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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