Guest Perspective: Training for a New Economy through the Law Center’s 2nd Annual Law Seminar

Guest Post by Samira Seraji, Third-Year Law Student at UC Berkeley School of Law

Dozens of community lawyers and organizers joined the Sustainable Economies Law Center on Friday, October 11 for their 2nd Annual Social Enterprise Law MCLE Seminar. Nearly 100 participants, including lawyers and non-lawyers, attended the day-long event, which capped the Law Center’s #PeoplePoweredLaw fundraising campaign.

SELC Executive Director Janelle Orsi presenting

Janelle Orsi, Executive Director of the Law Center, presenting at the 2nd Annual Social Enterprise Law Seminar.

Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Law Center, Janelle Orsi, kicked off the event. She delivered an informative and interactive discussion on Legal Structures for the New Economy, where she discussed the legal structures needed to redirect the flow of wealth and power. Janelle captivated the audience not only with her valuable subject material, but also with her creative hand-drawn animations that added dimension to the basis of a shared economy and the possibility of pushing boundaries with the use of nonprofit and cooperative legal structures. 

Social Enterprise Seminar participants

Social Enterprise Law Seminar participants gathered in informal conversation circles to meet with speakers during the lunch break. 

While the Bay Area at large was dealing with multiple planned power outages, the workshop and attendees all agreed: the movement for shared economics and social enterprises must go on! The break-out sessions included introductions to cooperatives and nonprofit formation, affiliations between nonprofits and for-profits, and raising capital for start-ups and impact investing. Workshop attendees were also able to see some of these processes come to life with local Oakland businesses. Co-op organizer Ra Criscitiello and co-op attorney Sushil Jacob shared their experience organizing cooperative conversion that converted Oakland's largest dog daycare facility into a hybrid/consumer cooperative, The Dog Social Club Cooperative. In the afternoon, co-found of the Arizmendi Association of Cooperatives Tim Huet led a workshop addressing legal, financial, and governance considerations in the development of cooperatives within a federated context. 

The Law Center's Legal Fellows also attended the day-long seminar.

The workshop did a wonderful job framing cooperative and nonprofit business structures in the context of a larger discussion around anti-displacement, anti-racism, and justice. In the late afternoon, Noni Session, Executive Director of East Bay Permanent Real Estate Cooperative, and Chris Tittle, the Law Center’s Director of Organizational Resilience, facilitated a housing law workshop that lifted up organizing models for community-controlled and permanently affordable housing as responses to displacement. The Law Center’s Legal Education Tia Katrina Taruc-Myers closed out the seminar with a workshop on the legal and social history of whiteness. 

"Our goal in organizing this seminar was to provide an introductory training for lawyers new to advising cooperatives and social enterprises," stated Charlotte Tsui, a staff attorney at the Law Center and co-director of the event, along with Tia. "Not only that, I wanted to make sure that participants felt that this was a safe, welcome, and encouraging space to learn and become more plugged into the work that is happening in the 'new economy' space. In that regard, I was incredibly pleased to see that participants were actively asking questions of speakers as well as meeting with each other."

Interested in volunteering or signing up for more of our MCLE courses? To stay connected with the Law Center and our Legal Cafe resources and educational events, click here!

About the Author

Samira Seraji headshotSamira Seraji is a 3L Berkeley Law.  They graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara, with a B.A. in Economics and Political Science.  They worked as a student participant for the Consumer Rights Workshop and researched current laws and regulations on consumer protection, bankruptcy, products liability and insurance disputes.  Samira also served as a legal intern for the Los Angeles LGBT Center and performed client intakes and assisted in safety planning, including connecting transgender clients with safe employment.  During summer 2018, Samira was a 1L LCLD scholar legal intern for The Clorox Company.  They are currently a law clerk with East Bay Community Law Center's Community Economic Justice Clinic.

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