A National Legal Landscape to Support Worker Cooperatives
Our mission is to cultivate a new legal landscape that supports community resilience and grassroots economic empowerment. We provide essential legal tools - education, research, advice, and advocacy - so communities everywhere can develop their own sustainable sources of food, housing, energy, jobs, and other vital aspects of a thriving community. The Law Center focuses on worker cooperatives and other democratically-governed enterprises because they provide pathways out of poverty, economic stability for working families, and wealth generation for thriving, resilient communities.
During our years of supporting movements toward democratic, employee ownership, there has been an exponential growth of community-focused entrepreneurs launching cooperatives and existing business owners seeking to sell to their employees. Both groups face a glaring gap: competent legal expertise and legal resources critical to entrepreneurs as they transition to worker ownership. In the Fall of 2018, the Law Center began on an ambitious path to addresses these gaps through funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Through a multi-pronged approach of seven integrated projects, we are beginning to address the gap in legal expertise and legal resources for a national transition towards democratic employee ownership. These projects described below will be shaped and evolve based on the input from stakeholders across the country. However, even as these projects adapt to the needs of our communities, we thought you should know about the initial concepts.
Want to stay up to date on our project listed below? Subscribe to email updates or update your to email preferences about our worker cooperative resources, trainings, & events at the bottom of the page.
Community Education Video Series
Our 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. Ricardo 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. By the end of the funding cycle, this video series will be used by 100 cooperative attorneys, entrepreneurs, and CBOs and published on Co-opLaw.org.
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 this project. 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 the funding cycle it will included a detailed analysis of cooperative formation options and sample documents for all 50 states.
National Cooperative Law Fellowship
Our national legal incubator for cooperative attorneys, the National Cooperative Law Fellowship, will support a national system for attorneys learning cooperative law and providing legal services to low-income communities and communities of color.
A National Cooperative Law Fellowship will provide incubation resources to Fellows including monthly calls where Fellows present and ask questions to other attorneys in a confidential, safe space. Fellows will also attend two in-person convenings per Project Year featuring intensive training, networking, and mentorship. By the end of Year 2, the program will be designing a pilot system helping Fellows get hands-on experience in cooperative lawyering. By the end of the funding cycle, up to 15 new attorneys will be Fellows in the incubation program, and up to 15 attorneys in their first six months as Fellows will receive stipends.
Legal Practice Guide for Advising CA Cooperatives
Our California Practice Guide for Attorneys Focused on Worker Cooperatives, the first of its kind in the nation, will help to mainstream the practice of cooperative law and will be crafted for easy replication and adaptation in other states nationwide. A comprehensive Legal Practice Guide for Advising California Cooperatives will provide fully developed, step-by-step procedures for attorneys advising cooperative clients, including tips and tactics, strategic options, and lists of what to consider and how to proceed when advising employee owned enterprises.
Online Training Program for Cooperative Attorneys
Our Intensive Online Training Program for Cooperative Attorneys will empower attorneys to specialize in serving democratic, employee-owned businesses and deepen their legal expertise via an anytime, on-demand, massive online open course. An Online Training Program for Cooperative Attorneys will be developed with materials created and refined through the Fellowship’s intensive in-person trainings and other resources. By the end of Year 3, this training program will be online and tested by at least 30 attorneys.
Cooperative Professionals Guild
The national association of worker cooperative attorneys, the Cooperative Professionals Guild, will convene cooperative attorneys and accountants in a peer support network with ongoing learning opportunities.
An expanded Cooperative Professionals Guild, operating as a project of Sustainable Economies Law Center, will provide peer support, ongoing training, and networking opportunities. By the end of Year 3 at least 50 attorneys who specialize in providing legal and technical assistance to worker-owned enterprises will be participating in the Guild which will coordinate at least one national conference for cooperative attorneys and accountants each year of the project.
Law for Economic Democracy Network
Our integrated online technology platform, the Law for Economic Democracy Network (formerly known as NextLegal.org), will provide an online social network for attorneys learning cooperative law, a space for training, mentorship, and networking, and an entry to the broader cooperative law community. This online community will provide legal professionals a place to learn, share, and support each other in providing high-quality legal services to cooperatives of all kinds. By the end of Year 3, NextLegal.org will have increased its membership by 200+ legal professionals.
Get email updates about worker cooperatives resources, trainings, & events!
Subscribe to the Law Center's email updates about worker cooperatives resources, trainings, and events, which we only send occasionally and usually based on your interests, below! Want to subscribe to email updates about our different programs, such as our Food and Farmland, Housing, and Energy programs? Please visit our general sign up page here.
Want to unsubscribe? Please visit our unsubscribe page.Sign up
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!
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: June 1st - July 31st
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)
We are pleased to introduce our Legal Fellows, as part of the Sustainable Economies Law Center's Legal Fellowship Program. Fellows receive extensive training, mentorship, resources, and support from our Center as they grow law practices focused on meeting the legal needs of local sustainable economies. As part of an ongoing commitment after the first year of the fellowship, Fellows agree to provide mentorship, training, and support to newer fellows who join the Center's community.
Fellows Since 2019
Fatimeh D. Pahlavan
I strive to make the legal profession more transparent and to empower entrepreneurs through education
Fatimeh thrives on helping people self-actualize and live in authentic pursuit of their values. She views entrepreneurism as the ultimate vehicle for personal growth. This is why she founded Legal Intelligence to Entrepreneurs LLC (LITE), and why she devotes her work to supporting others on the entrepreneurial path. LITE is a law firm for impact-oriented entrepreneurs. Part legal practice and part educational platform, LITE offers one-on-one legal counsel as well as legal education workshops.
At the granular level, LITE is focused on supporting founders who are currently underrepresented in the entrepreneurial landscape; in particular, creatives, other-abled, womxn, and founders of color. Yet the ultimate goal of LITE is to promote mission-driven entrepreneurism at the community-level – both directly, by providing one-on-one legal support, and indirectly, by demystifying the law as it applies to entrepreneurism in hopes of encouraging more people to participate in this market.
In furtherance of these goals, LITE strives to keeps its services accessible. This means predictable, up-front pricing for representation (as opposed to the billable hour). Accessibility was also the impetus for the development of LITE’s legal workshop series. This series provides entrepreneurs with oversight and direct guidance as they perform their own legal work. The focus is education rather than representation, so the workshops are low-cost. And because entrepreneurs work under the supervision of an attorney, they are able to ask questions, make informed decisions, and have greater ownership over their legal tools. Link to LITE website: http://litecounsel.com/
Public interest attorney empowering her clients to change the world
Taier Perlman, Esq., is an evolving earthling committed to elevating the conditions of the status quo. A graduate of Brooklyn Law School (located in her hometown), Taier focused her studies on dispute resolution and legal counseling, working with diverse NYC-based start-ups. In an unconventional post-bar exam trip, she burst her big-city-centrism working on a biodiverse organic farm, where she developed a deep appreciation for the agrarian lifestyle. After litigating cases in New York City courts, she moved to Albany to pick up the reins of the Rural Law Initiative, where she legally supports entrepreneurs, businesses, and farmers in upstate New York, and advocates for greater access-to-justice in rural communities. Taier enjoys meditating, yoga, hiking, and working on her various art projects.
Using legal tools to promote economically viable and sustainable businesses
Anisha Murphy, a Twin Cities native, is the Director of Community Engagement at the Northside Economic Opportunity Network (NEON), a non-profit focusing on entrepreneurship and wealth creation in North Minneapolis. In her capacity Anisha leads organizational wide community engagement initiatives to increase the visibility of NEON to North Minneapolis residents and stakeholders. Currently, she is in the process of starting a legal/ business consulting firm to promote business development and growth.
Anisha is a passionate builder who is committed to serving marginalized communities. Currently, she is a part of the Minneapolis Global Shapers Hub, a network of young-change makers who are committed to making change to their local communities by using grassroots initiatives to change policies and racial disparities in Minnesota. Additionally, Anisha serves on the Board of Directors for the Minnesota Black Chamber of Commerce and the African American Leadership Forum, and will be appointed to the Metropolitan Council’s Livable Communities Advisory Committee on May 8, 2019. Giving back and being a leader in her community has been a mission of Anisha’s since childhood. If she does not achieve anything else in life, she hopes to leave behind a positive legacy in helping others recognize they too are powerful beyond measure.
Anisha’s background includes a law degree and a master’s degree in public administration from Hamline University and study at Queen Mary University of London, England. In addition to working at NEON, Anisha is an Adjunct Professor at Hamline University and Mitchell Hamline Law School where she teaches transactional law and trial advocacy.
Supporting community wealth-building through creative fundraising, cooperatives, and structuring businesses for impact, inclusion, and growth
Brett is an attorney with a passion for community economic development, social enterprise, and neighborhood-level work. 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 in securities laws, leading clients through the process of planning for and bringing investment into their companies. From designing and managing friends and family rounds or direct public offerings (DPOs), 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 is a partner at Gartenberg Gelfand Hayton LLP, is a boutique, full-service, corporate and securities firm serving clients primarily in Southern California. Brett leads the firm's social enterprise and worker-owned cooperative efforts, and regularly presents and advises on legal matters for new and existing co-ops and social-impact minded businesses.
Brett lives in LA with his partner, their son, and their mostly good dog. He is a graduate of Harvard Law School and Brown University.
Alexiomar D. Rodríguez-López
Furthering sustainable economic development in Puerto Rico by helping creative entrepreneurs, non-profits and small businesses
Alexiomar is the founder of Seed Law, LLC, a virtual law office that provides value-driven transactional services to further local sustainable economic development. His practice focuses on intellectual property and business law. He is committed to supporting the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Puerto Rico through free and easy-to-use educational material.
Alexiomar is also a consultant for other economic development-driven businesses and non-profits in the Island, and an avid writer and blogger.
Before starting Seed, Alexiomar worked in one of Puerto Rico’s top law firms, interned at both federal and local courts, co-founded a legal startup and worked with a couple of boutique litigation and corporate law firms. He obtained both his J.D. (Magna Cum Laude, 2018) and B.A. in Economics (Magna Cum Laude, 2015) from the University of Puerto Rico. Alexiomar enjoys playing guitar, basketball and spending time with his family.
Reyna Ramolete Hayashi
Supporting Native Hawaiian stewardship over culturally significant ‘āina(land) and building resilient island economies in Hawai‘i
Reyna’s work as a community lawyer, organizer, and facilitator is guided by her ancestors, family, friends, and her kuleana to the home that raised her, Hawai‘i. She is the Aloha ‘Āina Project Manager at the Trust for Public Land’s Hawai‘i office where she protects and conserves culturally and historically significant land and supports Native Hawaiian land stewardship. In 2017 she co-founded Emergent Island Economies Collective, a consulting cooperative whose mission is to create new systems of exchange and relationships based on ancestral island values. EIEC stewards community-driven solutions that model the world we want to live in: creating sustainable and resilient island economies and growing community organizations and social enterprises that empower us to meet our collective needs.
At the Empire Justice Center she started the Wage Justice Project to empower workers to fight wage theft through organizing, popular education, impact litigation, and bottom-up policy reform. There she lead a coalition’s successful campaign to pass a "Ban the Box" ordinance and founded a worker center called P.O.W.E.R. As a Fair Housing Attorney at the Legal Aid Society of Hawai‘i she settled impact housing discrimination cases resulting in statewide policy changes and training. She received her J.D. from Seattle University School of Law in 2011 where she was a Scholar for Justice and her B.A. in Political Science from the University of British Columbia.
Fellows Since 2018
Supporting neighborhood-based and community-lead social entrepreneurship, worker-ownership, democratic governance, and long-term affordable housing models in Ohio
Jacqueline Radebaugh is a housing and community economic development attorney at Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, Inc., where she provides transactional legal services to community-based initiatives. Jackie is committed to advancing racial equity and bringing about social and economic change through socially and environmentally responsible entrepreneurship, democratic co-ownership, and governance. She advocates on behalf of individuals of low- and moderate-income, women, people of color and other minority, neighborhood-based groups, to promote local sustainability, the sharing economy, and community development strategies that seek lasting, transformational benefits to the local communities.
Before making her way to Ohio, Jackie studied and practice law in a variety of places, advised dozens of Fortune 500 companies in Brazil, nonprofits in France, with detours thru Geneva, New York City, and Texas. In addition to her Brazilian law degree, Jackie earned master’s degrees in Sociology of Religions & Society and Public Law & Political Sciences from the University Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne, and an LLM in American Law with emphasis in business law from the University of Texas at Austin. Jackie grew up in Brazil, where her parents taught her entrepreneurship at an early age: at 6, Jackie often baked and sold cakes to help a local nonprofit to buy property, at 15 she made and sold candles to her high-school mates, at 17 she started selling her mom’s ginger candies at her choir to help pay for law school and continued doing so until her parents’ small business took off. She also learned a great deal about life and the human nature while working in restaurants as a woman, a person of color, and an immigrant. Those experiences have deeply shaped her life and work.
Permaculture Justice – The art of evolution by cocreating interbeing in perma-microcommunities
Valeria Gheorghiu is an environmental and civil rights attorney integrating restorative justice into the practice of law. She currently practices cooperative, environmental and civil rights law at her office in Kingston, New York, supporting the burgeoning resilient and regenerative local economy in upstate New York. Her more notable cases include representing the Ramapough Nation, Occupy New Paltz and advancing pagan rights in the Matter of Maetreum of Cybele, Magna Mater, Inc. v. McCoy et al. As a multi-lingual contract attorney, Valeria co-founded United Contract Attorneys drawing from her prior work as a global justice organizer, and as a workers’ rights attorney at NGOs such as South Jersey Legal Services. Cooperative law is a natural progression for Valeria, integrating her background in organizing, workers's rights, environmental and business law. She is currently helping form a consumer cooperative, advising a farmers' cooperative and is giving lectures on cooperative law.
Holding permaculture, ecovillage, yoga and restorative justice certificates, Valeria graduated from Vermont Law School with a Master's in Environmental Law and Juris Doctor, and from the Evergreen State College with a B.A. in Liberal Arts, focusing on environmental studies and anthropology. She teaches yoga once a week, grows ginseng and runs monthly sustainable living themed community gatherings out of her home, a former schoolhouse and firehouse, in Kerhonkson, NY.
Supporting community-led affordable housing and social enterprise projects in the mountains of Western North Carolina
Justin Edge directs the Community Economic Development Program at Pisgah Legal Services in Asheville, North Carolina, providing transactional legal services and advocacy for projects designed to support sustainable economic opportunity in low-income communities. The program’s main objective is to create and preserve affordable housing and living wage jobs through providing technical assistance and education to nonprofits, cooperatives, and social enterprises working on community revitalization.
Justin is a graduate of Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs (MPA) and Maurer School of Law. His previous experience before coming to Pisgah Legal Services includes local government and nonprofit sector law and policy, including economic development, housing, and development finance matters, having worked in Chicago, southern Indiana, and most recently Hickory, North Carolina. For seven years before coming to work in community development, he was a riverboat captain on the Mississippi River and a construction worker in post-Katrina New Orleans.
Supportingand promoting sustainable economic development,communities, protecting legal rights of private employers and employees, workers-owned enterprises for a Solidarity Economy.
Loira Acosta has a Bachelor’s Degree in Labor Relations from the University of Puerto Rico (Magna Cum Laude, 1999). During those years, she was appointed Vice-President of the University of Puerto Rico Athletes’ Association. She also has a Juris Doctor from the University of Puerto Rico School of Law (Cum Laude, 2003). As a labor and employment attorney, Loira has worked with labor organizations, universities, public agencies, employers and employees. As part of her working experience, Loira has been Director of Labor Relations and also a Hearing Officer for the Puerto Rico Treasury Department. She has been part of the legal team for the Puerto Rico Volleyball Federation and the Puerto Rico Track and Field Federation. Since 2008, Loira has been a solo attorney and also founded a Human Resources company. Loira further served in the Board of Directors for the Puerto Rico Institute for People with Disabilities.
Loira is passionate about community service and as such, she became member of the non-profit organization Voz Activa. Loira offers legal counseling to communities as member of Voz Activa. Ricardo Diaz and Loira will become partners in Grupo Legal Acosta & Diaz, L3C (GLAD PR LAW), the first sustainable economies law firm in Puerto Rico to continue offering services in economic development, nonprofit sector law, organization of small and medium businesses especially to Puerto Rico residents in their recovery from the Hurricanes Irma and Maria disasters.
Cultivating the social field in Puerto Rico, promoting community and workers owned enterprises for a Solidarity Economy.
With a B.S. in Political Sciences (Magna Cum Laude) and a law degree both from the University of Puerto Rico, he was involved in the university students’ movement, being President of the Student Council for the University of Puerto Rico’s School of Law. He worked as legislative assistant with Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) legislator, David Noriega, at Puerto Rico state legislature. Ricardo has developed a private law practice specializing in transactional law, corporate law and construction law. He is knowledgeable on participatory legal structures, offering advice to both for profit and non profit organizations. He has served as Special Counsel for three chancellors of the University of Puerto Rico at Humacao and has taught commercial law at university level. At his classes, and on presentations and seminars, he promotes Solidarity Economy and its values and principles.
During his 25-year career, he has served as board member and legal counsel for non profits and as member of the Dioceses of Caguas’ Catholic Church Social Justice Committee. He is a founding member of the nonprofits CREARTE (a 16 y/o nonprofit serving children and youngsters through art, sports and education) and the Society for the Solidarity Economy (which has hosted seminars and workshops in Puerto Rico with theorists of the Solidarity Economy as Pablo Guerra, Luis Razeto and José M. Saiz Alvarez). He attended the Foundational Program offered by the Presencing Institute to deepen his knowledge and practice of Theory U. In addition to being vice-president of the nonprofit Voz Activa, he is a member of the agroecological collective Güakiá, Colectivo Agroecológico (an L3C).
Fellows Since 2017
Elliot H. Bridgewater
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Elliot is proud to have founded Bridgewater Law in the Fall of 2017 to support the cooperative community, small business and social entrepreneurs in Calgary, Edmonton, and throughout Alberta. Bridgewater Law derives its mission from the belief that the global economy is fundamentally changing and that more democratic, and sustainable, economic solutions are possible and necessary.
Elliot is passionate about supporting sustainable local businesses and providing timely and expert legal advice to cooperatives, small businesses, non-profits, and charities throughout Alberta. Elliot is a supporter of the cooperative community and commits his time to educating, and developing cooperative businesses in western Canada. He is also active in the outdoors community and commits time each year to teaching youth how to be active and engaged citizens through outdoor pursuits and wilderness challenges.
Fellows Since 2016
Providing technical assistance, knowledge of laws, and tools for community empowerment
Josephine Foo is project director and board member, ex-officio of Indian Country Grassroots Support. She served as attorney in the Navajo Nation Supreme Court, Office of the Chief Justice from August 2006 - November 2014. Josey was responsible for setting up the Judicial Branch grants program and the websites of the court system. She is project attorney for the Small Trust Land User Research and Assistance Project. From 2000-2006, she was Staff Attorney with DNA People's Legal Services in their Tuba City, Shiprock and Farmington offices, ending as Managing Attorney in Farmington. From 1990-1994, she was an Adjunct Professor at the City University of New York. An immigrant and at one time an undocumented alien, she is also a carpenter, artist and poet. She is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Law School, Brown University (MFA) and Vassar College.
Helping build community in Cincinnati through equitable commercial business structures.
Pat Feghali is an attorney living and working in beautiful Cincinnati, Ohio. She has a solo law practice that works mostly with small businesses on contracts and business formation, though she also takes cases in other types of law, including estate planning. Pat formerly worked at the Ohio Justice and Policy center, and holds a masters degree in urban planning. In an ideal world she would spend her days bringing more worker-owned and member-owned cooperatives to life in Cincinnati (which is why she is super excited to be a Fellow!) and riding bikes. In her spare time Pat likes to play in rock bands, tour buildings in various stages of disrepair/abandonment, plan community events, and watch Game of Thrones.
Kelsey Jae Nunez
Supporting sustainable economic development in Idaho with a compassionate focus on law and policy, community building, and education
Since college at the University of Idaho, Kelsey has been committed to social entrepreneurship, environmental stewardship, and civic engagement. She earned her JD cum laude and Master of Public Policy from Pepperdine University in 2007 and then moved to the beautiful Boise, Idaho. Her career has taken many interesting turns, starting with big law and moving towards event planning and nonprofit management. In January 2016, she launched her solo practice. Kelsey Jae Nunez LLC is a boutique practice supporting social enterprise, cooperative culture and the sharing economy. Living in an incredible community of people who share a vision for a loving and resilient economy, Kelsey feels a strong call to serve and use her legal skills to help people create meaningful livelihoods. Relationship building and making connections motivate Kelsey, and she's incredibly grateful to be a part of Sustainable Economies Law Center's professional network.
Fellows Since 2015
Promoting Cooperative Initiatives Through Community Transactional Lawyering and Community Planning in New Jersey and New York
Elizabeth is the Founding Executive Director of the Urban Cooperative Enterprise Legal Center (UCELC), a grassroots nonprofit with a mission to create and support cooperative enterprises within low and moderate income communities in order to promote local sustainability. She is also the Principal Attorney for The Law Office of Elizabeth L. Carter, a community development law firm representing investors, entrepreneurs, small businesses, nonprofits, artists, and other creatives in business, real estate, and entertainment-related transactions.
Prior, Elizabeth was the Assistant Legislative Director & Special Counsel for the City of Newark's Department of Economic and Housing Development where she assisted in policy development and strategy; reviewed, drafted and facilitated redevelopment contracts, leases, grant agreements and corresponding legislation in the areas of municipal land use, redevelopment, and planning and zoning. Most notably, she was instrumental in the drafting and passage of the city's amended tax abatement ordinance (Oct., 2017), a progressive policy designed to assist sustainable development through tax benefits, including cooperative development; and the creation and management of the city-sponsored housing cooperative for low and moderate income artists. Lastly, Elizabeth is a Legal Fellow of the Sustainable Economies Law Center's Fellowship Program where she receives support for her role as Founding Executive Director of UCELC.
Studying and tackling Subchapter T in order to provide legal services for community-based economies in Boston
Lydia Edwards is a city councilor in Boston Massachusetts. Prior to her political career, Lydia worked served as the Deputy Director of the Office of Housing Stability working to prevent displacement in Boston.
Lydia also worked as a legal services attorney at Greater Boston Legal Services representing domestic workers and labor trafficking.She is graduate of American University Washington College of law and has and ha a Taxation LLM from Boston University.
Providing full-service legal assistance to social enterprises and small businesses in NYC
Sam Gray (J.D., Cardozo School of Law (2013), New York Bar) is a Managing Partner of Liszka & Gray, LLC (New York, NY), where he represents clients in a wide range of business transactions and commercial litigation. Of particular note, he has served as ongoing counsel to an established real estate group in New York City. In support of this project, he has negotiated and closed on numerous residential real estate sales and a $6 million commercial refinancing while managing regulatory filings and compliance with the NY Attorney General’s Office.
Additionally, Sam has represented and consulted with various co-working ventures, tech and creative entrepreneurs, cooperative businesses, non-profits, and a martial arts studio on matters as diverse as business formation, workplace democratization, drafting bylaws and operating agreements, commercial lease negotiation, IP licensing, SaaS agreements, and obtaining visas for creative professionals.
Sam is committed to supporting sustainable and socially responsible businesses in and around New York City. He is an elected member of the County Committee for the Brooklyn Democratic Party and has served as a founding member of the Board of the New York City Real Estate Investment Cooperative. Sam spends his free time in the mountains and beaches outside the city, or practicing Brizillian Jiu Justu. And before each work day he tries to write and practice his drum rudiments.
Structuring transactions that value people and the environment in Southern California
Chris Cohen practices law with the Sustainable Law Group, P.C., the first California law firm to become a Certified B Corp and 1% For the Planet business member. Chris lives and works in Ojai, California, where he provides counsel to small businesses, nonprofits, farms and filmmakers committed to positive social and environmental change. He also focuses on estate planning for cabins located in National Forests. Chris graduated magna cum laude from the University of California, San Diego and with High Honors from Ventura College of Law. Prior to practicing law, Chris was a government relations professional at Scripps Institution of Oceanography for nearly 10 years. Chris serves on the Board of Directors for the Center for Regenerative Agriculture in Ojai and the Blue Sky Center in New Cuyama. He also volunteers on the Legal Advisory Committee for the Ojai Valley Defense Fund and the Ojai Valley Municipal Advisory Committee for the Ventura County Board of Supervisors. For more on Chris, visit www.sustainable-lawyer.com.
Ann Marie Rubin
Public interest attorney supporting social justice work
Ann Marie holds her J.D. from Lewis & Clark Law School and her undergraduate degree in English and Foreign Affairs from the University of Virginia. Her work has included writing, teaching, art and media production, nonprofit leadership, as well as environmental litigation and advocacy. Ann Marie helped start Agrarian Trust, an award-winning, California-based nonprofit developing a community-owned farmland model to help keep land affordable, especially for minority and vulnerable populations. She also worked as deputy director for Greenhorns, an art-based activist group recruiting young farmers. As a law clerk, Ann Marie has worked with nonprofits in California, Oregon, and Washington, D.C., including the Center for Food Safety, Environmental Integrity Project, and Earthrise Law Center. Her work has helped shape policy and regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, and the Food and Drug Administration, as well as thought leadership within nonprofit coalitions.
Ann Marie is also an artist and dancer. She is working on a comedy web-series and she dances at the Mark Morris Dance Center in Brooklyn. Also passionate about garden and landscape design, and a former organic farm apprentice, Ann Marie has worked extensively with perennial and medical herbs, native plants and flowers, and permaculture practices. She is currently on a sabbatical and pursuing scholarship opportunities around law and social justice.
Legal services for working class cooperative economic development in Washington State
Peggy Wolf is founding Reparations Law (RL), a nonprofit legal services organization in Seattle, Washington. RL’s mission is to inspire and support people with detrimental economic barriers in our society to create their own stable, living wage jobs through worker-owned cooperative business development. The people RL is designed to serve include, but are not limited to, African-Americans, Native Americans, other people of color, women, youth, seniors, LGBTQ people, people with disabilities, people who are or were formerly incarcerated, and immigrants.
Peggy received her JD from Seattle University School of Law in 2012 and was admitted to the Washington State bar in 2013. Her legal education included clinical and practicum experience serving clients threatened with foreclosure of their homes, clients with mental illness addressing their estate planning needs, and organizational clients starting nonprofit entities and applying for tax-exempt status.
Ready to lend a hand in setting up democratic enterprises in the Granite State and beyond
John C. Carroll is a graduate of the Syracuse University College of Law and admitted to the bar in New Hampshire. He is currently employed in Montreal, Canada at BCF LLP in its Business Immigration practice, but he also carries a strong passion for cooperatives as engines of economic growth and social development.
After graduating from the University of New Hampshire with a Bachelor's Degree in History and a Minor in German, John moved to Bremen, Germany on a Fulbright Grant, residing and working there for four years. In 2009 he moved to the town of Higashikushira in Kagoshima, Japan, where he taught in the public schools there for two years.
John took up the study of law after his return to the U.S. specifically with the aim of getting involved in community development, which is reflected in his published note, Economic Democracy, Made in Germany: The Mietshäuser Syndikat Model as a Framework for Developing Democratic Enterprises, 42 Syracuse J. Int'l L. & Com. 193 (2014). Fluent in German and conversant in both Japanese and Spanish, John hopes to not only help foster new cooperative enterprises, but to contribute to the creation of cooperative networks within the U.S. and internationally.
Fellows Since 2014
Social engineering legal services for the commons in the Bay Area
Hasmik Geghamyan is a community lawyer committed to social and economic justice. Hasmik 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 balances her civil rights practice with transactional law focused on democratically-led social enterprises that include worker-owned 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 Geghamyan is a community lawyer committed to social and economic justice. Hasmik
Hasmik is an Immigrant Armenian and lives in a cooperative house in Oakland. Hasmik has been organizing with the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) since law school and is the current Far West Co-Vice President, a national officer of The United People of Color Caucus (TUPOCC) of the NLG and a volunteer attorney for Resilient Communities Legal Cafe with the Sustainable Economies Law Center. Hasmik is also the Law Center's representative with Pathways2Resilience in Oakland, a multi-faceted re-entry program for the formerly incarcerated that incorporates permaculture, case management and restorative justice principles to reduce recidivism. Hasmik can be reached at email@example.com.
Attorney and community developer supporting nonprofits and social enterprise in northern Michigan
Kate Redman provides practical, transparent, and human legal services to nonprofits and small business in northern Michigan through Commonplace Law. She also founded Commonplace, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit coworking space whose mission is to enliven healthy, collaborative, and creative organizations. Her areas of legal speciality include legal and tax structure, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, financing & crowdfunding, hybrid nonprofit/for profit entities, governance, contracts, collaboration, and mergers/sales. She is involved in efforts to promote and grow local investment and investment crowdfunding in Michigan.
Kate received a Bachelor of Arts from Princeton University and is a cum laude graduate of the University of Michigan Law School. Before founding Commonplace, Kate clerked for Justice Michael F. Cavanagh of the Michigan Supreme Court and was a partner at Olson, Bzdok & Howard, PC, specializing in nonprofit, business, and local government law. She spends her free time geeking out on local investment and organizational development; and enjoying the many joys of northern Michigan -- no matter whether running, kayaking, biking, skiing, camping, eating, or just meandering along a beachy forest trail somewhere.
Affordable legal assistance for sustainable and just communities
Sara Stephens provides affordable legal services for tenants, cooperatives, nonprofits, and social entrepreneurs. Sara Stephens is also a Housing and Cooperatives Attorney at the Sustainable Economies Law Center in Oakland, California. She co-directs the Center’s Housing Program, coordinating policy advocacy, education, and client support for more just and affordable cooperative housing models. In the Cooperatives Program, Sara leads the Center’s effort to create and implement a model city ordinance to incentivize worker cooperatives as an economic development strategy. She also coordinates Co-opLaw.org, a legal resource library for cooperatives, as well as Think Outside the Boss, a legal workshop for worker cooperative start-ups. Sara graduated from Berkeley Law and is admitted to practice law in California.For more on Sara, visit Law Office of Sara Stephens.
Supporting cooperatives and creative entrepreneurs in Sacramento, California
Cameron Rhudy is a Sacramento-based attorney serving small creative businesses, cooperatives, and social enterprises in California. She is passionate about strengthening her community through providing affordable legal services to artists and cooperative and community-based small businesses. Cameron is also a staff attorney at the Sustainable Economies Law Center in Oakland, California.
Previously, she practiced health law as a legislative attorney for the Office of Legislative Counsel, during which she drafted legislation and navigated federal and state laws relating to, among other things, California’s Medicaid program (Medi-Cal), health and community care facilities, and various public social services programs. Cameron graduated cum laude from California Western School of Law in 2009.
Providing employment law and business advice to social enterprises and small businesses in the San Francisco Bay Area
Elizabeth Burnett is an employment law attorney in the Bay Area serving cooperatives, non-profits, social enterprises and community-based businesses. Her practice includes advising human resource professionals on California employment laws, drafting employment policies, preventing, investigating, mediating, arbitrating and litigating employee claims and other disputes, and developing training programs to prevent harassment and discrimination. Elizabeth is also Development Director of Sustainable Economies Law Center, focused on developing and diversifying the Center’s funding sources to further support community resilience and grow local sustainable economies. Elizabeth developed her commitment to building community resilience and local economies working in an urban food desert in Philadelphia transforming abandoned vacant lots into organic community food gardens. Upon returning to the East Bay in 2013, she became a volunteer attorney at the Center's Legal Cafes and opened a law practice offering affordable employment law advice and assistance to social enterprises who are operating in and growing the local, sustainable economy. A graduate of UC Berkeley's Boalt Hall School of Law, Elizabeth has been practicing employment law in various settings for more than twenty years. She has worked at law firms, both large and small, as in-house counsel for a commercial start-up, and as an Assistant U.S. Attorney. She loves to bike and hike, grow food and support community gardens, local farmers and cooperatives.
Fellows Since 2013
Sarah serves cooperatives and other small businesses that are starting up or raising capital, in Illinois and California.
Sarah Kaplan focuses on cooperatives and capital fund-raising. Her goal is to help local independent businesses, including worker co-ops, grow and thrive. She believes that the change we need can come from more businesses being worker-owned, and from communities shaping their own development through investing.
Sarah's clients include several Illinois food co-ops, as well as worker co-ops and other businesses. Before starting her own practice in 2012, Sarah was an Assistant Illinois Attorney General. Sarah graduated with high honors from Chicago-Kent College of Law in 2010. Before law school, Sarah was a bike mechanic, bicycle delivery person, and year-round utility cyclist. After 12 years in Chicago and almost 3 years in the Bay Area, Sarah now lives in St. Louis, MO. For more information about Sarah visit http://www.sarahkaplanlaw.com.
Legal services for socially and environmentally friendly businesses, organizations, and individuals
Jill Jacobs practices real estate and business law for sharing real property, community businesses, social enterprises, cooperatives, and nonprofits.
Previously, Jill was a staff attorney at Senior Citizens Legal Services, a legal aid organization, and practiced Social Security law and workers’ compensation law. She has a BA in Anthropology from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a JD with a Certificate of Environmental Law from Pace School of Law in New York, where she interned at the Land Use Law Center, the Hudson Highlands Land Trust, and the Environmental Litigation Clinic. She has also worked as a domestic violence victims’ rights advocate, a substitute teacher for grades K-12, and a marketer for organic farms. Her past volunteering includes California Rural Legal Assistance, California FarmLink, and Save Our Shores.
Jill is grateful for her fellowship at the Sustainable Economies Law Center, where she volunteers, receives continuing legal education, and is part of a network of attorneys practicing law to advance the reality of beautiful dreams of how the world may be. For more information about Jill visit the Law Office of Jill Jacobs.
Protecting environments and building sustainable communities
Providing legal services for community-based rural economic development in Redding
Building just and sustainable food systems
Aside from his role as staff attorney at Sustainable Economies Law Center, Neil maintains a small legal practice dedicated to serving clients who are focused on cultivating justice, in all its variant forms, within our food system. He offers advice, research, and consulting services for organizations and enterprises that seek to create a more just food system. In 2013, Neil researched and authored several case studies on social justice in agriculture for inclusion in the UC Santa Cruz Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems’ farm apprenticeship curriculum. He also holds a Certificate in Ecological Horticulture for completing the same apprenticeship in 2012. Neil earned a B.A. in Economics and International Area Studies from UCLA, and a J.D. from UC Hastings College of the Law
- In memoriam, Liz Dahl-MacGregor, Practicing law to support the social economy and build the community in Ypsilanti, Michigan
- Rachel DiNardo, Attorney in Alaska and the Bay Area
- Sarah Seufer, Supporting sustainable economic growth in Western North Carolina