Happy Mid-Year!

We hope you are having an awesome year and wanted to share some highlights of what has been keeping us busy in 2019.

Here’s a short version:

  • Board Growth & Development - A great and engaged Board can make or break an organization, especially during pivotal growth stages. We've been helping multiple nonprofits navigate a Board Growth & Development process to design and engage their Boards for maximum impact.

  • Great HR & Mid-Year Reviews - 'Tis the season to set your organization up for year-end success via a mid-year review process that seamlessly flows into the year-end review, planning, and budgeting process. It's important (and fun) work that multiple clients are undertaking. We hope your organization is doing this too!

  • Landmark Legislation - Our team played a key role in passing landmark restorative justice legislation in Illinois and is helping other states and organizations design and launch important policy and advocacy campaigns.

  • Commencement Addresses, NY Times Best Sellers & TV Too! - Our Principal Messaging & Communications Team has been helping high profile speakers, authors and writers create inspirational and amazing content!

  • And More - Read on for more about what we've been up to or just drop us a note! We'd love to hear from you!

Here’s a longer version:

Board Growth & Development

An active and engaged Board of Directors is critical for long-term, scalable, and sustainable success. Most growth-stage organizations struggle to grow their original founders board into a more dynamic, diversified, and fully engaged Board. That's where we come in! We use the same simplified and easy-to-action approach we've used with some of the most high profile nonprofit Boards in the world to help organizations comfortably grow and engage their Board. Recruiting new Board members is one thing - onboarding and engaging them effectively over time is another. We help do both! If you'd like to discuss your Board, let us know!

Great HR & Mid-Year Reviews!

We know that few people get really excited about HR...but we do! And we've been really busy this year helping clients develop policies, procedures, and simplified practices to engage and motivate their teams toward peak performance.

  • Mid-Year Reviews. The secret to awesome year-end reviews begins with the mid-year review (or at least the less formal mid-year touch base). And several of our clients are in the middle of them right now! Mid-year reviews during often slower summer months provide a simple, low-pressure opportunity to engage with each team member and to review essential functions, performance expectations, and goals. Year-end reviews are right around the corner (we recommend starting in October - yes, really!). If you want to finish the year seamlessly and efficiently focused on the exciting new year ahead, the mid-year review process is the best way to start!
    Need help with or want to talk about your mid-year and/or year-end reviews? Let us know!

  • Make HR Awesome! It's important to have strong policies and procedures in place (including an Employee Handbook and Code of Conduct) and to review and revise them on an annual basis to ensure compliance with new and changing obligations. We have seen tremendous demand on this front from clients. But beyond just having the policies, we also recommend annual trainings, including the ever-important anti-harassment training, which we recommend (and some states require) you conduct annually! While we know some employee trainings can be a drag, ours are short, sweet, and awesome! We love helping clients update their policies and train their teams in simple and fun sessions that can be conducted remotely and/or in-person!
    Want to talk about your HR practices and/or trainings? Shoot us an email!

Landmark Legislation

In June, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker signed HB1438 into law, which was one of the most sweeping criminal justice reform bills to ever pass a state legislature. Dave Horwich, Beyond Advisers' expert in advocacy and political engagement, together with JCL Strategies, developed and managed the advocacy campaign that led to this monumental legislation. Through its legalization of the sale of adult-use cannabis, the law, passed with bipartisan support, includes automatic expungement of records for cannabis offenses, thereby expunging over 700,000 records and opening better pathways to jobs and civic engagement.  It also creates a social equity program that provides benefits directly to those communities that have been disproportionately affected by previous legislation.

We also worked on other exciting public policy matters:

  • Civics Education - Earlier this year, we worked with one of the largest social innovators on the planet to create a national, multi-year roadmap to elevate civics education standards through state legislative action.

  • State-Led Climate Change Action - In response to a request from a funder, we are developing strategic engagement options in a southeastern state around climate-related issues and beginning the process of building out their long-term program in the state. 

  • Multi-Entity, Cross-Sector Public Policy - We are currently working with a number of leading nonprofit organizations in one large Midwestern state to align their efforts to advance a menu of public policy priorities through collective action.

Changing public policy can be one of the most effective ways to deliver social impact at scale. If you are working to launch campaigns that affect public policy change at the local, state, or national level, let us know!

Commencement Addresses, NY Times Best Sellers & TV Too!

During graduation season, Steve Rinehart, the leader of our Principal Messaging & Communications team, assisted our client, a world champion athlete, with commencement remarks for a major university. This was in addition to Steve’s concurrent work supporting multiple NY Times Best Selling authors on their books and television projects. Have a high-profile founder, leader, and/or principal who wants to enhance and amplify their message and impact? We'd be happy to discuss their vision, mission, and message. Feel free to reach out

We help amazing people change the world.

We'd love to help you, too!

If we aren’t already working together, let’s chat about what we can do together during the rest of 2019 and Beyond!
Shoot us an email at contact@beyondadvisers.com

Here’s to 2019…and Beyond!


2018 went by in a blink. Time flies when you’re having fun serving great clients!

Here’s a short version of our 2018:

  • Our clients are amazing, inspiring, and changing the world across industries and sectors.

  • We’re helping them in virtually every aspect of their organization and work.

  • Our team grew!

And here’s a longer version:

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Amazing Clients. Inspiring Work.

While we don’t advertise who our clients are, here’s a bit of what they - and we - have been up to:

  • Family Office Big Bet - We’ve helped an audaciously motivated family office design and build the next great big bet in cross-sector social impact (philanthropy, private sector, education, and beyond!). Stay tuned for big news on this one in 2019! 

  • A-List Social Impact - Some of our favorite icons are scaling the work of their foundations and nonprofit interests while also designing, building, and deploying a wider social impact approach across all of their businesses, interests, and platforms.
    It’s been our joy to support and help them build compliant, well governed, measurable work that can scale and sustain over time!

  • Private Sector Leaders Changing The World - We’ve supported some of the most influential businesses, brands and brains working to infuse their business models with dynamic social impact approaches.
    Far beyond CSR, corporate philanthropy, and pro bono alone, these businesses are motivating their teams and their markets by using their business models to do good while doing well. You’re going to see a lot more of this in 2019. We’re thrilled to be helping make it happen! 

  • Law Firms Too! - That’s right…law firms. Lawyers. No joke. We’re unapologetically bullish that lawyers are the architects of social innovation. Nobody doing anything great is doing (or has ever done) it without lawyers. So we help lawyers and law firms better speak and practice social impact - which motivates and serves their clients and their talent. Look for more law firms to launch their (profit-generating) Social Impact & Innovation practice groups in 2019! Chances are good we helped them! And if your law firm is on this path, let us know...we can help!

  • Dynamic Nonprofits - We’re supporting some of the most inspiring and rapidly scaling nonprofits working on some of the most important issues of our time. From dynamic and engaged boards, to financing models that support rapid growth, to helping with critically important details on extraordinary work being deployed nationwide and around the world, we provide some of the best guidance and tools to scale effectively. 

  • Political Dynamos on the Rise - Through our “hidden” offering ofwww.socialimpactpolitics.com we’ve been delighted to provide guidance to some of the most exciting rising stars in public service who focus on positive social impact over partisanship or party politics. This is the future of politics. And we’re excited to be supporting those on the leading edge.

In 2018, we’ve seen quite clearly that the “usual suspects” in social impact are changing. The most dynamic leaders are no longer just politicians and philanthropists. We’re seeing with greater clarity than ever before that CEOs, celebrities, newcomers in philanthropy, and an entire generation are engaging as powerful voices for change.

It’s our privilege - and a whole lot of fun - to support them.

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We help clients plan big, build simple, and scale for impact.
It’s hard work. We make it easier.

Our Most Popular Services in 2018:

  • General Counsel - Most growth-stage nonprofits and social enterprises don’t have and can’t afford a general counsel, but wish they could. That’s where we come in!
    From the Board to program teams and everywhere in between (especially contract review and Human Resources this past year - wow!), we make good governance and compliance real, simple, and seamless.  We don’t replace law firms (and aren’t one), but we reduce the need for one, and make sure the use of them is far more efficient and effective.

  • Strategic Counsel - $70,000 PowerPoint “Deliverables” often fail to deliver much at all. So we pick up where most strategic planning leaves off, diving in quickly and with focus to help our clients grow their organizations and their work to achieve specific, actionable, and measurable objectives. 

  • Program Design & Development - Our team’s unmatched experience in global philanthropy and on the leading edge of social enterprises results in laser-focused pattern recognition and issue identification. We’ve seen what works and know why it does, so we are uniquely positioned to help design, develop, and pivot programs, partnerships, and initiatives for impact. From landscape mapping, to purposeful partnerships, to impact storytelling and “not your average fundraising and development” guidance, we assist clients in achieving clear targets quickly and effectively.

  • Advocacy Strategies - For funders and organizations looking to create positive change through public policy, we’re developing smart, forward-thinking strategies at the state and federal levels to tackle some of the most intractable issues by looking at new ways to build power and winning outcomes.

That’s just where we were busiest in 2018.  There’s a lot more to what we do. Check it out here.

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Our Team Grew!

The individual and collective experience and talent of our team is what makes us unique, our services awesome, and our clients better off when we finish our work than when we started.
We’re thrilled to have added the following members and their skills to our team this year:

  • Zayneb Shaikley - Strategic Counsel; Human Resources; Partnerships; Commercial Transactions

  • Joe Ballard - Program Design; Impact Assessment; Strategic Planning; Development Strategy

  • Steve Rinehart - Principal Messaging & Communications

  • David Horwich - Advocacy Campaigns & Philanthropic and Political Counsel

We help amazing people change the world.

We’d love to help you, too!

If we aren’t already working together, let’s have a big, bold, fun conversation about what we can do together in 2019! Shoot us an email at contact@beyondadvisers.com

"Beyond Pro Bono, Firms Put Do-Gooders in Top Positions"

Social Impact in the C-Suite of law firms is the future of how law firms do good!

Winston & Strawn recently created the C-Suite position of "Chief CSR Officer." The Legal Intelligencer contacted us for comment, asking whether we expect to see more of this in the law.  Boy, do we!

Check out the article below (especially last section) for more!


Beyond Pro Bono, Firms Put Do-Gooders in Top Positions

Lizzy McLellan, The Legal Intelligencer

Keeping up with their corporate clients, large law firms have set their eyes on charitable efforts beyond the traditional pro bono commitment. And one firm recently put the leader of those efforts in the C-suite.

In June, Julie Goodman became the first chief corporate social responsibility officer at Winston & Strawn, coordinating the firm's volunteer efforts and charitable giving. In shaping the role, Goodman said, she has looked to corporate clients, rather than other law firms—clients like Bank of America and Motorola. She said she doesn't know of any other law firms with a chief title for corporate social responsibility.

"We really need someone to pull it all together and look at it with more of a strategic point of view," Goodman said. "Law firms need to change like the rest of the business world."

Valentine Brown, partner and pro bono counsel at Duane Morris, agreed. She said positions like Goodman's are "the way of the future."

"Looking at social responsibility the same way that clients look at social responsibility is going to be necessary," Brown said. "It's more effective, and also clients are going to be looking for that."

Many firms, including her own, are already engaged in charitable activities other than pro bono, Brown said. But having a C-level executive overseeing those efforts highlights that commitment.

"Having a person in that role would help them demonstrate what they're already doing and present it in a way that's cohesive," Brown said. "It helps, especially in getting the internal actors in the firm to understand the importance of it. Also, it will help to show clients that it is something the firm takes seriously."

Unlike Brown, Goodman does not oversee pro bono, but she said she expects to work closely with Winston & Strawn's pro bono practice leaders, particularly when the firm has opportunities to volunteer nonlegal help for pro bono clients. She has been with the firm for 28 years, most recently having served in a human relations position before taking on her newest role.

Like any staff position, Goodman said, "there has to be a business driver" for adding a corporate social responsibility executive.

"It's important to clients, which makes it important to us," she said. "Another [reason] is to retain and attract the best talent ... our employees want to work for an organization that cares."

Chief by Another Name?

Goodman's title is unique, but many other firms have a person in charge of charitable work, sometimes including pro bono.

Bruce Gilchrist, the global citizenship chair at Hogan Lovells, oversees a team of 24 full-time employees dedicated to the firm's citizenship program. But he is also a full-time corporate and securities partner. The firm's citizenship program includes pro bono, volunteering, diversity and inclusion, sustainability and a matching program for charitable donations.

Firms may not need to dedicate an entire position to CSR leadership, he said. But the person who leads CSR should have authority at the firm.

"We've, I think, consciously wanted it to be partner-driven, and not outsourced [to an administrative position], but there's nothing wrong with outsourcing it," he said. "We made a conscious choice that it might need to be senior people to show other people that it's an important part of your experience and work for Hogan Lovells."

There's no one right model, said Reena Glazer, assistant director of the law firm pro bono project at the Pro Bono Institute. It depends on the firm's structure.

"Some of this goes to the professionalization of law firms," Glazer said—the implementation of corporate leadership models throughout the industry. "To the extent that a C-suite position lends gravitas ... that could be a good thing."

But if pro bono is put under a social responsibility umbrella, a CCSRO should not just be an administrative position, she noted.

"In many respects, running a pro bono program at a law firm, you're running the biggest practice group," she said.

Integrating pro bono with community service and charitable giving allows all of those functions to work more effectively, she said. But if executed improperly, it can muddy the waters.

"You want to be sure that the lines don't get blurred ... that you're not mushing in all of your volunteer and pro bono efforts," she said.

A Step Further

Still, even firms with a corporate social responsibility strategy may be behind the times.

"I think it's awesome. I applaud it. And I think it should go further," said Scott Curran of Beyond Advisers, speaking about Winston & Strawn's new position.

He said the rest of the business world has moved past corporate social responsibility into social impact—simply defined as using the business model itself to do good. Unlike pro bono, social impact produces revenue. A former general counsel for the Clinton Foundation, Curran now helps law firms, nonprofits and other businesses find ways to do good while making money.

"I love that the chief CSR officer is becoming real, but I think we have to leapfrog the title and call it the chief social impact officer," Curran said. "I'm here to be a catalyst to tell law firms, 'You're already doing more than that.'"

The interaction between pro bono and social impact is complicated, said Glazer, of the Pro Bono Institute. But social impact is an emerging area, she said, as lawyers seek more ways to use their profession as a vehicle for positive change.

Having a C-suite role to organize those efforts is absolutely necessary, Curran said.

"There's no question in my mind that firms have to prioritize this at the top level," he said. "There are firms that say they want to do this and don't action it. They have to understand that this is not our grandfather's pro bono."

You can read that article by clicking this link

The "Good" Pivot: From Pro Bono to Social Impact Law

^That's the original title of the piece I wrote for The American Lawyer Magazine's July 2017 issue.  Their team changed the title to "Must Law Firms' Good Deeds Be Done for Free?" Insofar as that question invites curiosity, I am cool with it.

The article is what matters most. And I wrote it following a friendly and constructive Twitter exchange about AmLaw rankings of law firms which a super nice person named Gina joined. In the midst of the exchange, I clicked Gina's profile to discover she is the CEO of The American Lawyer Magazine (which oversees the AmLaw rankings).  For someone who doesn't spend a ton of time on Twitter, it was a solid stroke of luck.

Gina and I had a call. She was completely open to a new perspective and invited me to write an article.  You can read that article by clicking this link. Alternatively, I'm including the full text below for anyone who gets bounced to a sign-in screen they aren't motivated to conquer. 

Must Law Firms' Good Deeds Be Done for Free?

Scott Curran, The American Lawyer

A new model of how law firms do good is emerging, one that delights clients and talent, is profitable, and captures the work that many firms are already doing. This new model—serving social impact clients and achieving social impact through direct firm undertakings—embraces the role of lawyers as the architects of social innovation. At scale, it creates new practices within firms and throughout the profession to serve a growing market of social impact clients and expands the model of how firms "do good."

Pro Bono Important but Limiting

When describing how firms do good, most attorneys understandably cite pro bono practices. Pro bono (providing legal services without charge) has always been the primary way law firms and attorneys serve those with the most urgent unmet legal needs.

But pro bono alone is no longer a sufficient framework, nor metric, to capture the increasingly diverse ways in which firms are evolving to achieve greater social impact. The rest of the private sector has grown beyond traditional corporate social responsibility (using profits to do good) into more integrated social impact approaches that merge the business model with social purpose.

Similarly, law firms are evolving beyond pro bono alone in how they serve social impact clients. The new social impact model for law firms has two primary components: 1) social impact client services; and 2) direct firm undertakings for social good.

Social Impact Client Services

A large market of social impact clients has emerged and, with it, an increasing demand for sophisticated legal support. While inclusive of nonprofits and other traditional pro bono clients, the social impact market consists of increasingly larger, more diverse and better-funded paying clients.

Sophisticated global nonprofits, family offices, social financiers, impact investors, social enterprises and entrepreneurs all comprise the emerging social impact client portfolio. And they are all using lawyers.

Toms Shoes, Warby Parker and Thrive Market are just a few of the growing number of high-profile businesses with an integrated social purpose.

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, an LLC and not a charity, works to solve social problems through a combination of approaches including making investments in profit-seeking endeavors.

Impact investors and social financiers deploy capital that seeks market rate returns in socially responsible investments.

The world's largest foundations and operating charities with large budgets that fund programs increasingly require sophisticated professional support.

Behind all their work are lawyers. Law firms are happy and excited to have these clients in their book of business. And lawyers throughout their firms' practice groups who service the diverse needs of these clients are excited to do the work. Serving these paying clients grows opportunities for law firms to achieve the double bottom line of doing good while doing well. But law firm social impact doesn't stop at client services alone.

Law Firms as Social Actors

Beyond the growing market of social impact clients, firms are evolving in how they use their own time, talent and treasure to achieve social impact.

Some firms have large foundations that make grants. Other firms have operating charities that deploy lawyers to support programs working on rule of law and access to justice in developing countries. Some firms undertake community service initiatives involving all firm staff (not just attorneys). The list goes on.

This all makes sense. Doing good is inherent in the profession and motivates many of us personally. And, as our increasingly interdependent and connected world exposes us to global challenges, as growing ranks of millennials seek meaning in their work, and as lawyers discover new ways to deploy their talents to solve challenges, lawyer-led social impact efforts will increase.

New Framework, Measuring What Matters

While this exciting work grows within firms, no universal framework yet exists to meaningfully recognize, organize, market and measure it. Pro bono rankings only capture free attorney time. They don't account for paying social impact clients or for the direct social impact undertakings of firms. This will change with a new social impact metric currently in development by my consulting practice, Beyond Advisers.

Leading firms should be recognized for the work they are already doing. Other firms will welcome the road map that a social impact metric provides to track and measure their existing work. Most importantly, by using a more inclusive social impact metric, we will foster an atmosphere more conducive to greater innovation, collaboration, and even competition in serving social impact clients.

New Markets, Approaches and Opportunities

As social impact work increasingly blurs lines between sectors and blends profits and purpose, new legal entities, financing tools and uniquely sophisticated deal work are emerging. The challenges of this pioneering work require creativity, innovation and extra time from the lawyers who support these endeavors. But the generally high hourly rates of the most in-demand attorneys become a unique challenge. Premium rates assume efficiency and expertise. However, the innovative landscape does not yet know the same efficiencies, and existing expertise must be reconfigured for this new market. And pro bono requests become harder to make or approve for seemingly well-resourced and/or profit-generating endeavors.

There is a fertile middle ground between pro bono and premium rates. Current examples include discounted rates, flat fee pricing, capped fees, alternative billing arrangements, payment tied to success metrics, fixed cost retainers, and per-deal pricing. Firms of all sizes have an opportunity to develop new models to serve social impact clients.

Big clients with big budgets will continue to look to Big Law, which has tremendous ability to innovatively meet social impact demand. But premium rates (even at a discount) and industry rankings prioritizing revenue and profits (and tracking only pro bono efforts) remain a challenge.

Startup clients with smaller budgets can find boutique firms catering to the social impact market. While fast, nimble and affordable, these firms are challenged to scale with their most successful clients whose eventual full-service needs require a hand off to other firms that can pick up where they max out.

Middle market firms have a "Goldilocks" opportunity. Not too big or expensive, not too small or unscalable, but just right with reasonable rates, sophisticated full-service practices, and the ability to speak and practice social impact.

There are clients and opportunities for every sized firm. And the clients and talent of these firms will increasingly prioritize firms that speak and practice social impact. With a framework and metric that more inclusively recognizes and measures social impact, attorneys and their firms will have a greater opportunity to scale their social impact work.

The Bright Future of Social Impact Law

During my 10 years as counsel to a global operating charity with thousands of staff working in more than 30 countries on more than a dozen initiatives, and in my experience advising dozens of organizations doing similar work globally, I have seen firsthand the enthusiasm of outside attorneys to engage in new, dynamic, cross-sector social impact work. Just a few examples of the services that lawyers and law firms that speak and practice social impact provide include:

  • Knowing when, where,and how to register and build and manage teams in countries where "on the ground" work occurs.
  • Engaging smart business lawyers to structure multiparty, cross-sector partnerships supporting dynamic global programs.
  • Working with corporate, finance and tax counsel to properly structure program- and mission-related investments.
  • Creating innovative new financing structures and mechanisms to develop social investment policies and streamline deal work for impact investors.
  • Using real estate lawyers to develop land leases in developing nations where commercial farming and supply chain operations help smallholder farmers increase their productivity and access to global markets.

As an adjunct professor teaching social impact law, and as founder of a social impact consulting practice, I have developed an even fuller view of the opportunity ahead for the law to achieve greater social impact at scale.

I see a bright future where:

  • Law schools teach social impact in classrooms and practice it in clinics for the benefit of community social impact organizations and practice-ready graduates alike;
  • Law firms recruit eager and motivated talent with a zeal for serving the double bottom line of doing good while doing well; and
  • Industry rankings measure social impact inclusive of, but not limited to, pro bono alone to capture how the profession comprehensively achieves its highest and best purpose.

Lawyers are the architects of social innovation. We are already behind so much social impact work. Imagine how the future looks when we put lawyers in front of it!

Scott Curran is the founder of Beyond Advisers, a social impact consulting practice that simplifies professional services for the social sector (www.beyondadvisers.com). He previously served as General Counsel of the Clinton Foundation. He teaches, lectures and speaks with considerable enthusiasm on the topic of lawyers as social innovators. Twitter: @scottmcurran

Lawyers as Social Innovators - Janders Dean Legal Horizons Conference

Lawyers are the architects of social innovation. Moving beyond pro bono alone to a more inclusive (and profitable) social impact approach will help the legal profession achieve its highest and best purpose. 
The profession need only recognize, organize, market, and measure the work already under way (which is exactly what we help innovative law firms do)!
This is the focus of my Janders Dean talk from the Legal Horizons Conference in 2016, newly posted online for your viewing pleasure! It was also the focus of this blog post that I wrote after giving the talk below last year.

News from the ABA Journal: "For More Good: Some Law Firms Find Other Ways To Provide Service To Society"

The law is moving far beyond pro bono in how the profession achieves social good.  

This cover story from the ABA Journal's February 2017 edition provides a broad introduction to the lawyers and firms leading some of these emerging efforts.

We are pleased to be included among them. 

Stay tuned for even more on how lawyers, their firms, and the legal profession as a whole are leading in social impact!

Direct Link: Here

Now More Than Ever - Your Social Impact Strategy Matters

"Now more than ever..." has been the lead sentence in countless conversations over the past month.  And what follows is almost always a sincere discussion reflective of the best of human nature's desire to provide checks and balances that ensure peace, prosperity, and stability during times of change and uncertainty.

For those working in social impact - nonprofits and for profits alike - these conversations almost always yield insight into a social impact strategy, intentionally or otherwise.

These strategies typically apply to the two primary operations of an organization: first, its products and/or services; and second, how the organization itself (through its time, talent, and treasure) serves the greater good.  

Some businesses sell products and use a portion of profits for positive social good. That's traditionally what most call Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Think Ronald McDonald House. But the increasingly popular model is where a company uses the business model itself to serve the social good while making profits.  This is social impact in the corporate context.  Think Tom's Shoes, Apple's supply chain responsibility efforts, or McDonald's groundbreaking work to prioritize healthier choices in products marketed to kids (full disclosure - I worked on this project so am definitely biased in my promotion of it!).   

In the broad world of social impact, CSR is increasingly taking a back seat to social impact initiatives, which is part of a redefinition of the way corporate citizens serve as social actors in the world of which they are a part and the markets upon which they rely.  CSR is still important and should be applauded when/where it exists. But it is increasingly giving way to the more dynamic, "double bottom line" of doing good while doing well.  Profits and purpose...not purpose after profits.  

There is an analog to all of this for the legal profession, which is a sleeping giant in the world of social impact.  As I noted in my previous post (here), pro bono is the lens through which most view how the law achieves social good, but is no longer a big enough construct, nor an adequate measurement tool, to capture all the good the legal profession is doing (and is responsible for helping their clients across various sectors achieve). More on that in future posts. 

Whatever your business, whatever your product or service, and whatever your philosophy on "giving back" (CSR) or doing good while doing well (social impact), now is the time to double down, get crystal clear, and maximize impact. Your customers and clients love it, and so do the members of your team. They're more energized, engaged, and productive when they feel their work really matters. So the more meaning and impact you can bake into that work, the greater the rewards will be for everyone involved.

And not to be overlooked, your own personal social impact strategy matters too.  Making a difference extends beyond the workplace into your community, neighborhood, family, and home.  Finding purpose in all your passions produces an even greater return.

Bottom line:  If you are in the business of making the world a better place, a purposeful, clear, and defined social impact strategy matters...now more than ever.

Beyond Advisers is an impact philanthropy & social innovation consultancy. We help the world's leading change agents design and build the most impactful social enterprises, programs, and partnerships in the world. Click here to learn more.

Beyond Brand Experience - In the News

Congratulations to Jim Jacoby, Beyond's Brand Experience, Digital Infrastructure, and Experience Design expert, for being recognized as #3 among the Top 20 Marketer in Chicago!

If you are the leader of a growth-stage nonprofit or social enterprise who wants to ensure that your messaging, website, and digital strategy is keeping up with your organization's growth and evolution, contact us to learn how Jim and our team can help.


Interview with Greentarget: "How Lawyers Can Take the Lead on Social Innovation"

The following interview originally appeared on Greentarget's blog here.

When Scott Curran looks at the legal industry, he sees a problem. “There are massive numbers of people who need a lawyer but can’t get or afford one, and yet we have unemployed lawyers,” he says. “If somebody can explain how that’s not a market inefficiency, I’d love to hear it.”

Curran wants to make it more efficient through social innovation. Earlier this year, after nearly 10 years as counsel for the Clinton Foundation, Curran founded Beyond Advisers to help nonprofits, businesses and other organizations create and manage social impact initiatives. That includes law firms, a unique private-sector species that Curran knows well, both from his days as a corporate attorney and as a consumer of big law as in-house counsel for the Clinton Foundation.

We spoke to Curran, who also teaches a course called “Lawyers as Social Innovators” at Chicago-Kent College of Law, about social innovation and the law.

What is social innovation in a business context? 

The origins can be found in traditional corporate social responsibility (CSR), which in the past was how for-profit businesses would do good in the world. They’d have a foundation, a corporate giving strategy, an employee matching program, etc. Some big Fortune 500 companies even had, and still have, branded community engagement efforts, like Ronald McDonald House.

But CSR efforts traditionally involved using the business’s profits for a social benefit. Social impact is about doing good in the world using the business function. Now the corporate world is pivoting, at neck-whipping speed, toward integrating social impact activities into its profit-generating work. For example, for every pair of shoes it sells, Tom’s Shoes gives a pair to someone in need. Warby Parker, Thrive Market and others have similar models. These are all for-profit businesses that make a lot of money – and doing good is completely baked into their business model.

We’re also seeing companies like Amazon and Walmart engage in commercial co-ventures and cause-marketing campaigns with nonprofits. And there are nonprofits raising funds by offering their expertise to the private sector for a fee. The lines between nonprofits and for-profits are blurring in exciting and positive ways.

Then we see innovators using their time, talent and treasure to create and support new and dynamic social enterprises. Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, through their Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, are giving away 99 percent of their Facebook stock through what sounds like a foundation, but is actually an LLC, which allows them to diversify the way they deploy assets to achieve business and social outcomes. That is social innovation, and it is exciting and awesome.

What role do law firms play in this? 

Lawyers and law firms are already in the middle of it all. None of the companies shifting to social impact are doing so without legal advice. I’m assuming there were smart and creative lawyers involved in creating the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. I know there are smart and creative lawyers working in philanthropy and social enterprises operating around the world because I’ve seen it first-hand over the past decade. But lawyers’ involvement is typically passive, responding to client demand for counsel in developing their social impact efforts.

What the profession has not yet done, with a few exceptions, is considered what it looks like if we put lawyers at the front of the social innovation movement. I am completely excited by thinking about what our profession (and the world) looks like when lawyers put a stake in the ground and say “we are the architects of social innovation, the ones who bring these impact movements to life for our clients.”

There is an incredible opportunity here to define, capture and lead what I call Legal Social Innovation.

What’s in it for them? 

In a nutshell: more business, talent satisfaction and positive industry change. A fantastic triple bottom line.

First, it is a business opportunity that meets a client need. As I noted earlier, clients (pro bono and paying clients alike) are already doing this work, and law firms are already supporting them. These clients increasingly expect their lawyers to speak the language of social innovation and offer defined social impact services.

Make no mistake, this isn’t your grandfather’s pro bono. That’s still a really important part of it. But this is a business opportunity, and one that will change the profession – and the world our profession uniquely serves – for the better.

Second, lawyers love doing this work. Social impact work engages attorneys and practice groups who’ve been historically underutilized in traditional pro bono work – business, finance and tax, for example. I saw this first-hand during my time at the Clinton Foundation, where our in-house team, along with some incredible outside firms, supported over a dozen initiatives that spanned global health, climate change, commercial agriculture and supply chain innovation, to name a few. We worked with several big law firms in both pro bono and paid capacities.

We saw the leaders of those firms offering more and more support for our work, because their lawyers loved doing it. That’s important to them because the data shows that our industry, and especially big law, has a problem in that the work is not perceived as inspiring or fulfilling. They have a huge opportunity to fix that, and developing a legal social innovation practice is a good way to do it. And again, given that a growing number of social enterprises are paying clients, this represents a business opportunity. It is no longer the case that attorneys and their firms can only find the “feel good” work through pro bono.

Finally, attorneys, firms and the profession should measure and get credit for this work. Most firms aren’t undertaking social impact efforts in an organized way. So they have a huge opportunity to recognize, organize and market this work to meet both client and talent demands. Pro bono work – which is currently the only measure of social impact – should be the starting point. But it is no longer a sufficient metric to capture all the good that attorneys, firms and the profession are doing. That needs to change. I have a plan and a metric for a new measurement. It includes existing pro bono measurement, but goes beyond to capture the other areas where firms are creating social impact. Some firms are already using it, and I expect more will too. I’d love to see AmLaw and other law firm rating organizations adopt it.

Do you see that social impulse in the law students you teach? 

Absolutely. I believe law students go to law school feeling good about their decision and believing they will have a meaningful impact on the world. And they know that throughout history lawyers have served a vital social purpose. But at some point they have to merge their ideals with the idea of getting jobs, paying for law school and living their lives.

Then they get into their careers, and the opportunities they have for social impact are typically funneled into pro bono, legal aid and other volunteer service. Those are highly valuable; they’re meeting real needs and should be supported and continue to scale. But they’re usually addressing symptoms of societal problems. The law has an incredible opportunity to organize its talent around doing work that addresses systems change that hopefully alleviates the underlying causes of those symptoms. For example, the more robustly we support the rule of law and access to justice initiatives, the more we should see a reduction in wrongful prosecutions that require legal aid attorneys. The more we address market dynamics related to housing insecurity, the fewer landlord/tenant disputes we should need lawyers to serve.

If we’re practicing Legal Social Innovation at scale, throughout the profession, we can – and will – change the way systems work. We can do it without sacrificing profits. And we can do it in a way that results in a stronger, happier profession that is held in higher regard by the world around it.

That’s a bullish view, I know. It’s easier said than done. But I believe that, as a profession, we can – and should – do it…or at least get caught trying.

The “Results Driven Leader” Needs to Die

Not an actual person…but the phrase on resumes and LinkedIn profiles. It should never — ever — be used again.

Here’s why:

Raise your hand if you aren’t a results driven leader.

That’s what I asked a room full of lawyers during the “Career Transitions” panel on which I served at the Association of Corporate Counsel Annual Meeting in San Francisco last week.

Not a single attendee raised their hand. Not one.

Every one of the 100 people in the room identified themselves as a “results driven leader.” The same was true for “effective communicator,” “team player,” etc.

These are wasted words of little value. They are the beige paint of resumes and LinkedIn profiles.

Using these phrases is the equivalent of saying “I am just like every other candidate whose resume you are reading.” But you aren’t just like every other candidate!

You, Snowflake, are uniquely qualified and have your own story to tell. That’s why you’re throwing your hat in the ring in the first place, right? So telling your story becomes far more important than fitting a mold. In fact, fitting a mold is the last thing you want.

Job postings and the application process are increasingly online, automated, and easy, resulting in hundreds — sometimes thousands — of applicants for a single position.

Computers and software are regularly doing the first round of reviews, seeking out key words. And when they aren’t, tired human eyes are scanning submissions looking for compelling applicants who stand out in all the right ways.

Words matter.

It seems obvious, doesn’t it? But mind numbingly vast numbers of resumes still prominently feature empty phrases of little value.

How did we get here?


We all find comfort and reassurance using the “good form” of a friend or colleague we respect, or one that Google provides. Totally makes sense. And forms can be an incredibly effective tool…as a starting point.

But when we use forms we run the risk of conformity. That is when phrases that sound good but ultimately mean nothing overstay their welcome.

So the world, and too many applicant pools, become filled with results driven leaders who words words words…huh, what, wait….sorry, I fell asleep.

The order of the day is to stand out. Not with gimmicks, but with deliberately and carefully crafted substance. Gimmicks are easy (and risky). Substance is hard work…like great jobs and careers!

Of course, I appreciate that it is all easier said than done. I (still) struggle with it too. So here’s the starting point I offered (which was previously offered to me) to begin the process of standing out in the right ways.

What is uniquely yours to give? Spend time determining what specific qualifications and experiences make you uniquely qualified. Start there.
Own your space! Once you have identified what makes you uniquely qualified and compelling, own that space. Don’t be shy about sharing how and why you stand out from the crowd.

In an increasingly crowded, automated, and competitive job marketplace, the advantage belongs to the candidates who are uniquely qualified, own their space, and stand out from the crowd with clarity, purpose, and precision. The “results driven leader” needs to die.