Legal Issues in Social Entrepreneurship and Impact Investing—In the US and Beyond
Annual Conference Hosted by the Impact Investing Legal Working Group & the Grunin Center • June 4–5, 2024
New York University School of Law
Vanderbilt Hall, 40 Washington Square South, New York City
Meet our 2024 Conference Co-Chairs:
Kevin Saunders, Vice President, Legal, Fidelity Foundations
Kevin currently serves as Vice President, Legal, at the Fidelity Foundations. As an experienced general counsel providing mission-driven counsel, he works as part of the executive leadership team while advising on not-for-profit/tax-exempt compliance and governance, impact capital structuring, and the broader spectrum of in-house legal issues. Previously, as General Counsel at Accion, Kevin worked to refine and calibrate legal structure and approach — through an impact investment-focused public charity — to best support Accion’s financial inclusion strategy and mission to reach the underserved.
Kevin also has contributed more broadly to the legal impact investing community — he co-founded the Impact Investing Legal Working Group, served on the Humentum Legal Advisory Council, and participated in the GIIN Legal Practitioner Group, NGO Legal Council and Microfinance Council of Counsels. He also taught global practitioners for over a decade in a Financial Inclusion and Law course through the Boston University School of Law Banking and Financial Law LLM program.
Kevin holds a J.D. from the Boston University School of Law, and an M.A. and B.A. in English from Arkansas State University.
Ruth Gao, Associate General Counsel for Impact Investments, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Ruth serves as Associate General Counsel for Impact Investments at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Ruth brings a wealth of knowledge to her role, with experiences spanning private equity, venture capital, mergers and acquisitions, and initial public offerings.
Inspired by a vision to empower social entrepreneurs, Ruth spent a year in Jakarta working for a microfinance institution before attending NYU Law with the goal of understanding how the law may be used to enable change and impact. In 2019, she returned to NYU Law as a Fellow at the Grunin Center for Law and Social Entrepreneurship where she supported the International Transactions Clinic. Her Fellowship deepened her knowledge of the impact investing field and led her to serve as Associate General Counsel at Calvert Impact, a global non-profit investment firm.
Previously, Ruth was in private practice as an associate at Ropes & Gray LLP and O’Melveny & Myers LLP, where she counseled fund managers and limited partners in the forming and raising of and investment in private equity funds. She also maintained an active pro bono practice for various not-for-profits and small businesses.
Ruth's commitment to work with impact coupled with her diverse background and passion for positive change, positions her as a valuable contributor to the legal and impact investment community.
Ruth holds a J.D. from NYU School of Law and a BBA in Strategy and Accounting with High Distinction from the University of Michigan Ross School of Business.
Leslie Cornell, Vice President and Deputy General Counsel, Social Finance
Leslie is a Vice President and Deputy General Counsel at Social Finance. She manages the legal team across SFI’s portfolio of Impact Investments, advises the senior team with respect to policy and regulatory priorities, and supports the General Counsel in developing organizational strategy and overseeing corporate legal matters. Leslie leads a team of legal professionals who source and structure innovative, first-of-their-kind transactions that support results-focused social programs across various issue areas, including homelessness, workforce development, and criminal justice.
As counsel with Social Finance, Leslie helps design solutions to complex and novel challenges in the emerging and evolving landscape of impact finance. Leslie leverages her skills in financial structuring and community outreach to collaborate with diverse stakeholders, such as investors, service providers, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations, and to create and implement effective and sustainable impact finance models. Her passion is to advance the field of impact finance, and she is constantly seeking new ways to push the boundaries of traditional investing and philanthropic models.
Leslie teaches on the topic of impact investing and social entrepreneurship at Georgetown University Law Center and she serves as a board member for the North America regional board of the Global Alliance of Impact Lawyers (GAIL). She was an awardee of the 2019 Grunin Prize for Law and Social Entrepreneurship, administered by the Grunin Center for Law and Social Entrepreneurship at NYU School of Law.
Leslie holds a B.S. in Media Arts and Sciences and an M.A. in Political Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she was a Civic Leadership Fellow. She graduated cum laude from Loyola University Chicago School of Law.
The 2023 Annual Conference on Legal Issues in Social Entrepreneurship and Impact Investing – in the US and Beyond, co-organized by the Grunin Center and the Impact Investing Legal Working Group, was held on June 6–7, 2023, at NYU School of Law.
The conference was attended by over 300 students, lawyers and stakeholders from across the globe. This leading conference explores salient legal, ethical, and social themes affecting the fields of social entrepreneurship and impact investing.
We had program panels, plenary speakers, table talks, and workshops, and we celebrated the achievements of the 2023 Grunin Prize finalists and winners.
The 2024 conference themes will be announced early in 2024.
Please contact us if you would like to get involved: email@example.com.
The Grunin Center for Law and Social Entrepreneurship is a global leader in the field of law and social entrepreneurship, dedicated to advancing a global movement that creates new ways for law and lawyers to drive positive change in the world.
The mission of the Grunin Center is to enhance the community of lawyers and legal institutions purposefully engaged in social entrepreneurship, impact investing, and sustainable development, and to accelerate their effective participation in these fields.
To fulfill this mission, the Grunin Center is bridging the gaps between legal practitioners, scholars, educators, and law students, as the Center:
- educates students and lawyers about legal issues arising in these fields;
- leads path-breaking conversations about legal innovations and new legal approaches that advance these fields;
- invests in the success of students who are interested in applying their legal skills to these fields; and
- celebrates the contributions of legal practitioners, scholars, and students to these fields and shares learnings drawn from their contributions.