By Sara Stephens
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.
The Guild is now a fiscally sponsored project of Sustainable Economies Law Center, and has received funding through a three-year W.K. Kellogg Foundation Grant awarded to the Law Center last year. The $800,000 grant will support multiple educational programs and online resources to upskill attorneys and train entrepreneurs in cooperative law. In the context of the Guild, the grant created the Guild’s first funded position to guide the network’s development, and has given us more flexibility to design an affordable conference tailored to the needs of the cooperative professionals community.
This year the Guild is organizing its first independent conference, hosted by the John Marshall Law School’s Community Enterprise & Solidarity Economy Law Clinic. In previous years, the Guild organized its annual convening as a track of the National Cooperative Business Association’s (NCBA’s) national conference. As an independent convening, the Guild was able to lower its costs and keep registration affordable-- $250 ($200 for early bird registrants), with need-based scholarships available.
The three-day conference is packed with six sessions ranging from introductory to advanced content on cooperative law and accounting topics. The first two days will consist of substantive panel discussions, most of which will qualify for MCLE credit, and the final day will consist of site visits to local cooperatives in Chicago. Sessions will cover topics like 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. We will also dedicate over an hour to planning for the Guild’s future.
The Guild is intended to be a home for cooperative attorneys and accountants that will provide ongoing learning and mentoring opportunities for its members. It currently has an ad hoc steering committee but no formal membership structure or online platform (though it has a placeholder website at professionals.coop). Aspirations for the future include more formal mentorship, online webinars and other educational resources, legal document sharing, bigger and better conferences, and a comprehensive referral list of cooperative attorneys and accountants around the country.
It’s not too late to join us in Chicago! If you are an attorney, accountant, bookkeeper, law student, or just enjoy getting into nitty-gritty legal and financial discussions, this conference is for you. See our developing agenda and register here, or sign up for our email list to stay in the loop or become a member of the Guild.
About the W.K. Kellogg Foundation
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), founded in 1930 as an independent, private foundation by breakfast cereal pioneer, Will Keith Kellogg, is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States. Guided by the belief that all children should have an equal opportunity to thrive, WKKF works with communities to create conditions for vulnerable children so they can realize their full potential in school, work and life.
The Kellogg Foundation is based in Battle Creek, Michigan, and works throughout the United States and internationally, as well as with sovereign tribes. Special emphasis is paid to priority places where there are high concentrations of poverty and where children face significant barriers to success. WKKF priority places in the U.S. are in Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and New Orleans; and internationally, are in Mexico and Haiti. For more information, visit www.wkkf.org.