Why support the Sustainable Economies Law Center?
We are Committed to Spending Dollars Mindfully
Sustainable Economies Law Center has a reputation for accomplishing a great deal with very little funding, and we are mindful of how we spend our dollars — but we do need your help! Your contribution helps us cover the costs of our staff’s modest wages, travel to the communities we serve, offer a shared workspace for our interns and volunteers, and organize workshops and clinics for communities. Even a small contribution is greatly appreciated.
Want to Take your Support to the Next Level?
Consider Becoming a Community Member or Sustainer!
Individuals who are inspired to make a contribution of $500 or more on an annual basis will become part of our Sustainer Circle, which comes with invitations to special Sustainer happy hours and networking events, free or discounted admission to our workshops, visible acknowledgment on our website, and gratitude galore!
Looking for ways to support the innovative and cooperative alternatives that the Sustainable Economies Law Center is helping to cultivate? Explore the links below to learn how you can get involved!Let’s work together to move away from an economic system that incentivizes perpetual growth, wealth concentration, and the exploitation of land and people.
Want to update what volunteer email requests you receive from the Sustainable Economies Law Center? Please visit our volunteer preferences page here.
Our success depends on your support. Don't hesitate to reach out and connect!
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.
About the Community
The purpose of Law for Economic Democracy is to build a community of legal and tax practitioners working in support of economic democracy in their communities. Get the most from this network by:
Connecting with like-minded professionals on topics such as worker cooperatives, creative ways of taking land out of the speculative market, reducing barriers to raising community capital, and community-owned renewable energy, just to name a few.
Engaging in discussions, sharing your experiences, and asking questions when you run into challenges. Chances are, you are not the only one.
Swapping stories, resources, and ideas around our shared mission.
As the movement toward economic democracy grows, and more people form or convert to worker cooperatives, worker self-directed nonprofits, and other democratically-governed structures, the need for legal and tax assistance increases.
However, innovative models for creating more resilient and just communities require more than “business as usual.” These enterprises must navigate a variety of legal and tax gray areas, schools rarely teach about cooperatives, land trusts, and raising community capital, and the resources available after licensure or certification are similarly hard to find.
We frequently receive inquiries from people all over the United States and beyond who either 1) need legal or tax assistance but can’t find practitioners in their communities knowledgeable in cooperatives or democratically-governed entities, or 2) are practitioners having to look beyond their existing professional associations for support and community as they build their practices.
Through Law for Economic Democracy we hope to fill that gap and build a robust network of legal and tax practitioners that can share resources and best practices, connect and learn from each other, and support the greater movement toward economic democracy.
This is the right network for you if you believe that your purpose as a legal or tax practitioner is to generate economies, communities, and systems that:
Empower all people to participate democratically in the management of resources critical to their lives, including jobs, energy, housing, and natural resources,
Resist the destructive qualities of profit maximization, racism, and inequality, and
Nourish people and ecosystems in the long term.
We look forward to connecting with you on Law for Economic Democracy!
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Below, please find information about the Sustainable Economies Law Center intern opportunities.
Intern at the Law Center
We are always looking for passionate individuals who want to take their volunteer participation at Sustainable Economies Law Center to the next level by becoming an intern. We take intern applications on a rolling basis.
How do we define intern?
Typically, our interns are unpaid persons who work approximately 15-30 hours per week under the supervision of one or more staff members and are one of the following:
Interning in connection with an academic or vocational program that is directly related to our work; or,
Those who are not currently enrolled in an academic or vocational program but are interning with us for educational and training purposes in order to gain the skills and experience necessary to pursue a career related to our work.
What does interning with us look like?
Our interns have done in-depth legal research, provided participatory educational trainings, supported client relationships and advice sessions, produced how-to guides for legal professionals and the general public, and much more! Interns are encouraged, where possible, to work at our office for a portion of their hours and then may work remotely for their remaining hours. Some interns have worked their entire internship remotely, with meetings and check-ins done virtually. Each internship experience is different and is crafted to meet the aspirations of both the intern and our organization.
What are the benefits of interning with us?
Sustainable Economies Law Center is a dynamic, evolving, and forward thinking organization! We are a democratically run organization that practices participatory management. We are on the cutting edge of transactional law issues and provide essential legal and organizational support to radical organizations moving our communities to deep democratic ownership and practices. Here are even more benefits to interning with us:
Each intern who is part of a structured internship program or is interning with us in connection with an educational institution is given a personal and professional development budget which they may choose to spend on outside trainings, travel to conferences, purchasing books and materials, or other expenses related to their education.
Each intern is provided two support staff to develop their professional skills and legal expertise.
Each intern is provided with networking opportunities and connections to community based organizations.
Each intern participates in a structured, learner-centered curriculum that deepens their knowledge of the intersection of economic justice, transactional law, and generative responses to systems of marginalization and oppression.
What are the qualities we look for in interns and volunteers?
At Sustainable Economies Law Center, we are a lean, effective, and collectively-run organization. We look for volunteers and interns who possess some of the following qualities:
Interested and willing to learn;
Realistic about availability and skill level;
Can work independently;
Good communication skills;
Flexible schedule (i.e. can occasionally meet with staff during normal business hours when needed);
Has prior research experience, ideally in the legal field;
Willingness to do non-sexy tasks;
Committed to our Mission.
Current Project Opportunities for Interns (2020 Spring - Summer - Fall)
Below are some of the project opportunities for interns. This list is not necessarily comprehensive and we do have accepted interns who have their own project ideas.
Intro to Cooperative Entity Formation Video Series
Our Intro to Cooperative Entity Formation Video Series, aka "Community Education Video Series" will demystify and build understanding of the various models of worker and employee ownership for entrepreneurs and community based organizations (CBO) integrating employee ownership into their social enterprises. Our Director of Economic Democracy will lead the Community Education Video Series covering the various forms of worker ownership featuring conversations with experienced attorneys, worker-owners, and thought leaders. A decision matrix guiding entrepreneurs through appropriate worker ownership options will complement the video series which will published online in thematic modules.
Our Community Education Video Series will provide an overview of the various forms of worker ownership and describe the legal advantages/drawbacks of choosing one form over another.
Research and record the most prevalent State incorporation laws used by cooperative enterprises across at least 10 States.
Support in the development of introductory materials for each State and create introductory materials about the similarities and differences between States entity options.
Coordinate with attorneys to be interviewed for the video series.
Support in the development and coordination of stakeholder groups and Advisory Board members providing feedback on the development of the Community Education Video Series.
Our comprehensive worker-owner legal resource library, Co-opLaw.org, will provide a central legal resource hub for attorneys and entrepreneurs ready to dive deeper into cooperative law and serve as a place to disseminate the resources created through the various projects at the Law Center related to democratically governed, worker-owned enterprises. We are currently working with individuals and organizations across the country to create accessible legal guides for those involved in or interested in forming cooperatives. We've also begun building out our State-by-State guides on Co-opLaw.org, which you can view here. These resources will lower the cost of legal services needed to launch a worker cooperative or transition a business to worker ownership.
Co-opLaw.org will be redesigned to increase usability and expand cooperative law concepts. By the end of 2021, we are looking to have published a detailed analysis of cooperative formation options and sample documents for all 50 states.
Provide feedback and support on the usability, architecture, and design of Co-opLaw.org.
Develop one State page for Co-opLaw.org detailing common legal entities used, cooperative case law, existing cooperatives, cooperative support organizations, and more.
Support in identifying Co-opLaw.org State-by-State authors at law schools, legal clinics, and legal professional organizations.
Support in the development and coordination of stakeholder groups and Advisory Board members providing feedback on the development of the Co-opLaw.org.
Resilient Communities Legal Cafe
The Law Center believes that reliable and affordable legal support should be available to all those creating the transition to localized, resilient economies. The Law Center’s Resilient Communities Legal Cafe, a walk-in legal clinic, has provided legal services to more than 1,000 Bay Area micro-entrepreneurs (local small businesses, home cooks, and food truck operators), urban farmers, grassroots groups, and cooperative enterprises. The Law Center hosts three Legal Cafes per month in coffee shops and other community spaces, where staff and volunteer attorneys offer one-on-one advice sessions with walk-in clients, who otherwise would not have been able to afford such services. The Law Center often hosts “Teach-Ins” or community discussions alongside each Legal Cafe. The Law Center also hosts quarterly events called “Cafecitos Legales,” bringing together immigrant workers, worker-owners, and entrepreneurs to build community with each other, learn about the law, and interact with and receive support from multilingual legal professionals.
Staff one to three Legal Cafes per month of the internship.
Support issue spotting during client intake.
Develop short resource memos for client’s during advice sessions.
Provide one Teach-In on a topic of the interns choice.
Worker Self-Directed Nonprofits
As the movement for economic and workplace democracy continues to grow, we think it is vitally important that nonprofit organizations also internalize and practice workplace democracy. We've put a fair bit of thought into our own organizational structure and culture, and now we are working to provide resources, advice, research, and a peer network to support worker self-direction in nonprofits everywhere. Worker self-directed nonprofits are nonprofit organizations in which all workers have the power to influence the programs in which they work, the conditions of their workplace, their own career paths, and the direction of the organization as a whole.
Support communications strategy, outreach, logistics, and content delivery for day long Worker Self-Directed Nonprofit trainings.
Review and provide feedback on training curriculum.
Support the creation of new resources for trainings, including model documents and explanatory videos in our WSDN TV series.
Interested in becoming an intern?
If you are interested in becoming an intern, please email Janelle Orsi at email@example.com and do the following:
write in the email subject line, "Intern Application [WRITE YOUR NAME],"
provide a cover letter: the cover letter should
specify that you are applying for an internship position,
include a short description about yourself,
a short description about why you are passionate about economic, environmental, or social justice,
a description of the program area(s) you would like to work in and in what capacity (extra points if you reference one of the Current Project Opportunities for Interns listed above!), and
a description of the time frame you are seeking to intern with the Law Center;
provide a resume or CV, and
Thank you for your interest in interning at the Law Center!
Below is a sampling of specific projects identified that will need support from legal interns during the summer internship.
- Legal Resource Libraries: We manage and curate five online legal resource libraries stocked with legal guidelines, FAQs, and templates to help navigate complex regulatory landscapes for urban farming, cooperatives, small and community-owned enterprise, community currencies, and food and farming enterprises. We are seeking support with legal research, building strategic partnerships with legal professionals around the country, and website maintenance.
- Tu Negocio Cooperativa: Our half day popular education workshop, Think Outside the Boss, has been translated into Spanish and is provided at community centers around the Bay Area. We are seeking a Spanish speaking individual who will be able to facilitate a portion of the workshop as well as research areas of law related to cooperative businesses owned by undocumented immigrants.
- Policy Advocacy for the Promotion of Worker Cooperatives: Currently, we are working with cities in the Bay Area to create ordinances that would lower barriers to the creation of worker cooperatives, establish preferential city purchasing from and contracting with worker cooperatives, create a revolving loan fund for worker coops, and provide funding to organizations providing incubation and technical assistance to worker owned businesses. We are seeking those interested in supporting policy efforts through research, coalition building, and strategic planning.
- Resilient Communities Legal Cafe: We provide direct legal support to enterprises building a new economy at our Legal Cafes. We're looking for interns to facilitate intake, learn how to provide adequate and specialized legal consultations, and research legal issues that are brought to us by clients.
Other Ways to Get Involved
If you are interested in being involved in our work in other ways, we welcome you to visit our volunteer page and to attend any of our many events, including Legal Cafes, workshops, and happy hours, in order to meet our staff members and make a personal connection.
In 2013, we created a Legal Fellowship Program and provided fellowships to 5 new attorneys. As of 2019, the program has grown to 27 attorneys. Click here to meet our current Fellows.
Purpose and Description of the Fellowship
The fellowship provides training, mentorship, and other resources to attorneys beginning new law practices, legal organizations, and other projects serving the legal needs of local sustainable economies. The goal of the program is to meet the legal needs of the growing sustainable economy movement.
Meeting those needs requires that lawyers blaze new career paths and establish transactional law practices aimed at providing services to worker cooperatives, housing cooperatives, land trusts, and other democratically-governed organizations. In order to foster this growing community of lawyers, the Law Center invites lawyers of all experience levels to apply to become a Sustainable Economies Legal Fellow, if they 1) intend to meet those legal needs by starting a new law practice, or launching a legal organization or other project that will serve the legal needs of democratically-governed organizations, and 2) would benefit from the support the fellowship offers.
Sustainable Economies Legal Fellows begin the program as a cohort, either in April or September of each year.
After two years, Fellows “graduate” to Senior Fellow. Senior Fellows are expected to pay it forward by taking an active role in the program, such as through mentoring New Fellows and/or presenting Continuing Legal Education materials, webinars and/or workshops.
Senior Fellows may remain in the program for as long as their law practice, legal organization, or project continues to align with the program goals.
Benefits of the Program
Sustainable Economies Legal Fellows receive training, mentorship, and other resources through our Monthly Fellows Calls and two annual, multi-day, in-person convenings in the Spring (May/June); and the Fall (Sept/Oct).
The Sustainable Economies Law Center’s Legal Fellowship is an unpaid fellowship. However, we do provide reimbursement for travel and lodging expenses for the two multi-day Fellows Convenings on a need-basis, as our funding permits. 1st and 2nd year Fellows will be given priority for expense reimbursements.
Cohorts starting in 2020 and 2021, may also be eligible to apply for funding to work with a worker cooperative client that that is not financially able to pay the Fellow's legal fees for the services the Fellow provides and furthers the Fellow’s learning and knowledge of cooperative legal practice.
Applications are accepted during the following cycles:
Winter Cycle: January 1 - February 28th
Summer Cycle: Closed (our apologies if you were planning on applying for our program during the Summer Cycle; however, we have decided to postpone taking on new Fellows for the remainder of 2020. We look forward to opening our program to new applicants again in 2021!)
Note: Applicants starting a law practice, legal organization, or other project that directly serves worker cooperatives will be given priority consideration for the 2020 and 2021 cohorts.
To apply for a Sustainable Economies Legal Fellowship, send the following materials to firstname.lastname@example.org:
Application (find it here)
Every contribution makes a big difference. Thank you so much for helping SELC build strong communities, promote justice and sharing, and grow the movement for more just and resilient local economies.
If you ever have any questions about your contribution, please contact Chris Tittle at email@example.com. Thanks!Share Your Thoughts
It’s like a CSA for more resilient communities!
The Sustainable Economies Law Center is a people-powered organization sustained by generous and dedicated folk like you. Our new Community Membership is an invitation to formally join and grow the community of local economy advocates, and ensure our work represents your vision for healthy and inclusive communities.
In return, a small monthly gift or annual contribution will help sustain our work and make us a more resilient organization!
With a monthly pledge of $5 or more, you will:
- Sustain our capacity to:
- Offer direct and accessible legal services through the Resilient Communities Legal Cafe; and
- Empower communities with legal tools and knowledge through our community workshops and teach-ins.
- Receive our thanks, as well as:
- Acknowledgement as one of our indispensable community members on Our Supporters page
- Invitations to member-only happy hours and other networking events connecting the movers and shakers of the new economy;
- The knowledge that you are part of the exciting movement to create more just and resilient local economies;
With an annual gift of $500 or more, you will:
- Sustain our capacity to:
- Advocate for new laws that foster more just and resilient local economies;
- Share replicable and innovative models of community resilience through our eResource Libraries, Sustainable Economies Attorneys Network, and publications; and
- Empower the next generation of community lawyers through our living classroom, unique CLE courses, and the growing Legal Apprentice Movement!
- Receive our thanks, as well as:
- Discounts on all our events, including specialty MCLE courses taught by Janelle Orsi;
- Invitation to special Sustainer events and dinners;
- Acknowledgment on our homepage as an indispensable supporter of our work;
- And that warm feeling of enabling the movement to create truly sustainable and healthy communities
Just as we work to foster economic structures rooted in reciprocity and cooperation, we want to enable a reciprocal relationship with you – the people we work with!