About the Legal Cafe

Those who want to create alternative economic structures have difficulty finding affordable and competent legal assistance because there are so few attorneys specialized in the legal needs of the sharing economy. 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 advice, workshops, teach-ins, discussions, and legal services supporting the creation of:

  • worker cooperatives
  • food cooperatives
  • urban farms
  • land trusts
  • housing cooperatives
  • local investment initiatives
  • community-supported enterprises
  • social enterprises
  • micro-enterprises
  • cottage industries
  • time banks
  • local currencies
  • and more!

Types of Legal Advice Given at the Legal Cafe

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. 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?

Janelle explains how the Legal Cafe works

Dates and Locations

Find the dates and locations for each Legal Cafe on our Legal Cafe events calendar.


Currently, the Resilient Communities Legal Cafe runs three times per month at three separate locations to provide the most convenient, accessible legal advice sessions for those creating more just and resilient local economies. 

No appointments necessary!

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. Feel free to come at anytime during the Legal Cafe hours to receive your legal advice and consultation from SELC’s competent volunteer attorneys. The attorneys at the Legal Cafe specialize in innovative organizational models, grassroots financing options, and regulations you need to jump through for your business, nonprofit, or social enterprise. 

Donation based? Pay-it-Forward? Huh?

At SELC, we know that small businesses, non-profits, and community enterprises building more resilient local economies are strapped for cash. That’s why we believe in creating different economic relationships that build community and trust without money! You can help strengthen the New Economy by “paying” for the next Client’s legal advice, giving back to SELC, or paying-it-forward in your community:

  • The Bay Area Community Exchange (BACE) Timebank: BACE acts like a local community bank. The difference is, instead of money they keep track of time. For every hour you spend doing something for someone in your community, you earn one hour of use to have someone do something for you. With BACE, the currency is time and everyone’s time is equal. Participants of SELC’s Legal Cafe can “Pay-it-forward” by signing up to BACE and crediting SELC the time we provided you at the Legal Cafe!

  • Bay Bucks: Bay Bucks is a a business-to-business (B2B) barter Trade Exchange, where locally owned companies can use their own goods or services to buy things they need – without cash! Businesses and non-profits can join Bay Bucks and pay SELC through this exchange. That way, SELC can buy goods and services from other organizations in the network for future programs, events, and trainings!
  • Receive our services as a GIFT: We understand that there are community members out there who don’t have the means or capacity to pay-it-forward. In that case, we offer our Legal Services to you as a Gift. ENJOY!

Teach-Ins at the Legal Cafe

Find future Legal Cafe Teach-ins at our Legal Cafe event page or find out what we mean by "teach-ins" here.


Legal Cafe Bites

This is a series of bite-sized legal guides, called Legal Cafe Bites, and can be found on their own page here.


SELC's Amazing Legal Cafe Volunteers and Attorneys

Find out the different specialties and contact information for SELC's Amazing Legal Cafe Volunteers and Attorneys here.

Volunteer at the Legal Cafe!

Become part of the movement toward a new, generative, localized economy that build community empowerment. Find out how by visiting SELC's Legal Cafe Volunteer page


If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions about the Resilient Communities Legal Cafe, please email ricardo [at] theselc.org. 

Thanks to our Partners and Collaborators: