Lawyers advising worker cooperatives have been asking for it for years! A Practice Guide, written by practicing attorneys with experience and expertise, to help lawyers confidently give expert and nuanced legal advice to worker cooperatives. Let’s meet some of the authors and applaud them for co-creating this Guide!
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About the Authors
Allison is a Senior Social Enterprise Consultant with The ICA Group. Allison works with business owners across ICA’s industries and geographies who are pursuing transitions to employee ownership. This involves guiding business owners through the exit planning process, conducting financial and operational analysis on the feasibility of an employee ownership transition, and supporting owners and workers through the entire transition process. Allison is passionate about cooperative ownership as a tool to increase worker power and create access to well-paying jobs.
Alex is an attorney at Gundzik Gundzik Heeger LLP, where she practices transactional law for startups, social enterprises, impact-oriented companies, and individuals. She advises both new founders and established companies on corporate structure and governance, investment fundraising, and contracts of all types. Alex is experienced with the formation of business entities including LLCs, corporations, benefit corporations, non-profits, and cooperative corporations. As companies bring on investors, she counsels on fundraising strategies and handles securities compliance at the federal and state levels. Alex also practices intellectual property law for entrepreneurs and creatives. She drafts and negotiates license agreements, NDAs, and work-for-hire agreements. She has represented graphic designers, visual artists, and producers in these areas.
Alex graduated from Harvard Law School, where she participated in the Community Enterprise Project. She holds a bachelor’s degree with honors from Northwestern University in Mathematical Methods in the Social Sciences (MMSS) and Anthropology. Prior to joining GGH LLP, she worked at the Arts Law Centre of Australia, the Office of the General Counsel of New York University, and at a global law firm.
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Alex prides herself on being a community lawyer of service to her city and wider community. She is passionate about legal innovations to promote community wealth-building and sustainability. She has presented to groups at UCLA, California Institute of the Arts, Collective REMAKE, and Suffolk University School of Law.
Sam (J.D., Cardozo School of Law 2013; New York Bar) is an attorney based in New York City, where he represents small businesses and worker cooperatives. He loves working with mission oriented companies, creative types, and businesses that are interested in operating more democratically. Much of his work involves providing legal support to existing businesses that are converting into worker cooperatives, and he regularly works alongside the ICA Group as a legal advisor to their cooperative clients. His clients have ranged from natural builders, yogis, therapists, programmers, coworking companies, graphic designers, and educators seeking to operate on a cooperative basis. Outside of his private practice, he has worked with Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A’s Community Economic Development program, supporting community health centers, nonprofits, affordable housing developments, and a budding community land trust in New York City. He has been a fellow with the Sustainable Economies Law Center since 2015, and he is committed to supporting people and organizations that are building resilient local economies. Outside of work, Sam enjoys writing, music, spending time with family and friends, and being outdoors as much as possible.
Brett is a founding partner of Gundzik Gundzik Heeger LLP, where his practice focuses on transactional corporate and securities matters with a passion for social enterprise and economic democracy. He supports a wide range of client companies, leveraging legal tools to support all of their goals: from profit and growth, to impact and inclusion.
Brett has substantial experience leading clients through the process of planning for and bringing investment into their companies. From designing and managing friends and family rounds, direct public offerings (DPOs), navigating Regulation A+ and public company compliance, to negotiating venture investments and exit opportunities, Brett prides himself on his ability to work with clients to find the right investment tools and opportunities to position their business for success. Brett also leads the firm's social enterprise and worker-owned cooperative efforts in Southern California. He has represented multiple cooperatives and members, and regularly presents and advises on legal matters for new and existing co-ops and social-impact minded businesses in Los Angeles.
Brett is a Legal Fellow of the Sustainable Economies Law Center, and a member of the California Center for Cooperative Development and National Coalition for Community Capital. His work was recently recognized as a finalist for the 2021 Grunin Prize by NYU Law School’s Grunin Center for Law and Entrepreneurship for its contribution to the impact investing space. Brett received his J.D. from Harvard Law School, cum laude.
Neil Aaron Helfman
Neil lives and practices law in Richmond, California. He graduated from the University of California at Berkeley in 1968 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in History, and from the University of San Francisco School of Law in 1985. Since 1987 he has been a practicing attorney in the State of California, in both state and federal courts, and has appeared before administrative, trial, and appellate courts. His primary practice has been construction law, labor law, and business torts. He has also formed, advised, and represented worker cooperatives. In addition to legal services, he has written a number of published legal articles for Am Jur’s Proof of Facts (3rd series) about independent contractors, piercing the corporate veil, and unfair business practices, among other subjects, that have been cited in both state and federal court reported cases. He also wrote Choosing A Workers’ Cooperative- Another Way of Doing Business in California, 5 CEB Business Law Practitioner 28 (Winter 1990) and The Application Of Labor Law To Worker Cooperatives. University of California at Davis, Center For Cooperatives (1992). Prior to being an attorney he was a member of three AFL-CIO unions and the Teamsters, and worked as a carpenter on commercial construction projects, a farm labor, a drill rig operator in a copper mine, and an in-the-stands beer vendor during San Francisco 49ers games when Joe Montana was quarterback. He continues to be involved in the building trades and design, and seeks to form a cooperative Bauhaus that will be based on the building trades as well other industrial arts. If you are interested and have something to contribute to this venture please contact him at [email protected].
Jennie joined the ICA Group because she believes that worker cooperatives are a means to create an equitable economy. Jennie currently leads ICA’s business conversions work, assisting dozens of companies with their transitions to worker cooperatives. In this role she works on owner exit planning, business valuation, financial and operational feasibility, governance design, and completing transactions. Jennie also supports ICA’s team of cross-program consultants working on cooperative conversions across ICA’s target industries and geographies, and aims to create a community of practice that’s focused on continual learning and process improvement. She also creates and delivers client service strategies and tools to simplify and scale worker cooperative conversions.
Kelsey Jae Nuñez
Kelsey Jae is an attorney licensed in Idaho and Oregon who supports social entrepreneurs and people committed to cooperation and collaborative culture. This includes business transactions and guidance, amicable divorce, modest estate planning, cannabis compliance, and almost anything that will help her clients sustain meaningful livelihoods in a more resilient economy. She frequently authors publications and gives presentations about issues relating to her broad yet niche practice, which can be summarized as "helping awesome people do awesome things." In 2016, she became a Fellow with the Sustainable Economies Law Center and launched her solo practice, Law for Conscious Leadership.
Her years of service in groups such as Idaho Organization of Resource Councils, Idaho Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council, Idaho Energy Collaborative, Idaho Strategic Energy Alliance, and Sustainable Community Connections of Idaho sharpened her expertise in Idaho’s energy and environmental issues while building relationships with diverse leaders in various fields. From 2013-2016 Kelsey ran the Idaho Green Fest, a festival celebrating Earth Day and Idaho’s growing sustainable economy. From 2014-2015, Kelsey managed a well-established non-profit organization providing group decision making, organizational budgeting and fundraising, strategic planning, community outreach, and policy development. In that role, she collaborated with the Public Utilities Commission, environmental organizations, and energy companies to elevate the commitment to renewable energy at the state and city level. Kelsey began her legal career at a large law firm with a focus on environmental and land use law. Kelsey has a JD/Master of Public Policy from Pepperdine University and a BS in Biology from the University of Idaho. In addition to lawyering, she co-owns The Vervain Collective, a plant-based apothecary with a natural health care consultation space and classroom in Garden City, Idaho. Kelsey characterizes herself as a "high performing lady of leisure" who works a lot while also being firmly committed to joy, relaxation, dancing, taking road trips to music festivals, and pondering the meaning of life.
Jonathan is the Director of Lending for the Fund for Jobs Worth Owning. The Fund supports the growth and development of employee-owned businesses, creating and sustaining jobs worth owning. Jonathan primarily manages the Fund’s lending and outreach work. He connects with borrowers, helping transform ideas into strong lending opportunities that develop cooperatives. Jonathan coordinates the day-to-day loan-processing work and the review process with the Fund’s Board of Directors.
From 2014 through 2019, Jonathan led the employee ownership conversions program at the ICA Group, assisting dozens of companies with their ownership transitions. His work on conversions includes exit planning and business valuation, governance design and worker training.
Sarah Kaplan is an attorney licensed in California and Illinois, focusing on legal structuring, transactions, and capital-raising for cooperatives and other mission-driven enterprises. Sarah started a law practice serving cooperatives in 2012, and in 2021 she joined Cutting Edge Counsel, a California-based firm that plays a leading role in helping mission-driven enterprises to access non-traditional forms of capital-raising. Sarah has served a wide range of cooperatives, including worker, consumer, agricultural, cannabis, platform, investment, and multi-stakeholder co-ops. Sarah regularly guides clients through the design and compliance aspects of capital-raising, including fund formation.
Sarah has been part of the Fellows program of the Sustainable Economies Law Center since 2013. Sarah graduated magna cum laude from Chicago-Kent College of Law in 2010, and has an A.B. in Ecology from Princeton University. Sarah has previously lived in Chicago and the East Bay Area of California, and now lives in St. Louis, Missouri. You can reach Sarah at [email protected].
Hasmik Geghamyan is a community lawyer and educator. She believes that a cross-functional model of activism, policy, organizing, and law can be effectively used to bring about transformative post-capitalist social and economic change. Hasmik’s law practice focuses on democratic transitions of land into various models of community ownership, general labor law compliance and services for cooperatives, small businesses, and nonprofits. Her law office's active vision is to be part of a long-term, thriving community rooted in resilience and empowerment.
Hasmik has been organizing with the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) since law school and currently sits on the Board of the National Lawyers Guild, Bay Area Chapter as well as on the Board of the Sustainable Economies Law Center. Hasmik can be reached at [email protected].
Kim is Managing Partner at Cutting Edge Capital. She specializes in developing community capital raising strategies for social enterprises, cooperatives and nonprofits. She works primarily on investment offerings that can be publicly offered and that are open broadly to community members. Kim has assisted a wide range of enterprises in successfully raising capital; from a worker-owned green waste recycling company to an organic farm, from a rural community development fund to an urban food coop. Kim has been with Cutting Edge for 6 years and has been practicing law for 20+ years. She has her Juris Doctorate from Hastings College of Law, where she was editor-in-chief of the Women’s Law Journal. Kim lives, works, and plays in Oakland.
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