Georgetown Law Students Incorporate First Benefit Corporation in D.C.

November 21, 2013 —

When Georgetown Law students Rayna Wright and Donald DePass signed up for the school’s new law clinic devoted to social enterprises and nonprofits, they had no idea they’d make history. But that’s exactly what happened on Thursday, November 21, when the client they’ve worked for all semester, Aloetree, Inc., became the first “benefit corporation” in the District of Columbia.

The D.C. Council passed legislation earlier this year allowing for the formation of benefit corporations. Since 2010, 19 states and D.C. have passed such laws. The directors of benefit corporations are required to consider the interests of various stakeholders, such as employees, the environment, and the communities in which they operate, in addition to the interests of their shareholders. Many benefit corporations also have a social or charitable mission, similar to nonprofit organizations. The concept was a perfect fit for Aloetree, which makes children’s clothing and donates a portion of earnings to anti-child trafficking programs in Cambodia. And the Social Enterprise and Nonprofit Law Clinic, led by Professor Alicia Plerhoples, was the ideal resource for Aloetree’s founder and owner, Anbinh Phan (L'10), an alumna of Georgetown University Law Center, who needed help with the legal work necessary to become a benefit corporation.  

“Anbinh is building a wonderful business with the capacity to raise awareness among U.S. families about child trafficking. I am also incredibly proud of the work that Rayna and Donald have accomplished for Aloetree,” said Plerhoples. “Although we’re highlighting this particular matter, all students in the Social Enterprise and Nonprofit Law Clinic get the opportunity to work for inspiring, mission-based organizations such as Aloetree.”

Although Aloetree is in its early stages, its mission extends beyond corporate philanthropy by also focusing on teaching children about human rights and fighting injustice. Wright and DePass, both third-year students, drafted and filed Aloetree’s organizational documents, and advised Phan on methods to remain transparent and accountable with respect to her company’s social mission. They also advised her on protecting her intellectual property. 

“Working with Aloetree throughout the semester has been an incredible learning experience. Participating in the Clinic has proven truly rewarding, and I feel fortunate to have gotten such meaningful experience at this early stage in my legal career,” said DePass. Wright echoes those sentiments, adding: “I hope to continue working in the social enterprise space, and look forward to seeing more benefit corporations not only in D.C. but around the country.”  

Georgetown Law’s clinical program is consistently the most highly ranked in the nation. The Social Enterprise and Nonprofit Law Clinic, which launched this semester, is the newest of Georgetown Law’s 15 clinics, and offers free corporate and transactional legal services to social enterprises, nonprofit organizations, and select small businesses operating in Washington, D.C. and internationally.

Aloetree, Inc. works with farmers, artisans, and groups certified by the Global Organic Textile Standard, Fair Trade Federation, and World Fair Trade Organization to craft certified organic children’s clothes. The company operates out of Hive 2.0, a co-working space for entrepreneurs in historic Anacostia.

For coverage of this accomplishment in the Washington Post, click here

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