5 Questions in 5 Minutes with Jules Kaufman

February 1, 2024

Could you talk about your professional journey and how you became interested in impact law?

I spent the bulk of my professional career as an in-house lawyer at large global companies. I started that journey in 1989, working as a corporate and M&A lawyer for Colgate-Palmolive. My career took a turn when I moved to France to take the seat of the general counsel for Colgate-Europe, where I managed a team that handled a broad range of legal and regulatory issues for our $3 billion European division. I then spent nine years at one of the world’s largest beauty companies, Coty, which manufactures, markets, and distributes well-known cosmetics, skincare, and fragrance brands. And then my last most recent GC role was at Gartner, a global data insights firm.

When I started my career, my ambition was to practice international law. I had the good fortune to support multinational companies on a wide range of transactions and business challenges and live and work in Paris, Geneva and New York.

But my journey to impact investing actually started close to home. When we left Paris in 2007, my wife, Ann MacDougall, took a job with the Acumen Fund, where she worked with Acumen founder, CEO, and impact luminary Jacqueline Novogratz. Ann worked there for five years, first as general counsel and then as chief operating officer, so I became well acquainted with the sector thanks to her. Acumen is one of the first real impact investing funds. They have been a beacon for others in the impact sector for many years and have done a great job proving the case of how to invest in ways that drive positive environmental and social outcomes.

During that time, we were exposed to a number of entrepreneurs and investors in that space, and we also started impact investing as a family. I was exposed firsthand to this incredibly inspiring concept of doing well while doing good. And once I left Gartner, I looked for a way to apply the skills and experience from my more traditional career to a career in impact investing. What I’ve learned is that impact investing isn’t about a phase of life; it’s about how you live your life. And I decided that this was how I wanted to live my life – as a lawyer and as a human being.

Could you talk about your transition from big law to impact law?

Again, a lot of the credit goes to my amazing wife. Years ago, she did a program at Harvard’s Advanced Leadership Institute, and there she met the people who started Gratitude Railroad, a network of impact investors. Gratitude was way ahead of its time, and its founders, Howard Fischer and Eric Jacobsen, recognized that people with investment acumen and sizeable investment capital needed to come into the impact tent to scale the sector. So, our work with Gratitude gave me even more exposure to the impact space.

Over the course of my career, I acquired a well-rounded skillset as an attorney. First, as a corporate lawyer, doing mostly transactional finance and transactions. And then, as a general advisor of management and boards in large corporate settings, I managed legal teams that were handling the whole spectrum of legal issues, as you might imagine, for a global company. And over this time, I acquired quite a bit of exposure to the kinds of things that companies need at various stages of their life cycles. So, when I began speaking with Chintan about how to marry my background with a career in impact investing, it made sense to create a new practice focused on social enterprises. It’s an incredibly exciting and rewarding opportunity.

How do you envision the future of the Social Enterprise Practice at RPCK?

As the impact investing sector has evolved and matured, many of the best social enterprises have experienced meaningful growth over the years as their value-added business models have proven out. Many of these enterprises are the kinds of companies that are in the portfolios of the funds that RPCK advises. As growth-stage enterprises, they face a different set of challenges than they did during startup phases – from financing needs to litigation to employment, regulatory, and governance issues.

While RPCK has always had a company-side practice, we have created our Social Enterprise Practice in recognition of the increasing number of growth-stage companies in the impact investing sector who will benefit from senior legal and business counsel who can anticipate and solve challenges to their growth.

As an entrepreneurial law firm ourselves, we know firsthand what these companies need to scale. RPCK’s deep knowledge of the impact investing landscape and ability to develop innovative legal solutions that can be tailored to the unique needs of this marketplace – is really without peer. The Social Enterprise Practice combines many of the services these companies might seek from a general counsel — I can bring to bear much of my experience while helping RPCK to deepen its connectivity to the space.

I’m having the time of my life doing this. It’s a hugely enjoyable learning experience, and it’s proving to be a wonderful experience from a personal growth perspective that I hadn’t even anticipated.

What would you want to say to an attorney considering a career at RPCK? What is the culture like?

RPCK is a small but powerful firm both in terms of its reputation and, I think, the impact of its work. I have been impressed by the quite sophisticated scope of work that the firm is doing. And what’s neat about it is that everyone is mission driven. And the culture reflects both of these halves. It’s very flexible, collaborative, and friendly as well. I think it’s quite unique to be in a firm where you feel like everyone is smart, talented, and working toward the same goal. It’s an enviable place to be.

In addition to your work in impact investing, what drives you?

I really love the outdoors. Outdoor activities are very important to me, whether it be mountain biking, hiking or climbing, and that’s a huge part of my life. And I’m an avid tennis player. Since we’re largely based in the Hudson Valley these days, I’ve also gotten involved in local issues, and I’m on the environmental commission for our town. It’s interesting to learn about local politics and how things get done at the local level. I’m also on the board of the Mohonk Preserve, a local land trust that is very important to us because it’s a place where we bike and hike and get to enjoy the outdoors.

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