Community Enterprise Clinic

"The legal services we provide are a reflection of what our clients are doing. Non-profits are becoming more entrepreneurial. As they start to do business differently, new legal challenges arise."
- Andrew Foster, Clinic Director

 

Community Enterprise Clinic

The Duke Law School Community Enterprise Clinic is a resource for non-profit organizations and low-wealth entrepreneurs working to improve the quality of life in low-wealth communities through community economic development ("CED") strategies. We represent a wide range of clients to help them overcome barriers, attract resources and improve the quality of life in the communities they serve.

“The legal services we provide are a reflection of what our clients are doing, and many non-profits have diversified,” says Andrew Foster, Associate Clinical Professor of Law and director of the clinic. “Non-profits are becoming more entrepreneurial, in part because sources of funding are drying up, and in other respects in an attempt to make their work more effective. As they start to do business differently, new legal challenges arise.”

Students are being called on to analyze whether new social enterprises are outside the specific and defined charitable purposes that might threaten an organization’s 501c3 tax exemption, set up subsidiary companies, or spot potential conflicts of interest within the organizational structure. "On an ongoing basis," notes Foster, "the clinic takes on the role of outside general counsel to its clients’ complex and evolving projects."

 

Skill-building

It gave me the opportunity to develop extremely relevant skills and a leg up that I couldn’t have gotten anywhere else.”

— Merrill Hoopengardner

 

Beyond Community Economic Development to Sustainable Community Development

A powerful tool for addressing social, economic, and racial justice for more than forty years, the community economic development (“CED”) field faces unprecedented challenges.  Critics on both the left and the right are questioning the efficacy of CED as a strategy for fighting poverty.  Additionally, cuts in public and private sector financing put at risk the organizational infrastructure needed to carry out this work.  As a result of these and other forces, a key question arises: What is beyond community economic development?