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Chris Willis Pickup

Chris Willis Pickup


Personal Profile

Chris is a Partner in our Innovation department, and heads up our Charities and Social Ventures team. He is a leading charities and social ventures lawyer, and was formerly a senior lawyer at the Charity Commission for England and Wales, which registers and regulates charities and charitable activity in England and Wales.

Chris' work focuses on innovative and impactful charities, social ventures and philanthropy. He is a trusted advisor to some of the largest and most complex purpose-driven organisations in the UK and elsewhere, supporting clients to deliver strategic plans, resolve governance challenges, respond to regulatory inquiries, exploit commercial opportunities and mitigate legal and regulatory risks.

Chris has particular expertise in:

  • designing legal, organisational and funding structures for novel social ventures and charities, including spin-outs from existing charities, research institutions and universities;
  • strategic management of internal and external investigations and litigation, including regulatory enquiries, serious incident reporting and charity proceedings;
  • establishing complex collaborations and partnerships between charities, social ventures, research institutions, universities and corporates, for research, fundraising, operational or other purposes;
  • international expansion and growth for charities and social ventures, both into the UK and from the UK into other countries worldwide;
  • the legal, regulatory and governance aspects of charities and social ventures developing and implementing digital products and services for beneficiaries, and internal digital transformation;
  • advising corporate and individual philanthropists on their relationships with charities and social ventures, including governance, donations, grants, shared services, branding and reputation.

Chris is a member of the Charity Law Association and contributes to its working parties on legal and regulatory developments. He leads our work contributing a wide range of resources for social entrepreneurs and impact ventures, covering social venture models and set-up, impact investment and funding impact. He chairs the Audit and Risk Committee of Founders Pledge, a global charity for entrepreneurs in the digital and tech community.

Key Experience

  • Advising Founders Pledge, a global charity for entrepreneurs, on the creation and launch of Pledge Ventures, a value-aligned venture fund designed to operate as a flywheel for impact and to build up a long-term capital endowment for Founders Pledge.
  • Advising lowRISC C.I.C., a non-profit open source technology company, on its leading open source silicon project, partnerships with global tech companies, internal operations and people, international growth and fundraising, and non-profit regulation.
  • Advising the commercial arm of Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, on negotiating its first exclusivity agreement with Greensphere Capital, an early-stage investment fund and incubator, for an investment of up to £100 million in plant and fungal science spin-outs from RBG Kew, with applications ranging from sustainable agriculture to habitat restoration in the UK and internationally.
  • Advising Alzheimer's Research UK and other leading research charities on research collaborations, grant-making, commercialisation and intellectual property, services, campaigning and fundraising.
  • Advising Founders Pledge on establishing the Patient Philanthropy Fund, a philanthropic co-funding vehicle which invests to give and ensures capital is at the ready when extraordinary opportunities to safeguard and improve the long-term future arise.
  • Advising Jesus College, Cambridge and the University of Cambridge on the legal and regulatory aspects of their repatriation of Benin artefacts to Nigeria's National Commission for Museums and Monuments, which are the UK's first and largest repatriations of Benin artefacts.
  • Advising a range of academics and teams spinning out social ventures from world-leading universities, including linked open data, purpose-led consultancy, rapidly deployable and scalable low-cost mechanical ventilators, nature-based solutions, as well as diagnostic tests that provide rapid, accurate and scalable COVID-19 testing.

Career History

Partner, Mishcon de Reya LLP
Partner, Taylor Vinters LLP
Head of Litigation/Legal Adviser, Charity Commission for England and Wales
Senior Associate/Associate, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP
Trainee Solicitor, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP
King's College London, PGDL (European Union Law)
BPP Law School, Legal Practice Course and Graduate Diploma in Law
University of Oxford, MA (Hons), Modern Languages and Literature

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