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Social Enterprise Law

Social enterprises are a great way to create sustainable change in our communities and yet it can be difficult to understand social enterprise law and find a lawyer able to cater to their unique legal needs.

Australian social enterprises currently sit in a difficult legal landscape, stemming particularly from a lack of a clear legal definition as to what a “social enterprise” is and the ambiguity of social enterprise law. Without this, or any existing frameworks for how social enterprises have to operate, there are a number of legal complexities in setting up and operating a profit for purpose business.

From our years of experience working with social enterprises, we here at Startup Lawyers Brisbane understand that a tailored approach is required to cater to their legal needs. Whether you’re just starting out or have an established business, let a lawyer who understands social enterprise law help you navigate the legal and compliance issues so you can focus on the important work of making a difference!

What social enterprise law can Startup Lawyers Brisbane help with?

Every social enterprise is unique and has its own set of challenges, however, there are some key areas of social enterprise law we find that you will need to consider as you embark on your journey.


For-profit or not-for-profit? Incorporated or unincorporated? Public or private? Perhaps a hybrid? There are a number of different ways to structure a social enterprise all with their own benefits and challenges. It’s also important to understand that there are various immediate and future implications in choosing the right structure for your social enterprise. By having a lawyer who understands the vastness of social enterprise law and understands the different options available can be immensely helpful in developing a sustainable model for your social enterprise.

Regulatory compliance

Depending on how you decide to structure your social enterprise, a common social enterprise law consideration is to understand the compliance obligations you may fall within. These can be reporting obligations you hold to the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission or the Australian Securities and Investments Commission. You may also have legislative obligations under the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) and the Australian Consumer Law. Startup Lawyers Brisbane can help you navigate these often complex compliance issues. Pushing such matters aside can result in your business facing penalties for late or non-compliance and give rise to reputational risks which may undermine the very purpose you set out to achieve.  

Managing relationships

We all know that “good fences make for good neighbours” but did you know “good contracts make for good business relationships”? Having in place written contracts clearly outlining rights and responsibilities can help maintain strong and fruitful relationships with your co-founders, employees, volunteers, third-party service providers and other stakeholders. By having lawyers experienced with social enterprise law who understands the different needs in different relationships, you will have the right tools to cater to the individual needs of your business partnerships.

Protecting your intellectual property (IP)

No matter what type of social enterprise you operate, your IP is likely very valuable to you and you want to protect it. Whether it be your business name and logo, the content on your website, the designs of your products or the computer code behind your software, all these things make up IP and require specific legal tools to protect them. Startup Lawyers Brisbane have a thorough understanding of IP laws and how best you can protect yours in the most cost-effective way under social enterprise law.

Raising funds

Crowd-funding, equity or debt financing and donations are just some of the ways social enterprises seek funding to startup or further their causes. All these options come with their own unique legal requirements and obligations. Not only this, you may find that without structuring your business appropriately, you are not eligible for certain funding types. Consulting a lawyer who understand social enterprise law before seeking different funding options can help in preparing correctly for the option as well as in understanding what obligations you are entering into and the risks involved.

Managing customers

Last but certainly not least, if you’re running a social enterprise then you have customers who are paying for your goods or services. Whether you’re selling consumer products on a website or providing professional services to companies, having clear agreements in place with your customers provide clarity with respect to the obligations of the parties and also help minimise risks and mitigate losses. Particularly for social enterprises who are advertising their social purpose, customers may have certain expectations for you evidencing or promising this. Startup Lawyers Brisbane understand social enterprise law and also the multitude of ways in which they operate means we can have agreements drafted which clearly articulate your intentions.

What legal documents are needed under social enterprise law?

Social enterprises, like any startup, need legal documents that appropriately respond to their unique business model.

Such documents include:

  • Incorporation documents depending on your intended structure;
  • Shareholder Agreements;
  • Employee or Volunteer Agreements;
  • Service Agreements;
  • Intellectual Property Assignment Deeds or Licenses;
  • Terms of Trade or Use; and
  • Privacy policies or data breach response plans.

These legal documents are some of the ways in which to address the elements outlined on this page and are beneficial towards starting up or scaling up your business.

With our experience in social enterprise law, Startup Lawyers Brisbane can help you navigate which startup legal documents are suitable for you and ensure they are appropriately drafted.

We know tech.

All businesses today are running some form of tech. In fact, tech businesses are the fastest growing sector in the startup ecosystem. Even if you are not on the cutting edge of innovation you are probably engaging with businesses who are. If you are not you should be. Speak to a commercial lawyer with years of IT domain experience to help you navigate your IP and IT legal requirements.

We know business.

Need a practical business lawyer, with IT, business, governance and accounting qualifications? One who spent over a decade running their own small business? The sort of commercial lawyer that can understand your business, your technology and your needs without you having to explain it in legal terms? Contact us today and speak to a multi-disciplinary commercial lawyer about your legal needs.

Startup Lawyers Brisbane love contributing to the growing Australian social enterprise ecosystem.

Call us for a free chat about your potential legal needs!

Looking for a Social Enterprise Lawyer who really understands profit for purpose?

Contact us today to talk about your next venture.

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