Resilient Communities Legal Cafe

We want to live in a society where reliable and affordable legal support is available to all those creating the transition to localized, resilient economies. 

At the Legal Cafes, the Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC) and our volunteers specialize in serving cooperatives, nonprofits, cottage food businesses, social enterprises, urban farms, complimentary currencies, time banks, and small businesses.


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Those who want to create innovative and cooperative economic structures have difficulty finding affordable and competent legal assistance because so few attorneys specialize in the legal needs of the next economy. Marginalized communities and communities with high rates of unemployment and poverty will find the hurdles to launching new enterprises especially insurmountable. The Resilient Communities Legal Cafe provides direct legal support to individuals and groups who are working to create new solutions for resilient local economies. The Legal Cafes take place at different locations and typically happen three times per month in the Bay Area. 

Types of Legal Advice Given at the Legal Cafe

Charlie Brown! That should be a pumpkin pie cooperative!

At our Legal Cafes, the Law Center staff and volunteers specialize in serving cooperatives, nonprofits, cottage food businesses, social enterprises, urban farms, complimentary currencies, time banks, immigrant owned businesses, and small businesses. We provide advice and legal consultations around the following legal areas: 

  • Legal formation for small businesses: What are the regulations and requirements to have your organization legally function?

  • Legal entity choice: Should your org be a for profit, non-profit, and which legal entity fits best with your vision?

  • Employment law: Whether you're an employer, employee, or a cooperative, we can answer questions on how to prevent or resolve issues?

  • Securities law: What are the legal ways to raise money for your nonprofit org or for-profit business?

  • Tax law: What are the ways to receive tax exemption for your org?

  • Contracts: Contract review, drafting and negotiation

  • Liability issues: What are you governance requirements to avoid liability?

  • IP agreements and licensing: Do you have a product or invention that you'd like to protect or to be available as a creative commons but don't know how to do it?   

  • Environmental Law: Do you have questions about how to create more green spaces for your community? 

  • Food Safety Laws: Are you making and selling food? What are the regulations that you need to know to operate within the law?

Legal Cafe Dates & Locations

Our donation-based Legal Cafes rotate locations and happen three times per month, mostly near BART stations in Oakland, Berkeley, and Richmond. RSVP for upcoming cafes and teach-ins on our Legal Cafe events calendar to ensure your place at the cafe. We also accept walk-ins! If RSVPs are sold out, don't let that stop you from coming! You are welcome to drop in and wait for an attorney as well. 

The Resilient Communities Legal Cafe is a first-come, first-serve, donation-based legal advice session. You might be asked to wait, but have no fear! There are always snacks, drinks, collaborative discussions, and the Resilient Communities Law Library to peruse. Registration closes 40 minutes before the end-time listed; feel free to come at anytime before registration closes to receive your legal advice and consultation from our competent staff and volunteer attorneys. 

Teach-ins at the Legal Cafe

Come and join the conversation!

Our Legal Cafes are often paired with a "teach-in." Teach-ins are practical, participatory, and action oriented discussions around food, housing, livelihoods, transportation, and more! Through these trainings and guided discussion on specific legal issues the Law Center hopes to inform and empower our communities towards resiliency. If you'd like to provide a teach-in, please visit our Legal Cafe volunteer page. Find future Legal Cafe Teach-ins at our Legal Cafe event page!

Teach-ins that we've hosted in the past include:

  • How to Start a Cottage Food Operation (a.k.a. Home-Based Food Business);

  • Cooperative Housing solutions for Seniors;

  • An Intro to Legal Entities for Social Enterprises and Cooperatives;

  • Stewarding Our Water as a Commons;

  • Setting Up Systems of Accountability within a worker-owned cooperative business.

Why don't you give us an idea? Don't be shy! We're always looking to host conversations that are relevant to our communities, even if the topic isn't legal in nature. We want to hold space to discuss how we would navigate the thorny issues of an economy that is owned, controlled, and benefit our communities, and how we can get there! Feel free to email our Legal Cafe Teach-in Coordinator, Ricardo Nuñez, at ricardo@theselc.org with your ideas and suggestions.   

Bite-Sized Legal Resources

Have a legal question but not quite ready to read a full legal guide? Came to a Legal Cafe and wondering where you can find some short, accessible legal guides on your legal topics? Then these Bite-Sized Legal Guides are a great place to start! Find short, written resources that address common questions we get at our Legal Cafes. Topics include how to become a personal chef, how zoning laws can effect your food business, cooperatives 101, and more! 

¿Tiene una pregunta legal pero no está listo para leer una guía legal completa? ¿Vino a un Café Legal y se pregunta dónde puede encontrar algunas guías legales cortas y accesibles sobre sus temas legales? ¡Entonces estas Guías Legales de Mordidas son un excelente lugar para comenzar! Encuentre recursos breves y escritos que aborden preguntas comunes que recibimos en nuestros Cafés Legales. Los temas incluyen cómo convertirse en un chef personal, cómo las leyes de zonificación pueden afectar su negocio de alimentos, cooperativas 101 y más.

Volunteer at the Legal Cafe!

Want to get hands on experience with clients working on urban agricultural projects, cooperative housing, nonprofits, social enterprises, and more? Looking for a community of like minded legal professionals cultivating the legal roots of just and resilient economies? Then why don't you volunteer at our Legal Cafes? Volunteer attorneys, law students, and community members make our cafes possible! Whether you are a law student, legal professional, or community member who wants to increase access to community based lawyering in our communities, there are three ways you can participate at the Legal Cafe: be an "Taster," a 'Server," or a "Chef."

"Taster" (Observer): "Tasters" come to do just that: get a taste of the Legal Cafe! Tasters are able to sit-in on the legal consultations and learn from experienced attorneys on how to use transactional law to build just and resilient local economies. We want all those "tasters" interested in the Legal Cafe to become actively involved and part of our community of legal professionals and community activists! NOTE: There is only one Taster spot reserved at each Legal Cafe. 


"Servers" (Non-Advising Volunteer): Server, or non-advising volunteer, at the Legal Cafe is a volunteer who does intake for clients, observes the legal consultations, and actively takes part in the operations of the Legal Cafe. Servers are the first point of contact for clients coming into the Legal Cafe. Servers take part in the intake process and are paired with an experienced Legal Cafe volunteer to issue spot the client’s needs and refine the scope of service that the client might be searching for that day. Servers can also go between the different consultations happening at the Legal Cafe. This allows them to learn about the full breadth of knowledge that our "Chefs," our experienced advising attorneys, provide. Servers can be law students, legal professionals, and community members interested in using law as a tool for social and economic justice. 


"Chefs" (Advising Volunteer): A "Chef" is an attorney with the competency to provide legal advice in the areas of law that the Law Center specializes in providing (see "types of legal advice given at the Legal Cafe" above). The Sustainable Economies Law Center focuses our community based lawyering on transactional law, whether it be entity formation, securities law, employment law, taxation, etc. for nonprofits, social enterprises, cooperatives, urban agriculture, community owned enterprises, and other organizational models that create just and resilient communities. At the Legal Cafe, we pair attorneys together in teams of two or three (volunteers permitting), so no one is alone in providing legal advice. The advice session becomes a living classroom for attorneys, as consultations turn into discussions of the different interpretations and applications of law to the innovative ideas our clients present.

Please contact Tia Katrina Taruc-Myers, our Legal Cafe Volunteer Coordinator, at tia@theselc.org if you'd like to volunteer!

Guide to Starting Your Own Legal Cafe

If you'd like to start a Legal Cafe in your community, check out our Practical Guide to Starting a Legal Cafe. In the guide, you will learn how to get the basics of your Legal Cafe in place and how to create the Legal Cafe experience. The guide also includes sample intake documents and a breakdown of tasks for scheduling and planning your Legal Cafe.

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