Guest Post: How I Launched the First Legal Cafe in Ohio!

By Jacqueline Radebaugh, Staff Attorney with ABLE Law and Law Center Legal Fellow

Most of you may already know about Sustainable Economies Law Center's Resilient Communities Legal Cafe program, the Law Center's innovative drop-in legal services clinic that happens 3x a month throughout the Bay Area.

What happens when you take the Legal Cafe model and replicate in a mid-sized town in Southwest Ohio, in a community that has never heard of it?

This is the story of how I was able to pull it off, the lessons I learned along the way, and how YOU, too, can launch a Legal Cafe to provide legal support to community-owned enterprises in your town. 

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Learning About Lawyering in the Just Transition

Part of our blog series where our Summer Interns introduce themselves to our communities.

By Savannah Wheeler, Law Center Summer 2019 Law Clerk

My name is Savannah Wheeler and I am a rising second year student at Berkeley Law. I am excited to be joining the Sustainable Economies Law Center team this summer as a legal intern, assisting the East Bay Permanent Real Estate Cooperative and the Law Center with legal research and community legal education.

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Workers rising: The push for city-supported worker coops is taking hold in these Bay Area cities

By Erin Baldassari of East Bay Times

Kirk Vartan, co-founder of A Slice of New York, puts a slice of pizza on a plate at his pizza restaurant in San Jose, Calif., on Friday, June 28, 2019. Berkeley will be adding worker co-ops to businesses eligible for loans, providing a new lifeline to companies that have a hard time securing financing any other way. The Santa Clara City Council will host a study session to consider what it can do to support worker-owned businesses. Vartan is hoping Santa Clara will then follow in Berkeley’s lead. (Doug Duran/Bay Area News Group) 

Excerpt: While employee-owned businesses are a small minority of all companies in the Bay Area and in the nation, it’s a model local cities are increasingly eyeing as one to invest in and sustain. The city of Berkeley became one of the first in the Bay Area earlier this week to directly support the worker-owned business model, when its City Council voted to approve $100,000 over two years to help existing companies as they transition to employee-owned entities. And on Tuesday, Berkeley’s Loan Administration Board will consider changes to a revolving loan fund to make it easier for worker coops to take advantage of the funds, too.

In the South Bay, Vartan has been pushing the Santa Clara City Council to do the same. He helped organize a study session for July 9 that will feature presentations by Project Equity and the Sustainable Economies Law Center, among others. In addition to working with Berkeley and Santa Clara, the law center helped spearhead efforts in Oakland in 2015 that resulted in the city formally recognizing worker cooperatives. A push for financial support from the city is currently stalled, said Yassi Eskandari-Qajar, the law center’s policy director.

Read the full article here.

(Originally published June 30, 2019.)

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City of Berkeley Commits $100,000 to Worker Cooperative Development

BERKELEY, CA (June 26, 2019) — Last night, Berkeley City Council adopted a two-year budget committing $100,000 to local worker cooperative development programs and services. The funds will go toward vastly expanding a worker cooperative development pilot program that was launched by the City's Office of Economic Development earlier this year. 

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Almost 30 worker cooperative members and advocates attended the City Council meeting to demonstrate their support. 

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School's Out: Legal Apprentices Take Alternative Path To Bar

By Mike Lasusa of Law360

Excerpt: Yassi Eskandari, an attorney and policy director at the Sustainable Economies Law Center in Oakland who completed an apprenticeship in 2017, says her work at the center has included advocating and raising awareness about legal apprenticeships. She often gets emails and phone calls asking about them, she says, but she doesn’t recommend them in every case. “I would caution people who are interested in doing this,” she said. “It’s really challenging.”

An additional obstacle for would-be apprentices is simply finding someone willing to be a mentor. “It is hard to find other lawyers to do this,” Janelle Orsi, the executive director and co-founder of the SELC, told Law360. “It’s a big commitment.”

Read the full article here.

(Originally published June 16, 2019.)

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Let's Make Alt-Thinking the New Norm

Part of our blog series where our Summer Interns introduce themselves to our communities.

By Sophia Leswing, Law Center Summer 2019 Intern

As a kid I have fond memories walking down the abundant aisles of the local Marin County Civic Center Farmers’ Market with my mother every Sunday. Most mornings were either bright and crisp warmer months or gray and rainy in the Winter and Spring seasons - typical Northern California weather, always mild. I would wander about absorbing the sensory experience - watching my mom chat with Sunny, her favorite mushroom vendor, tasting Tomatero’s famous strawberries, and listening to this week’s local musicians jamming out their favorite tunes.

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Lessons from the Cooperative Professionals Guild Conference

By Sara Stephens, Law Center Staff Attorney

One of the biggest hurdles cooperatives face is finding legal and accounting help from professionals who understand their business and governance model. Meanwhile, attorneys and accountants who want to support cooperatives have few places to turn for education and mentoring in cooperative law. To address these gaps, we're fiscally sponsoring the Cooperative Professionals Guild!

The Cooperative Professionals Guild's New Horizons and Best Practices for Cooperative Professionals Conference brought together attorneys and accountants for three days to learn from one another’s practices, initiate newcomers into cooperative law and financial topics, and dig into legal and accounting challenges confronting our clients. Our agenda was packed with six sessions ranging from innovative structures for worker ownership and cooperative real estate investment, new tax bill implications for cooperatives, securities law implications of having members in multiple states, and more!

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Becoming a Lawyer Without Going to Law School

By Tia Katrina Taruc-Myers, Law Center Director of Legal Education

On June 5th, 2019, Yassi Eskandari and Ricardo S. Nuñez of the Sustainable Economies Law Center presented on their experience as apprentices and discussed how to skip law school and go straight into changing the world! We discussed California's Law Office Study Program and reviewed the requirements, lessons learned, and shared resources on becoming an attorney through "reading the law." Check out the video below:

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Public Service, Racial Equity, & Other Things

Part of our blog series where our Summer Interns introduce themselves to our communities.

By Nicole Giles, Law Center Summer 2019 Intern

I am a 21 year old Black womxn and the youngest of two children, born and raised in the Bay Area. I graduated from UC Irvine in June 2018 with a double major in Business Economics and Social Policy & Public Service. My interests include philanthropy, policy, nonprofit work and critical race theory. 

While in college I organized political actions at a number of different conferences including the United States Student Association Conference in D.C. and the Students of Color Conference in Irvine. Additionally, as a member of the Black Student Union Demands Team, I helped put forth demands for police abolition on UC Irvine’s campus as a tool for both promoting political education and starting conversations surrounding what fundamental safety and equity looks like for Black students on campus.

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Finally! A Network for Legal and Tax Professionals To Build Grassroots Economic Empowerment

By Cameron Rhudy, Law Center Staff Attorney

We launched a network of legal and tax practitioners at law4economicdemocracy.org to cultivate a new landscape that supports community resilience and grassroots economic empowerment.

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Berkeley City Council Adopts Budget Referral for Worker Coop Development

BERKELEY, CA (May 29, 2019) — Last night, Berkeley City Council approved a budget referral that would commit $80,000 per year for two years to worker cooperative development services. The final number is still subject to change until the budget process draws to a close on June 25th. If adopted, this will be the City’s biggest investment in worker cooperatives to-date.

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Sustainable Economies Law Center and partners preparing for public comment. Left to right: Yassi Eskandari (Policy Director at the Law Center), Foresta Sieck-Hill (Network of Bay Area Worker Cooperatives), Laura Smoot (US Federation of Worker Cooperatives), Alison Lingane (Project Equity). 

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Enthusiastically Sustainable Asian-Americans

By Tia Katrina Taruc-Myers, Law Center Director of Legal Education

OK. So maybe our blog post title isn’t as eye-catching as the book club favorite (and blockbuster movie) Crazy Rich Asians... But in our world, we work with so many Enthusiastically Sustainable Asian-Americans that we couldn’t pass up Asian Pacific American Heritage Month without highlighting some of them for you!

We proudly present: Adrien Salazar, Victoria Yu, Rob Yanagida, Onki Kwan, Crystal Huang, lora jo foo, and Joel Kim!   We’re pleased and honored to partner with each of these amazing enthusiasts:

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Farmers of Color May Soon Get More Support in California

By Nadra Nittle of Civil Eats

Excerpt: “Farmers of color are the fastest-growing [group of] farmers in the country,” said Neil Thapar, food and farm program director for the Sustainable Economies Law Center, which is a member of the California Farmer Justice Collaborative... “As our farming population diversifies, those are the people we need to serve. We need to help them continue and maintain strong local agricultural economies, which allows for more local food to be grown to satisfy the culturally relevant food needs of a more diverse population.”

Read the full article here.

(Originally published May 6, 2019.)

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The Cooperative Professionals Guild will convene its first independent conference this month

By Sara Stephens, Law Center Staff Attorney

From May 30-June 1, 2019, cooperative attorneys and accountants will gather in Chicago for New Horizons and Best Practices for Cooperative Professionals, where they will learn from one another’s practices, initiate newcomers into cooperative law and financial topics, and dig into legal and accounting challenges confronting their clients. One of the biggest hurdles cooperatives face is finding legal and accounting help from professionals who understand their business and governance model. Meanwhile, attorneys and accountants who want to support cooperatives have few places to turn for education and mentoring in cooperative law. The Cooperative Professionals Guild aims to address these gaps.

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This City Has A Radical Plan To Get Rid Of Bosses

By Robert Raymond of Huffington Post

Excerpt: BERKELEY, California ― In a 4,000-square-foot industrial space tucked away in a West Berkeley neighborhood, a team of glass blowers is hard at work. In one corner, a young man named Sam is repairing a piece of laboratory glassware used for cannabis distillation, the bright orange flames from his lathe dancing just inches from his face. In another, a woman named Laurel is concentrating on fusing powdered glass “frits.”

They both work for Adams & Chittenden Scientific Glass, a company based in the San Francisco Bay Area. But later this month, Sam and Laurel won’t be employees anymore; they’ll be co-owners of the company, along with eight of their fellow workers.

Read the full article here.

(Originally published on May 2, 2019.)

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