6 June 2022, London – Sidley Austin LLP is delighted to mark the 10th anniversary of its Emerging Enterprises Pro Bono Program providing free legal support to eligible micro, small and medium-sized for-profit enterprises and market-focused nongovernmental organizations and trade associations that have a clear socioeconomic and/or environmental impact in developing countries.
Since its launch in 2012, the Emerging Enterprises Pro Bono Program has supported over 200 businesses that provide enhanced employment and livelihood opportunities in poor, rural and disadvantaged communities. Active in over 55 countries, the program supports the growth and success of businesses across diverse sectors, and at all stages in the supply chain, from agricultural growers to service exporters, mobile-app developers to education providers.
Sidley provides a wide variety of legal assistance to these enterprises to expand operations, lower costs, increase profits, successfully access new markets and become attractive partners for investors, helping to boost local economies, increase job opportunities, raise incomes and provide other social benefits. The legal services provided include corporate, transactional, financing, contract, intellectual property, and international trade matters.
More than 1,000 specialists and legal professionals across 20 offices have given over 56,000 hours to the program which started as the Africa-Asia Agricultural Program in Geneva. Since its inception a decade ago, the program has garnered recognition as a unique and market leading initiative, winning awards including National Public Service Award (American Bar Association – 2014), Transatlantic Pro Bono and Public Service (The American Lawyer – 2015) and Innovation in Social Responsibility (Financial Times Innovative Lawyers – 2016).
The Emerging Enterprises Pro Bono Program is proud to support female empowerment and gender equality, having worked with more than 80 women-owned, women-led and women-orientated businesses across the agribusiness, finance, manufacturing, clean cooking, education, health, technology and sanitation sectors. Notable work includes Sidley’s strategic partnership with the International Trade Centre’s SheTrades program. Since 2017, the partnership has helped train over 1,000 female entrepreneurs through capacity-building activities aimed at strengthening legal knowledge and skills and business resilience to Covid-19.
Speaking of the scheme’s 10-year milestone, Nicolas Lockhart, the program’s co-leader, said: “We are immensely proud of the hours dedicated and commitment shown to Sidley’s Emerging Enterprise Pro Bono Program. Over ten years, the program has harnessed the experience of hundreds of participating Sidley lawyers, using their strategic and technical know-how to help businesses navigate and overcome a host of finance, investment and trade challenges. This achievement has played an important role in improving income and welfare in some of the world’s more economically challenged areas.”
“Looking ahead, we are excited by the prospect of empowering and enabling more women in businesses, providing pro-bono legal services and improving their access to information and communications technology, financial services and assets, legal rights, business management skills, and networking opportunities. Here’s to the next decade!”