Practicing Law in the Sharing Economy:

Helping People Build Cooperatives, Social Enterprise, and Local Sustainable Economies

Practicing Law in the Sharing Economy: Helping People Build Cooperatives, Social Enterprise, and Local Sustainable Economies


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Book Description

Table of Contents

What People Are Saying

Book Review

About the Author and Contributors

Read David Bollier's Review!



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All royalties from this book go to the nonprofit Sustainable Economies Law Center!

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About the Book

To most law students and lawyers, practicing transactional law isn’t an obvious path to saving the world. But as the world’s economic and ecological meltdowns demand that we redesign our livelihoods, our enterprises, our communities, our organizations, our food system, our housing, and much more, transactional lawyers are needed, en masse, to aid in an epic reinvention of our economic system.

This reinvention is referred to by many names—the “sharing economy,” the “grassroots economy,” the “new economy.” This new economy facilitates community ownership, localized production, sharing, cooperation, small scale enterprise, and the regeneration of economic and natural abundance. Sharing economy lawyers make the exploding numbers of social enterprises, cooperatives, urban farms, cohousing communities, time banks, local currencies, and the vast array of unique organizations arising from the sharing economy possible and legal.

There are nine primary areas of work that sharing economy lawyers should become familiar with, and each is addressed in a chapter of Practicing Law in the Sharing Economy:

  • Designing and Drafting Agreements
  • Choosing, Forming, and Structuring Entities
  • Advising on the Legalities and Taxation of Exchange
  • Navigating Securities Regulations
  • Navigating Employment Regulations
  • Navigating Regulations on Production and Commerce
  • Managing Relationships with and Use of Land
  • Managing Intellectual Property
  • Managing Risk

The work of lawyers helping to build the sharing economy will often be challenging, but will always be interesting and demand creativity. Perhaps best of all, these lawyers will contribute greatly to the creation of a world in which innumerable people have now decided they want to live.

What People are Saying

“This monumental treatise defines, legitimates, and elaborates the key legal challenges facing U.S. new economy advocates, and in terms that even non-lawyers can understand.  Whatever your angle – cooperatives, cohousing, alternative currencies, CSAs, social enterprise, crowdfunding – this book belongs front and center on your desk.”

-  Michael Shuman, JD, author of Local Dollars, Local Sense and The Small-Mart Revolution

“Every once in a while someone sees the emerging pattern of a new order of things and is able to bring conceptual clarity and useful tools to it, thus defining a new field. That is what Janelle Orsi has done in her remarkable book on the sharing economy.”

- James Gustave Speth, JD, author of America the Possible: Manifesto for a New Economy (Yale Press, 2012)

“A unique and indispensable handbook for anyone working in the field of alternative ownership design. We’ve long needed this book, and at last it’s here.”

- Marjorie Kelly, Fellow, Tellus Institute, and Director of Ownership Strategy, Cutting Edge Capital; author of Owning Our Future: The Emerging Ownership Revolution

“As Orsi notes in this invaluable book, lawyers often ‘work for firms that grease the wheels of the very economic system that is causing the widespread ecological and social distress.’  But this does not have to be the case!  In Practicing Law in the Sharing Economy, she and her contributing co-authors provide an impressive roadmap to a range of innovative legal forms that can help communities build wealth and create the building blocks of a new economy.”

- Gar Alperovitz, author of America Beyond Capitalism, and Lionel R. Bauman Professor of Political Economy, University of Maryland

“This is a book for those who have hoped and dreamed of a way to practice law that was good for lawyers, clients and the planet.”

- J. Kim Wright, JD,  Founder of Cutting Edge Law & Author of Lawyers as Peacemakers, Practicing Holistic, Problem-Solving Law

“This book contains a wealth of substantive information and practical advice for any lawyer interested in participating in and creating more collaborative communities and a more sharing world.”

 - Emily Doskow, JD, co-author of Making It Legal: A Guide to Same-Sex Marriage, Domestic Partnership & Civil Unions, and The Sharing Solution: How to Save Money, Simplify Your Life & Building Community

“Janelle Orsi is a visionary.  Practicing Law in a Sharing Economy is an eye-opening work and an outstanding resource that belongs on the bookshelves of every attorney and law student who wants to become part of the growing movement to build sustainable, collaborative economies.”

- Don De Leon, JD,

“Can a sharing economy emerge from and transform capitalism?  Janelle Orsi’s brilliant exegesis argues it can.  Her book is a welcome clarion call to lawyers to learn and apply the rules that can support new forms of sharing and cooperation and to identify and change the rules that could inhibit or even endanger their continued growth.”

- David Morris, co-founder of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, author of Self Reliant Cities: Energy and the Transformation of Urban America, and Seeing the Light: Regaining Control of Our Electricity System

“Practicing Law in the Sharing Economy is an excellent practical guidebook for lawyers, sharing economy companies, communities, and anyone interested in understanding what the sharing economy is, what’s necessary to help sharing-based enterprises thrive, and the fundamentally important role of appropriate policies in place for new shared models.  It makes a significant and ground-breaking contribution to the legal landscape and is an invaluable resource for the entire sharing economy moving forward.”

-  April Rinne, JD, Director of WaterCredit,

“This is a vision of the New American Dream and an indispensable legal guide to a sustainable New Access Economy, in which sharing lawyers with an “uncompromisingly genuine and humble” spirit provide support to creative and innovative individuals, groups, businesses, and communities as they think outside the zero-sum box—and move us toward a collaborative regeneration of the economic and ecological abundance we all desire.”

- Phil Heiselmann, JD, Sustainable Food Law

Read the complete book review by Don De Leon, JD, of

About the Author

Janelle Orsi is the Director of the national nonprofit Sustainable Economies Law Center, and she is a “sharing lawyer” in private law practice in Oakland, CA.  Her work is focused on helping communities, share, barter, and create cooperatives, social enterprises, cohousing communities, urban farms, local currencies, and community-supported enterprise.  In 2010, Janelle was profiled by the American Bar Association as a “Legal Rebel ,” an attorney who is “remaking the legal profession through the power of innovation.”

Janelle is co-author of The Sharing Solution: How to Save Money, Simplify Your Life & Build Community (Nolo 2009), a legal and practical guide to shared ownership and cooperative activity.  Janelle earned her J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law.

Additional Contributors

  • Jenny Kassan, CEO of Cutting Edge Capital, on securities law, entities/organizations, and barter exchanges
  • Inder Comar, on intellectual property
  • Linda Barrera, Attorney at Law, on community energy
  • Edgar S. Cahn, on time banking
  • Marjorie Kelly, on entity design
  • Brian Howe, Attorney at Law, on Washington social enterprise entities
  • Daniel Fireside, Capital Coordinator for Equal Exchange, on corporate social responsibility
  • Janelle J. Smith, on community-owned enterprise and local currencies
  • Brendan Conley, on law collectives
  • Christen Lee, on 501(c)(3) law firms
  • Loren Rodgers, Executive Director of the National Center for Employee Ownership, on employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs)
  • Clementine Blazy, on social enterprise in France
  • Mike Leung, on the proposed Worker Cooperative Federal Credit Union (unchartered)
  • Wesley Roe, William G. Sommers, and Marjorie Lakin Erickson, on the Permaculture Credit Union
  • Tree Bressen, on consensus policies
  • Gaya Erlandson, on sociocracy/dynamic governance
  • Gordon Ng, on local currencies
  • Julie Pennington, on zoning and shared housing

Thanks to our Partners and Collaborators: