UPDATED JULY 2017
By Sustainable Economies Law Center Staff Attorney, Cameron Rhudy
It’s Here, it’s Here, it’s Finally Here! Our Guide to Starting a Legal Cafe
Over the years we have received many inquiries from attorneys who want to start legal clinics in their community that resemble our Resilient Communities Legal Cafe. In response, we have created our Practical Guide to Starting a Legal Cafe, a comprehensive guide for how to do just that. In the guide you will learn how to get the basics of your Legal Cafe in place and how to create that unique Legal Cafe experience. The guide also includes sample intake documents and a breakdown of tasks for scheduling and planning your Legal Cafe.Read more
Host your own "Learning to Think Outside the Boss" workshop!
Thank you for your interest in hosting"Learning to Think Outside the Boss: An Introductory Workshop on the Legal Nuts and Bolts of Starting a Worker Cooperative!" Below, find resources we've created to teach about how the law works in, against, and for worker cooperatives. This is a shorter, participatory, discussion-orientated version of our half day "Think Outside the Boss" workshop.
NOTE: These materials are updated at irregular intervals and might change from time to time. Updates are based on feedback from participants and those who facilitate the "Learning to Think Outside the Boss" workshop. Please send questions, feedback, or comments about this guide to email@example.com.
What is it?
This workshop provides an introduction to the practical steps individuals and groups need to take to establish, build, and successfully manage a cooperative enterprise. This introductory workshop attempts to bring forward basic legal and structural questions such as what is a cooperative, what is a legal entity, what rules govern fundraising and financing for cooperatives, and more. This workshop provides an overview of the content contained in Sustainable Economies Law Center's Think Outside the Boss: How to Create a Worker-Owned Business manual.
Why Do it?
This workshop is meant to provide an introduction for those looking to support cooperative development and for entrepreneurs and activists seeking to build a worker cooperative. By the end of the workshop, participants should be able to
- have a basic understanding of the cooperative form from a functional and principled perspective,
- understand the Cooperative Principles in practice,
- distinguish cooperatives from other business forms,
- distinguish between the different kinds of cooperatives,
- understand basic questions that should be asked when founding a worker cooperative,
- and think about cooperatives as they relate to the needs in their lives.
Facilitators should use a combination of lecture (minimal), experiential learning, and popular education techniques to engage the group actively in the process of learning about worker cooperatives and cooperative business development.
Beginning in 2013, SELC and the East Bay Community Law Center have been hosting half day workshops called "Think Outside the Boss" three times per year in the San Francisco Bay Area. These Think Outside the Boss workshops provide community members an introduction into the nuts and bolts of starting and running a cooperatively owned business. We go over legal issues in an accessible way to help you understand the relationships between cooperatives, employment, and community wealth-building. Attorneys, law students, and experienced cooperative professionals give short presentations on legal issues, governance structures, financing, and more. We also typically host breakout sessions on specialized topics with attorneys, cooperative accountants, business planning specialists, and discussions led by cooperative worker-members. To find the next Think Outside the Boss workshop, please visit theselc.org/events.
This facilitator’s guide was originally prepared for the 2014 JACKSON RISING: NEW ECONOMIES CONFERENCE in Jackson, Mississippi. Their clarion call to build a broad based solidarity economy in the southern US led us to deepen our intention of making legal education accessible to those building economic democracy all around the country. With feedback from the worker cooperative community, allies, and others who use our resources, we have attempted to refine this facilitator’s guide in order to increase its usefulness to the movement. We hope this guide can introduce cooperative entrepreneurs, practitioners, and cooperative developers to the basic legal concepts when starting and operating a worker-owned cooperative.
THIS GUIDE WAS PREPARED FOR A 2016 WORKSHOP ON STARTING A WORKER-OWNED BUSINESS. THE CONTENTS OF THIS GUIDE AND ACCOMPANYING THINK OUTSIDE THE BOSS MANUAL SHOULD NOT BE RELIED ON AS LEGAL ADVICE.
ALSO, SOME OF THIS INFORMATION COULD BECOME OUTDATED, AND LAWS VARY FROM PLACE-TO-PLACE. FURTHERMORE, ALTHOUGH WE TRIED TO COLLECT ACCURATE INFORMATION AND GIVE THE LAWS OUR BEST INTERPRETATION, SOME INFORMATION IN THIS GUIDE AND ACCOMPANYING MANUAL COULD EVEN TURN OUT TO BE INCORRECT OR SUBJECT TO OTHER INTERPRETATIONS BY COURTS OR REGULATORS! WE SURE HOPE THAT’S NOT THE CASE, BUT, WHAT CAN WE SAY? LAW IS COMPLICATED STUFF! THAT'S WHY WE STRONGLY RECOMMEND THAT YOU CONSULT WITH AN ATTORNEY BEFORE USING THIS INFORMATION TO FORM OR OPERATE A COOPERATIVE.
Sustainable Economies Law Center maintains the Land and Housing section on the Community Enterprise Law website, which is a legal resource on housing and land use.
The Resilient Communities Legal Cafe provides direct legal advice, workshops, teach-ins, discussions, and legal services supporting the creation of:
Find the dates and locations for each Legal Cafe on our Legal Cafe events calendar.
SELC's Teach-ins provide practical, participatory, and action oriented discussions around food, housing, livelihoods, transportation, and more! Many of our most popular teach-ins focus on housing co-ownership, innovative ways of financing land and housing, and more. Check our events calendar for upcoming events and teach-ins!
Past Teach-ins have included:
- The Gritty, Moral Solution to the Housing Crisis with David Giesen
Legalizing Tiny Homes: The Ten-Year Plan
Chapter 9 of SELC’s book, Practicing Law in the Sharing Economy, focuses on legal tools for the creation of more economically sustainable housing models.
SELC is creating detailed legal case studies of communities and housing solutions that emphasize sharing, affordability, and sustainability. This work looks particularly at models of shared housing, including cohousing communities, ecovillages, and housing cooperatives. The legal case studies are designed to allow other groups to replicate existing housing models. Click here for one legal case study by SELC.
Mapping the Regulatory Terrain
Developing a community energy project turns out to be quite the puzzle because our current legal system favors centralized and for-profit ownership of energy infrastructure by the wealthiest sectors of society. So we are mapping the legal and regulatory landscape to help communities navigate building community projects.
The Sustainable Economies Law Center's expert panelists discuss the legal barriers, policy opportunities, and steps to creating a new energy future. Click here to watch the webinar.
Subin Varghese, Director of Community Renewable Energy, explains how Sustainable Economies Law Center is piecing together the puzzle of community ownership in the energy sector.
Read more here.
☀ Profiling legal frameworks for energy ownership, governance, and financing
☀ Creating a lexicon of legal models for community renewable energy
☀ Drafting model legal documents for communities
☀ Creating cartoons and videos about community energy models
☀ Publishing Plain-English legal guides
Policies for Shareable Cities is the first policy handbook of its kind. It includes 32 recommended policies that enable cities to benefit from the sharing economy in the priority areas of food, jobs, housing, and transportation. Click here to read or download the brief.
The Sustainable Economies Law Center's (SELC) free, comprehensive online legal resource library for urban agriculture. Key topics:
Planning & Zoning Soil
Animals and Livestock Employment Law
Food, Ag, and Health Regulations Water
Liability, Risk, and Insurance For-Profit Urban Ag
Land Access Building Codes
Homeowners Associations Non-Profit Urban Ag
Many thanks to the our volunteer researchers and volunteer research attorneys who contributed to this free online resource for urban farmers. View the eResource at UrbanAgLaw.org.
Click here to view or download the powerpoint presentation by East Bay Cohousing's Betsy Morris.
Community renewable energy is clean, small-scale, and owned or sponsored by communities. That's why it creates democratic, resilient energy grids with distributed economic benefits. SELC’s expert panelists discuss the legal barriers, policy opportunities, and steps to creating a new energy future. Click here to watch the webinar.
Legal Resource Library: CommunityCurrenciesLaw.org is Sustainable Economies Law Center's legal resource library on barter, time banks, and local currencies. It is a place to collaborate and share legal research and practical information related to these topics.
Practicing Law in the Sharing Economy, Chapter 5, New Kinds of Exchange, by Janelle Orsi
Legal Services: Beginning in 2013, SELC will offer limited legal advice and services to time banks, local currencies, and barter groups around the United States. For projects located in the SF Bay Area, visit our Resilient Communities Legal Cafe for in-person legal services!
Workshops: SELC has developed several workshops on the legalities of barter, time banks, and local currencies for legal professionals and community members. These workshops will be offered as webinars in 2014, so check our events page for upcoming learning opportunities. We also host frequent community teach-ins and conversations on various aspects of the local economies movement - visit our Resilient Communities Legal Cafe calendar for more information.
Legal Basics for Time Banks and Barter Exchanges
Legal Basics for Complementary Currencies (part 1)
Legal Basics for Complementary Currencies (part 2)
Governance is Life: Organizational Governance for the Next Economy
Lea a continuación o descargar haciendo clic en la portada del manual.
Download these legal guides or read them online by clicking on the manual covers below.
Think Outside the Boss: How to Create a Worker-Owned Business
DISCLAIMER: This manual has been prepared as a handout for a 2015 workshop on starting a worker-owned business. The contents of this manual should not be relied on as legal advice. Also, some of this information could become outdated, and laws vary from place-to-place. Furthermore, although we tried to collect accurate information and give laws our best interpretation, some information in this booklet could even turn out to be incorrect or subject to other interpretations by courts or regulators! We sure hope that's not the case, but what ca we say? Law is complicated stuff! That's why we strongly recommend that you consult an attorney before using this information to form or operate a cooperative!
Read our Think Outside the Boss manual online on by clicking here!
Legal Resources for Food Justice Enterprises
DISCLAIMER: The content of this book should not be relied on as legal advice. This booklet has been prepared as a handout for a 2013 “Legal Eats” workshop. Information in this booklet could become outdated, or laws could vary from place to place. Furthermore, although we tried to collect accurate information, some information in this booklet could even be wrong! We sure hope that’s not the case, but, what can we say? Law is complicated stuff!
Read our Legal Eats: Legal Resources for Food Justice Enterprises online by clicking here!
El Proceso Legal Para Iniciar Tu Negocio Cooperativa
¿Qué son las cooperativas de trabajadores? Las cooperativas de trabajadores son entidades de negocio que están (1) en posesión de los trabajadores, (2) gobernadas por los trabajadores, y (3) operadas por y para el beneficio de los trabajadores. Puesto que las cooperativas son propiedad y están controladas por y para los empleados que trabajan allá, son operadas diferentemente de las empresas tradicionales en unos aspectos clave.
Por favor, lea nuestro manual El Proceso Legal Para Iniciar Tu Negocio Cooperativa en línea y descargar aquí.
The Sustainable Economies Law Center does innovative legal research into emerging legal gray areas and advocates for new laws that create a clear legal space for small-scale, democratic, and sustainable practices.
Six Legal Resource Libraries, So Little Time
Did you know that the Law Center has six free online legal resource libraries? Each eResource library is stocked with legal guidelines, FAQs, and templates to help navigate complex regulatory landscapes for urban farming, cooperatives, small and community-owned enterprise, community currencies, and food and farming enterprises.
Browse the digital stacks of our online Law Libraries
This is a series of bite-sized legal guides created by staff and volunteers of the Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC), called Legal Cafe Bites.
LEGAL DISCLAIMER: These Legal Cafe Bites have been prepared as handouts for the Resilient Communities Legal Cafe. The contents of the Legal Cafe Bites should NOT be relied on as legal advice. Also, some of this information could become outdated and laws do vary from place to place. Furthermore, although we've tried to collect accurate information and give the laws our best interpretation, some information in these Legal Cafe Bites could even turn out to be incorrect or subject to other interpretations by courts and regulators. We sure hope that's not the case, but, what can we say? Law is complicated stuff! That's why we STRONGLY recommend that you consult with an attorney before using this information.
To download the Legal Cafe Bites, just click on the icons or headings below.
Bite-Sized Guide to Securities Law Exemptions updates coming soon!
In this Legal Cafe Bite, we explore the common exemptions to federal and state securities law that can be used when raising capital for your enterprise.
In this Legal Cafe Bite, we explore what does "organic" legally mean, who can (and must) be certified organic, how you can become a certified organic producer in California, and how to label organic products.
In this Legal Cafe Bite, we explore the certifications and permits you'll need to become a personal chef in California.
In this Legal Cafe Bite, we explore how to sell urban grown produce, including foraged food, in California.
In this Legal Cafe Bite, we explore how to run a co-op child care arrangement in California.
In this Legal Cafe Bite, we explore how worker self-direction can help nonprofits and the legal considerations for becoming a worker self-directed nonprofit. This Legal Cafe Bite also includes a sample board resolution for worker self-direction.
Find our worker centered cooperative projects and resources for starting, supporting, or cultivating worker cooperatives below!
Peruse our Law Center's legal resource library for cooperatives, Co-opLaw.org, which provides a forum for sharing, organizing, and making sense of information related to the legalities of cooperatives, including sample bylaws, operating agreements, and plain english guides to coop law.
Find resources for worker self-directed nonprofits, that is nonprofit organizations seeking to provide all workers with the power to influence programming, change the conditions of their workplace, have voice in the direction of their own career paths, and provide guidance to the organization as a whole.
Find information on our project, Democratizing the Invisible Workforce, which works with low-income and immigrant communities to cultivate cooperative enterprises that meet the needs of our elders and people with disabilities and the workers that support them. Our first step in realizing this vision is to support the creation of a domestic care worker cooperative.
Read and download our facilitator guides so you can host your own intro workshop on the legal nuts and bolts of starting a worker cooperative called "Learning to Think Outside the Boss!" It includes a facilitator guide, skit, and powerpoint slides we've created to explain how the law works in, against, and for worker cooperatives.
Find more information about our critical work in partnership with Propsera, the Democracy at Work Institute, and others, to fill the gap in legal and cooperative resources to support immigrant leaders building economic resilience and job stability for their communities.
Find information on the San Francisco Bay Area's first Worker Coop Academy, an intensive multi-month training course for teams who want to operate democratically-run, worker-owned enterprises, including replication resources and links to Academies across the country.
Find our downloadable legal manuals in both English and Español on how to create and run a worker-owned enterprise.
Through our Law Center’s Resilient Communities Legal Cafe, we provide one-time legal advice and consultations multiple times per month across the San Francisco Bay Area. This is a space to come and discuss your cooperative enterprise at any stage of its development, from idea to conversion to operation. We also provide long term representation to a very limited number of clients. For those building worker cooperatives interested in longer term representation from our Law Center, please contact Ricardo S. Nuñez at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SELC hosts teach-ins at the Resilient Communities Legal Cafe and half-day workshops focused on educating the public on cooperatives and advising existing coops on their development and operations. Please check SELC's calendar page for future teach-ins and workshops focused on cooperatives.
One example of our workshops focused on worker cooperatives is called Think Outside the Boss in English and El Proceso Legal Para Iniciar Tu Negocio Cooperativa en Español. Done in partnership with GC3, these workshops have been held in Richmond, East Oakland, San Leandro, West Oakland, Berkeley, and in Downtown Oakland, California. We hope to offer more opportunities for this type of education at least twice a year in English and once a year in Spanish. Check SELC's calendar page or contact SELC for more information.
If you'd like to host your own "Think Outside the Boss" workshop, please visit our "Learning to Think Outside the Boss" resources page. There, you will find guides, manuals, and slides to support you in providing your own introductory workshop into the nuts and bolts of starting a worker cooperative!
Below, one of SELC's many events educating community members on cooperatives: our Think Outside the Boss workshop!
Read below or download by clicking on the manual cover.
Lea a continuación o descargar haciendo clic en la portada del manual.
Would you like more info on the cooperatives program? Contact email@example.com, the Law Center's Cooperatives program coordinator.