What Sustainable Economies Law Center's clients, community members, partners, and fellows are saying about our work:
"The evening at SELC's Legal Cafe was one of the most beneficial (and pleasant) experiences I have ever had when seeking advice for my advocacy! Where else could you get a dedicated team of experts to sit and help you for two hours, without charge!"
-- Deborah Rogers, Legal Cafe client
"I had the absolute best experience ever dealing with the legal process. SELC staff and volunteers made me comfortable and confident allowing them to assist with my vision. The collaboration with various experts added another dimension of trust. I knew the vision was in great hands. Sacred things are secret things. My privacy was protected and respected. My concerns were heard and my learning style was addressed. It is important to be understood, before someone can help you. SELC, got it. Additionally, they met me where I was. When I left them, I left spreading my wing's in preparation for flight. Thank you everyone."
-- Erma Montgomery, Legal Cafe client
"My topic for legal advice was rather unusual but prevalent for many people. I was encouraged by SELC to help organize a legal cafe on the topic for those impacted by the issues to attend. That's not just great service but movement building! Much gratitude!"
-- Tom Long, Legal Cafe client
"The SELC legal cafe is awesome! Janelle, Sara and the rest of the SELC team helped me understand the sharing economy universe -- not just the law, but the other people and organizations that are working in this space. Their service is incredibly helpful, well-designed and fun."
-- Miishe Addy, Legal Cafe client
"This is an amazing group of amazing people with great minds and big hearts. I feel so grateful for getting the opportunity to brainstorm with these people and get help solidifying my ideas! THANK YOU!"
-- Joshua Lipson, Legal Cafe client
“Thank you so much for offering this amazing Legal Cafe! This work is EXTREMELY important to creating real structural change for our communities and flailing economy.”
-- Legal Cafe client
“I am so thankful for SELC’s help in cooperatizing everything!”
-- Tia Katrina Canlas, Alipato Project, Legal Cafe client
"SELC is an amazing organization and they are really setting the trend on how to solve problems within the community. Our communities need more organizations to offer solutions in the same manner that SELC is offering."
-- Apurwa Pokhrel, Sustainable Economies Law Center Community Member
“As a SELC Fellow, I am supported and encouraged in my decision to start my own law practice in sustainable economies and civil rights law. My favorite part of being a SELC Fellow is participating in Resilient Economies Legal Cafe which provides legal advice to the community members interested in starting their own businesses.”
-- Sustainable Economies Law Center Fellow Hasmik Geghamyan, Geghamyan Law Office
"As a current practitioner who challenges agribusiness and industrial farming practices which lead to widespread pollution of natural resources and drinking water sources, my fellowship at SELC has been an invaluable way to learn about the ways in which businesses and workers can move away from an outdated mode of farming and business, into a new economy. The fellowship at SELC has helped me think broadly and creatively about how legal practice can help to usher in new business models and new legal structures that would allow for a farming economy that is more cooperative, more sustainable, less exploitative, and more local."
-- Sustainable Economies Law Center Fellow
"I regard my discovery of the SELC and Janelle Orsi's book as the defining moments that confirmed the logic of my decision to study law."
-- Law student
Have something to add? Share your story of community resilience below!
Thank you for your interest in the Sustainable Economies Law Center! This is where we post opportunities to join our team.
We currently do not have any available positions. Thanks for your interest!
For Potential Equal Justice Works and Skadden Fellowship Applicants:
Hey there 3L law students, recent graduates, and experienced attorneys! Are you inspired to use the law to support more resilient communities? Do you have a specific project idea that advances SELC's mission to provide legal education, research, advice, and advocacy for just and resilient economies? If so, consider applying for a funded fellowship through Equal Justice Works, Skadden Fellowship Foundation, or other similar organization to work with SELC. We are particularly interested in proposals that achieve the following goals:
- Envisioning more just and resilient economic and legal systems;
- Identifying and advocating for public policies that remove legal barriers to resilient communities while maintaining and strengthening worker, consumer and environmental protections;
- Empowering community-based entrepreneurs and innovators to create replicable legal structures that will form the blueprints of the new economy;
- Educating communities and law-makers about the potential of new economic strategies; and
- Training the next generation of community-based lawyers to meet the burgeoning legal needs of resilient communities everywhere.
Submit a brief proposal to email@example.com with "Fellowship Proposal" in the subject line and we'll get back to you in a timely manner to let you know if we'd like to further explore the opportunity.
Part of Sustainable Economies Law Center's approach to catalyzing a more just and resilient society is to be the change we want to see. We have adopted policies that distribute "ownership" throughout the organization, allow for more dignified livelihoods, expand access to our legal services, and empower a new generation of grassroots legal experts. These policies include:
An equal and capped pay rate: Every member of our organization is compensated equally for their work - whether an attorney or not. That salary is based on two objective measures of our local economy - the average Oakland income and a regional living wage indicator calculated by the Economic Policy Institute.
Decentralized governance: We take pride in our ability to get a lot done, and we credit much of our efficiency to the implementation of a highly structured system of distributed decision-making. Each program is run by a semi-autonomous circle of staff and volunteers, nested within larger circles of accountability. Our decision-making processes enable each staff member to propose projects and take significant leadership roles, optimizing individual autonomy and collective responsibility.
We have also launched a project to promote and support emerging models of decentralized nonprofit governance, which we're calling worker self-directed nonprofits. Find out more about this project here, and check out the resources, webinars, and teach-ins we've already put together to learn from and support other nonprofits.
Neither our communities nor our ecosystems are well served by an economic system that incentivizes perpetual growth, wealth concentration, and the exploitation of land and people. Communities everywhere are responding to these converging economic and ecological crises with a grassroots transformation of our economy that is rapidly re-localizing production, reducing resource consumption, and rebuilding the relationships that make our communities thrive.
However, as new solutions for resilience emerge, many are running into entrenched legal barriers: laws originally designed to protect people from the ills of industrialism are now preventing many communities from growing and selling their own food, investing in local businesses, creating sustainable housing options, and cooperatively owning land and businesses.
Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC) exists to bridge the gap in legal expertise needed to transition from destructive economic systems to innovative and cooperative alternatives. Our 10 programs work together in identifying key leverage points in our existing economic and legal systems, removing strategic legal barriers, and creating replicable models for community resilience. We work to:
- Envision more just and resilient economic and legal systems;
- Identify and advocate for public policies that remove legal barriers to resilient communities while maintaining and strengthening worker, consumer and environmental protections;
- Empower community-based entrepreneurs and innovators to create replicable legal structures that will form the blueprints of the new economy;
- Educate communities and law-makers about the potential of new economic strategies; and
- Train the next generation of community-based lawyers to meet the burgeoning legal needs of resilient communities everywhere.
See our New Economy in Practice page to see how we embody this change in our own organizational structure and processes.
Are you seeking legal advice from the Sustainable Economies Law Center?
The best way to speak to one of our attorneys is to show up at our donation-based Resilient Communities Legal Cafe. The staff who respond to our phone line and general email account are not attorneys and cannot provide legal advice or services to anyone.
Would you like to request a speaker from the Center for an event?
Please download and fill out our speaker request form and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org or the specific staff member you are requesting.
OR find the email address of a specific staff member on our Staff page
Call us at:
We prefer that you contact us by email because that makes it easier for us to get back to you quickly with links and attachments to direct you to specific information. We do our best to respond to phone calls but please be aware that due to limited staff capacity it may take us a few days to return your call.
Mail letters and checks to:
Sustainable Economies Law Center
1428 Franklin Street, Oakland CA 94612
We do not accept walk-ins at this address. For legal advice, please check out our legal cafe hours.
For questions about your Community Membership or making a donation:
Please contact Eunice Kwon directly at email@example.com
Thank you for your interest in the Sustainable Economies Law Center!
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.The Resilient Communities Legal Cafe provides direct legal advice, workshops, teach-ins, discussions, and legal services to businesses and organizations that are trying to make their communities a better place to live and thrive.
We want to live in a world where the food we eat is produced locally and/or by small-scale, sustainable, community-owned enterprises. We also want to see many more opportunities for people to create rewarding livelihoods working in the production of food. The cornerstone of Sustainable Economies Law Center’s work on sustainable food production is the belief that food enterprises should be owned and/or controlled by the local communities that depend on them.
We want to live in a society where enterprises and assets are owned and controlled by the communities that depend on them for livelihoods, sustenance, and ecological well-being. SELC’s Cooperatives Program works to vastly expand the legal resources available to cooperative enterprises of all types.
We want to live in a world where any project or enterprise can obtain financing from members of the local community, and where the majority of businesses in a community are locally owned and locally financed. Through education, research, and advocacy, SELC is working to develop pathways that overcome securities law barriers to local investing.
We want to live in cities filled with a diversity of micro-enterprises, urban farms, community markets, transportation-sharing, co-housing communities, shared housing options, cooperative enterprises, and a wide variety of economic solutions developed at the grassroots level. Our work includes identifying legal barriers; creating innovative policy recommendations; policy application and piloting; and collaboration with key partners -- keeping SELC on the cutting edge of the resilient cities movement and able to address the evolving legal landscape of the sharing economy.
We want to live in a world where communities can create diverse and satisfying means for people to provide for and exchange with each other. SELC’s Community Currencies Program supports economies based on barter, gifts, time banks, and local currencies by providing legal services, resources, and research on regulatory issues, including tax law, employment law, and securities law.
We want to break barriers to the formation of community-owned renewable energy enterprises. We envision a world where cooperatives and other community enterprises are a catalyst for individuals to engage as planners, decision-makers, and owners of local and community-shared renewable energy generation. We define community renewable energy as power generated by a renewable energy system owned by a community that enables multiple individuals to share collectively in the management and control of the electric system, deriving a financial benefit from lower electric bills, net metering credits and a return on investment.
We envision a world where every person has a home and housing is a right, rather than a commodity. We prioritize working alongside low-income communities and communities of color – those who historically and currently have the least housing security – to develop legal structures and policy mechanisms that remove housing from the speculative marketplace and give communities control over land and housing resources. In particular, we promote cooperative housing, community land trusts, and other cooperative mechanisms for creating truly affordable, community controlled, and ecologically sustainable housing.
SELC wants to live in a world where every town and city has legal professionals providing assistance to urban farms, worker cooperatives, food cooperatives, food cooperatives, car sharing programs, cottage-scale enterprises, housing cooperatives, and other projects that create local ownership and build community resilience. The legal profession must change to keep pace with innovations of the new economy, and SELC would like to help it do that. SELC provides many resources and opportunities to aspiring and current legal professionals.
Legal education, research, advice, and advocacy for just and resilient economies.
The Sustainable Economies Law Center cultivates a new legal landscape that supports community resilience and grassroots economic empowerment. We provide essential legal tools so communities everywhere can develop their own sustainable sources of food, housing, energy, jobs, and other vital aspects of a thriving community.
Or as Lady Justice says it:
Learn how all of our work interrelates to create systemic change for community resilience.
We strive to model the change we want to see in the world. Discover some of the ways that we are exemplifying the new economy in our own organizational practices, including a link to our full organizational policies document.
The Sustainable Economies Law Center is a California Nonprofit Public Benefit Corporation with tax-exempt status under IRC Section 501(c)(3). We are located at 1428 Franklin Street, Oakland CA 94612.