Purpose Prize

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David Roll

Lex Mundi Pro Bono Foundation
Purpose Prize Fellow 2009

To help socially minded entrepreneurs with their legal needs, Roll persuaded members of a global network of law firms to provide free legal services.

While visiting Peru in 2005, Roll was struck by the juxtaposition of rich and poor. On his way to a lavish law firm reception in Lima, the country’s capital, he rode through miles of slums and “grinding poverty.” Witnessing that stark contrast affected Roll, an attorney. “I would use my leadership skills and what I knew best – the law and lawyers – to make a difference in the world,” says Roll, 69. Soon after the event in Lima, Roll set out to harness the expertise of Lex Mundi – a global network of independent law firms – to provide free legal services to social entrepreneurs who address poverty. (Such individuals are innovative leaders who use entrepreneurial approaches to solve social problems.) Roll founded the Lex Mundi Pro Bono Foundation, which taps the network of 160 top-tier commercial law firms in 100 countries: 22,000 lawyers in 500 offices worldwide. The foundation, a nonprofit affiliate of Lex Mundi, which means “law of the world” in Latin, matches potential clients with member firms. In 3 1/2 years, the foundation has recruited firms to handle more than 489 legal projects for 241 social entrepreneurs. In one example, a Lex Mundi member firm helped negotiate a multimillion-dollar bank loan that enabled a nonprofit to purchase books for needy children.