Thank you for your interest in volunteering with Sustainable Economies Law Center!
Ways You Can Volunteer!
There are three main ways that you can get involved in supporting our mission of providing legal education, research, advice, and advocacy for just and resilient economies. Please read and follow the instructions below.
1. We actively look for individuals who would like to support our direct advice and education program, the Resilient Communities Legal Cafe, which happens three times per month in the San Francisco Bay Area (mostly in Oakland, Berkeley, and Richmond).
2.We also look for self-motivated and committed research volunteers to help us delve deeper into policy areas, legal issues, and more to further our mission.
3. Finally, we sometimes (did I say sometimes, I meant all the times!) need help from volunteers who might not have legal or policy backgrounds to perform tasks such as event set-up, graphic design, or fundraising.
Interested to know what we expect of our volunteers and what our volunteers should expect from us? Check out our description here.
Know what you want to sign up for? Just click here to go to the bottom of the page where our sign-up form is located.
Volunteering at the Resilient Communities Legal Cafe
The Resilient Communities Legal Cafe happens once per week, at different times, and in different locations. The purpose is to provide direct legal support to individuals and groups who are working to create new solutions for resilient local economies.
Want to get hands on experience with clients working on urban agricultural projects, cooperative housing, nonprofits, social enterprises, and more? Looking for a community of like minded legal professionals cultivating the legal roots of just and resilient economies? Then why don't you volunteer at our Legal Cafes? Volunteer attorneys, law students, and community members make our cafes possible! Whether you are a law student, legal professional, or community member who wants to increase access to community based lawyering in our communities, there are three ways you can participate at the Legal Cafe: be an "Taster," a 'Server," or a "Chef."
"Taster" (Observer): "Tasters" come to do just that: get a taste of the Legal Cafe! Tasters are able to sit-in on the legal consultations and learn from experienced attorneys on how to use transactional law to build just and resilient local economies. We want all those "tasters" interested in the Legal Cafe to become actively involved and part of our community of legal professionals and community activists! NOTE: There is only one Taster spot reserved at each Legal Cafe.
"Servers" (Non-Advising Volunteer): A Server, or non-advising volunteer, at the Legal Cafe is a volunteer who does intake for clients, observes the legal consultations, and actively takes part in the operations of the Legal Cafe. Servers are the first point of contact for clients coming into the Legal Cafe. Servers take part in the intake process and are paired with an experienced Legal Cafe volunteer to issue spot the client’s needs and refine the scope of service that the client might be searching for that day. Servers can also go between the different consultations happening at the Legal Cafe. This allows them to learn about the full breadth of knowledge that our "Chefs," our experienced advising attorneys, provide. Servers can be law students, legal professionals, and community members interested in using law as a tool for social and economic justice.
"Chefs" (Advising Volunteer): A "Chef" is an attorney with the competency to provide legal advice in the areas of law that the Law Center specializes in providing (see "types of legal advice given at the Legal Cafe" above). The Sustainable Economies Law Center focuses our community based lawyering on transactional law, whether it be entity formation, securities law, employment law, taxation, etc. for nonprofits, social enterprises, cooperatives, urban agriculture, community owned enterprises, and other organizational models that create just and resilient communities. At the Legal Cafe, we pair attorneys together in teams of two or three (volunteers permitting), so no one is alone in providing legal advice. The advice session becomes a living classroom for attorneys, as consultations turn into discussions of the different interpretations and applications of law to the innovative ideas our clients present.
We are primarily looking for self-motivated and committed research volunteers. If you are interested in diving into research, we request that you first familiarize yourself with our programs, projects, and eResource libraries and then fill out the short application form below. Familiarity with our work will help you and help us identify areas of alignment with your interests. In the application below, please select the research box and include in the Comments box what you are most drawn to work on. If you would like to provide more background information about your work and experience, you are (optionally) invited to send your resume to [email protected] when submitting the application form.
On occasion, we need help with non-research tasks such as event set-up, graphic design, or fundraising. If you would like to support our work in some of these other ways, please fill out the short application form below, selecting the box for volunteering generally. In the Comments box, please list the skills and knowledge you would like to share with us, and we keep your application on file and call on you if and when we could use a hand.
Whether or not you've submitted a volunteer application, we welcome you to come make a personal connection at our many events in the San Francisco Bay and beyond, including our Resilient Communities Legal Cafes, workshops, and happy hours.
Volunteer and Staff Expectations
We’d like to let you know about the qualities we look for in volunteers, what you can expect from us, and what we expect of you.
Qualities We Look for in Volunteers
At the Sustainable Economies Law Center, we run a lean, effective, and collectively-run organization and desire that our volunteers possess some of the following qualities:
- Interested and willing to learn
- Realistic about availability and skill level
- Can work independently
- Possesses 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 SELC’s Mission
Our Expectations of You
To get the most out of our shared experience creating more resilient economies, we want to emphasize that our volunteers must be:
- Accountable: We expect you to follow through on the project outcomes agreement you make with your Law Center counterpart.
- Communicative: We expect you to be responsive to communication with your Law Center counterpart and work with us to find solutions if you have trouble meeting a milestone or deadline.
- Realistic: We all have so much to give, and understanding our own limits helps us increase our impact by setting realistic goals and expectations for ourselves and the Law Center.
What You Can Expect From Us
At the Sustainable Economies Law Center, we depend on the support and hard work of our volunteer members. We strive for our volunteers to have a valuable, enriching, and fun experience. That’s why we utilize this manual and attempt to clarify processes, expectations (both ways), and desired outcomes from the outset. As a Law Center volunteer, you’ll be assigned a staff member with whom you will co-create your individualized project agreement and meet with for the duration of your project period.
- Clear: You will co-create your volunteer project with a Law Center staff member who will be your point person for the duration of your volunteering time. Both parties will create and agree to the process and outcomes of your project -- maximizing clarity and direction.
- Interested: Your project will be based both on our needs, and your skills and interest. We care about who you are, your experience, your goals, and why you’re working with us. We’re also willing to listen to your unique ideas for your project. Imagine that!
- Dedicated: We live and breathe our mission, and we do whatever we can to both further this organization and make the experiences of our staff, interns, and volunteers enjoyable and worthwhile.
- Available: If we accept you as a volunteer, we promise to work with you to identify your project and milestones, be responsive to your questions, and connect for regular check-ins throughout your project period.
We value your interest and look forward to reading your application. Please comment with any additional info that will help us better understand what program areas (outside of the Legal Cafe) you are interested in volunteering with.
Also, please let us know if you are a lawyer, a law student, or a legal professional.