and learn more about his path into the the social enterprise law space as well as the future he sees for the field.

Meet Gene Takagi

Gene TakagiGene is a leading attorney in the nonprofit law space and is an active voice for social impact on social media.

He is the Managing Attorney of NEO Law Group (Nonprofit & Exempt Organizations), based in San Francisco, CA. His presence on social media includes regularly blogging on the Nonprofit Law Blog and tweeting as @Gtak. He also posts a weekly series called “Nonprofit Tweets of the Week“.

Listen to the Interview

Interview with Gene: key takeaways

How did you get involved in social enterprise law?
  • Gene started as a science major in college, graduated with degrees in Zoology and Oceonography
  • First worked in for-profit sector, including role in operations of Duty Free Business in San Francisco.
  • Realized he wanted to work in non-profit sector
  • Then pursued graduate studies in non-profit
  • Worked at SPCA in San Francisco, learned about the power of advocacy
  • Attended law school to develop skills in nonprofit law school
  • Worked at a big law firm as an associate in corporate and securities law, leading him to reassess his interest in working in nonprofit law
  • So, started own law practice focusing on nonprofit 8 years ago
What role do you see social media playing in the nonprofit/social enterprise space?
  • Plays a huge role in sharing of information, potential development of networks, collaboration among organizational leaders—it is already showing an impact
  • In social enterprise law space, however, there aren’t currently a lot of players on social media—why? Lawyers tend to be risk-averse and there are not many attorneys in this space.
  • However, for small firms/solo practice firms—they can share more valuable information that can be helpful and informative. There is more of a willingness to share over social media.
  • Tries to get the conversation started about key issues in the space through his social media
What do you think of new legal structures for social change? 
  • The movement is tremendously valuable and the time has come
  • Sees a gap between for-profit and nonprofit that new legal structures might fill
  • It is incredibly valuable
  • There is a misconception that as a board member of for-profit, the primary purpose is to maximizing shareholder valuable. Gene doesn’t think that is exactly true, but notes that there is a grey area in how board members can promote social cause.
  • On a case by case basis, it can be more challenging to recommend a new structure because of the lack of case law and untested treatment by courts, ability to attract institutional investors
What tips or advice do you have for social entrepreneurs who are considering what legal structure to adopt?
  • Become educated about the process
  • Read For Love or Lucre, Stanford Social Innovation Review which outlines some key considerations and options for traditional and new legal structures
  • “Hybrid” legal structures used to refer to situations in which for-profit and nonprofit entities were affiliated in some way
  • Talk to a knowledgeable consultant or attorney early in the process before setting your heart on a particular structure
Do you have any tips for new attorneys, JD’s, and policymakers interested in the social enterprise space?
  • First off, follow your passion into the social enterprise space
  • You can maintain a traditional career and also start working with clients in the nonprofit space
  • If seeking to work at a traditional firm, get tax and corporate securities background before joining a firm dedicated to nonprofits
  • If you do engage in a solo or small firm practice, cultivate a business acumen so you can effectively run a practice
  • Invest in your networks and developing knowledge in the social enterprise law

Jenny Kassan is a pioneering attorney in the social enterprise space. I first met her two years ago when she delivered an insightful presentation at the San Jose Green Business Academy. There, she detailed ways that social entrepreneurs can raise capital.When we met last, she recapped her involvement with the federal crowdfunding legislation (part of the JOBS Act), which at the time was still making its way through Congress. (See her Huffington Post article here). Since then, the bill has passed and is awaiting official rule details from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Meet Jenny Kassan, a pioneering social enterprise attorney

Jenny is incredibly personable, experienced, and passionate about connecting law, sustainability, and small businesses to create Jenny Kassansocially responsible ventures. She is the CEO of Cutting Edge Capital (check out their great blog), and a Partner at Katovich & Kassan Law Group.

It was a sincere pleasure interviewing Jenny for Innov8Social. It was an opportunity to hear more about her path to social enterprise law,  her interest in pushing for equity crowdfunding for non-accredited investors, her current work with creating new financial tools, and advice she has for individuals entering the social enterprise law and policy space.

Listen to the interview

A few interesting takeaways:

  • After law school, Jenny became interested in community development
  • Saw that law alone didn’t necessarily help individuals in disadvantaged communities—legal remedies do not always address the root of issues
  • Completed a Masters in City Planning after law school
  • Worked at community development nonprofit, Unity Council for 11 years, in the commercial district in Oakland
  • Loves working with small business owners
  • Joined John Katovich’s firm and worked to find new ways for small businesses to pursue financing
  • Launched Cutting Edge Capital in 2011, focused on creative financing tools for social enterprises—with focus on raising funds from their communities
  • Direct Public Offering (or investment crowdfunding) is a financial tool small businesses can use to raise funds: is legal, but must comply with strict legal compliance guidelines, open to accredited (wealthy) and non-wealthy investors
  • Suggests law students interested in social enterprise law take classes and electives in corporate law subjects

 

Big news for Cutting Edge Capital!

*Note: Since our interview, Cutting Edge Capital successfully raised $150K in a Direct Public Offering of their own. Congratulations! You can contribute until July 1, 2013. More information here.

We posted earlier about what a social impact bond is. This innovative model is disrupting traditional modes of financing social change. It makes the societal issue the ‘common enemy’, while putting non-profits, the government, and private investors on the same team. If the social goals are reached, it can deliver be a win-win-win situation.There is a growing body of news, posts, and media about social impact bonds online. Here are a few promising resources we came across.

15+ Articles and Posts on Social Impact Bonds