A row of vacant, dilapidated, and boarded up homes paint a busy street in West Baltimore. Photo by Kevon Paynter

Here's a few articles that are inspiring our work and the research we need to reinvent economic systems.

We'd like YOU to contribute to this monthly feature. We'll share some of what we're reading and finding interesting but if you read (or write) an article you'd like to share on Next Legal please send the link to me!

ComCap the Podcast: Local Investing In Vermont with Janice Shade

Baltimore’s Push to Solve Its Affordable Housing Crisis With Community Land Trusts from yes! magazine by 

Community groups in Baltimore are advocating for more community land trusts to keep housing affordable.

From Pittsburgh’s hilltop, a co-op incubator keeps startup culture down to earth, and a local economy starts to rebound from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette by An-Li Herring

An incubator in Pittsburg, Work Hard Pittsburg, is supporting 37 companies and 50 freelancers the cooperative way.

 

 

1. Tell us a little about yourself and the educational or career path you took to get to where you are now?

My name is Priya Baskaran and I am an Associate Professor and Director of the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Law Clinic (EILC) at the West Virginia University School of Law. In law school, I was fortunate enough to take the Urban Communities Clinic – a transactional clinic that supported nonprofits, community organizations, and small businesses in Detroit. I fell in love with Detroit, which in many ways resembled my hometown of Pittsburgh. My clients were working to support and preserve their communities in the face of systemic and structural racism and inequity that spanned decades.

2. What specifically drew you to working with social enterprises and democratically-led organizations, such as cooperatives?

I love supporting organizations invested in the economic security of their communities. In order to create sustainable economic growth, we need greater community involvement and input. So much economic development work focuses on luring large employers. These companies have no true ties to the community and are all too quick to divest during economic hardship. The community remains voiceless and economically hampered. In stark contrast, many of the social enterprises I have represented embody a community driven model in their mission. They seem themselves as local enterprises and are dedicated to serving, employing, and positively contributing to the community.

3. What do you find to be the most challenging about being a lawyer [or law student, legal apprentice, or other legal professional]?

As a lawyer, I play a very limited role. While I can be helpful, my clients need so many additional things to be successful: access to capital, infrastructure, affordable business services like accounting and web development. I wish I could do more to support my clients who...

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Photo by MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images.

Here's a few articles that are inspiring our work and the research we need to reinvent economic systems.

We'd like YOU to contribute to this monthly feature. We'll share some of what we're reading and finding interesting but if you read (or write) an article you'd like to share on Next Legal please send the link to me!

Upcoming Event: Sanctuary Workplace Webinar. Hosted by the United States Federation of Worker Cooperatives
Date July 26, 2017 3:00 pm – 4:30 pm
Join this call to action to extend protection and safety to all communities facing harassment and persecution in the workplace, including all people of color, immigrants, Muslims, and people with disabilities.

Climate Change Will Force Native Americans to Adapt Religious Rituals Yet Again
from yes! magazine by Rosalyn R. LaPier
The impact climate change will have on the religious rituals of Native Americans.

Amazon Is Trying to Control the Underlying Infrastructure of Our Economy
from Motherboard by Stacy Mitchell
Amazon is more than just an online retailer. This op-ed discusses the broader implications Amazon's bid to buy Whole Foods has on the...

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1. Tell us a little about yourself and the educational or career path you took to get to where you are now?

I’m a born and raised Kentuckian who moved to Boston for law school over a decade ago. By the time I decided to go to law school, I had been working in nonprofit arts management for a few years and was ready for a change. Law school promised to be a career shift and one in which I could continue to work for the public good, but I didn’t know any lawyers and wasn’t sure what kind of lawyer I wanted to be. I spent my law school years interested in and exploring environmental law, land use, and agriculture – likely a result of my rural upbringing – as well as intellectual property, but didn’t feel drawn to becoming a litigator. Luckily, the Northeastern University School of Law “co-op” model afforded me four opportunities to gain hands-on experience in various areas of law. As a result, I was able to discover that transactional law was a solid fit for my skill set and interests.

A few years out of law school, I landed a fellowship position in the Harvard Law School Transactional Law Clinics, where I was developed the Community Enterprise Project. In addition to representing scores of amazing small businesses and nonprofit organizations, I’ve been fortunate to undertake larger projects to help immigrant entrepreneurs, ...

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Here's a few articles that are inspiring our work and the research we need to reinvent economic systems.

We'd like YOU to contribute to this monthly feature. We'll share some of what we're reading and finding interesting but if you read (or write) an article you'd like to share on Next Legal please send the link to me!

Oakland Grassroots Groups Unite to Purchase 23rd Avenue Building
from KQED Arts by Nastia Voynovskaya

Cycles of Change, Peacock Rebellion and other tenants envision a permanent social justice center led by queer and trans people of color, and are organizing to purchase their mixed-used residential and commercial space with support from Oakland Community Land Trust and other economic justice organizations. Can this become a model of community stabilization and resisting displacement?

3 Steps to Building Just Transition Now with a Permanent Community Energy Cooperative
from Sustainable Economies Law Center by Subin Varghese

On the just transition to community solar through a new model in development: the Permanent Community Energy Cooperative.

Crowdfunding Real Estate Isn’t Just For Millionaires Anymore. Could It Be For You?
from YES! Magazine by

Examples of equity crowdfunding to improve communities and build local wealth

Tell us a little about yourself and the educational or career path you took to get to where you are now?

I love the work I do! I went into law school knowing that I wanted to do social justice work, but wasn't sure exactly what that would be. After a series of internships, I knew what I *didn't* want to do (namely, litigation). I took a community economic development (CED) clinic in my final year and found my passion in working with communities and groups. 

After law school, I started in the Community Development Project of the Urban Justice Center, where I worked on transactional matters for groups organizing towards systemic changes. I had the opportunity to teach in various CED clinics for a number of years before coming back to the Community Development Project to supervise attorneys working with non-profits, cooperatives and other grassroots organizations.

What specifically drew you to working with social enterprises and democratically-led organizations, such as cooperatives?

While my colleagues down the hall from me toiled away on wage-and-hour cases where employers had cheated workers out of wages and had inflicted other abuses on their workers, I was drawn to a model of business that sought to curb those practices, namely worker cooperatives. Workers running their own businesses and setting the terms and conditions of their own work represented the flip side, and a possible solution, to worker injustice. Also, my work early on focused on low-wage, immigrant workers, an especially vulnerable population for whom cooperatives hold even more potential for just work and worker control. 

What do you find to be the most challenging about being a lawyer [or law student, legal apprentice, or other legal professional]?

Aside from the challenge of working within a system that often does not favor vulnerable populations, functioning "in the grey" can be challenging....

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The Arizmendi Association of Cooperatives, started its first bakery over 20 years ago, and how has five locations in the Bay Area. All are worker owned. Photo credit:

 

Here's a few articles that are inspiring our work and the research we need to reinvent economic systems.

We'd like YOU to contribute to this monthly feature. We'll share some of what we're reading and finding interesting but if you read (or write) an article you'd like to share on Next Legal please send the link to me!

Cottage Food Industry May Get Boost From Bill
From The San Francisco Chronicle By Jonathan Kauffman

Discussion of a newly introduced California homemade food act that would permit the sale of home-cooked meals directly to consumers. But how should new legislation be tailored to ensure tech companies don't corner the market?

Cooperative California Cities and the “New Economy”: Learning From History, Starting from Success
From CoLab Radio by

The “New Economy” label is used by a rising generation seeking to promote economic democracy, and build an economy which achieves the three e’s of the famed “urban planner’s triangle”: environmental sustainability, social equity, and economic development. Have have communities in California learned from the past to...

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1. Tell us a little about yourself and the educational or career path you took to get to where you are now?

 About 10 years ago I realized that communities need smart attorneys to handle transactional (i.e. non-court-based) legal work and advise them about complex legal concepts – not only entity formation and governance, but also Low-Income Housing Tax Credits, for instance, which are the most complicated section of the federal tax code.  This realization happened when I was a student in a community economic development law clinic.  We were advising a group about forming a community development bank or credit union (highly regulated entities).  I caught the community economic development law clinic bug and now direct a community economic development law clinic in the Capital Region of the New York State—I have my dream job.

2.  What specifically drew you to working with social enterprises and democratically-led organizations, such as cooperatives?

 It is about access to justice.  If only large companies or wealthy individuals have access to an attorney then the legal profession is not serving society.  Small businesses, whether social enterprises, democratically-led cooperatives, and neighborhood institutions need quality legal advice too.  Small businesses in particular are the engines of economic growth – not large companies.  Even though public policy clearly favors big business.  Small, democratically-led firms play key roles in our social and economic life. 

3. What do you find to be the most challenging about being a lawyer [or law student, legal apprentice, or other legal professional]?

 When most people meet with a lawyer it is usually because something bad happened – a divorce, a death, a lawsuit.  We need to make the case that lawyers can help people avoid disputes through advance planning.  Lawyers need to demonstrate value and that can be a challenge.

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Veterans, water protectors and the independent media facing riot police. Photo by Rob Wilson.

One of the things that fuels our hearts and minds over here at The Sustainable Economies Law Center is reading the writing of others about the work and the research we need to reinvent economic systems.

As a new monthly feature we'll share some of what we're reading and finding interesting. If you read (or write) an article you'd like to share on Next Legal please send the link to me!

Thanks to Chris Tittle for this month's links!

Why have all attempts to fix Britain’s housing crisis failed? Look to the land
from The Guardian by
Brief exploration of the role of land in modern economies and why it needs to be decommodified to address the interconnected crises of growing inequality, homelessness, and economic decline.

Water Is Life: The Story of Standing Rock Won’t Go Away
from yes! Magazine  by
"The Dakota Access pipeline is set and oil will flow. But this is not the only fight about water, and Standing Rock is only one chapter somewhere in the middle of a long story. "

Divisions Of Labor
from The New York Times by Barbara Ehrenreich
Long-form journalism on the new working class, new forms of labor organizing, and potential solutions...

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1. Tell us a little about yourself and the educational or career path you took to get to where you are now?

As a senior in college I started a research project on holistic thinking and systems theory. I convinced all my professors to let me tie my assignments into that theme and I got to be a little obsessed. Whenever I would get stuck, and need some inspiration, I would go volunteer on a farm started by friends. All my best ideas came to me there, while weeding and harvesting. I met several people with legal questions related to their farms and food businesses, and I thought, ‘I bet I could help them if I went to law school.’

I heard about a new Center for Agriculture and Food Systems, applied to Vermont Law School, and spent my three years there focused on food systems and agriculture. Afterwards, the LL.M. program in Agriculture and Food Law at the University of Arkansas offered me a full ride and a paid position through which I was glad to learn about another part of the country. In March, I joined the Agrarian Trust as a legal fellow coordinating the Agrarian Lawyers’ Network. I returned to Vermont after the LL.M. program in-person component, and opened a solo law practice for farmers and food businesses, with an environmental sustainability angle.

2. What specifically drew you to working with social enterprises and democratically-led organizations, such as cooperatives?

Egalitarian organizations tend to bring forth the best solutions, since they are as Donella Meadows said, designed around the principle of feedback. For an equitable world, we need equitable organizations, and people who are empowered to participate. Studying the food system, I find that the cooperative model tends to have the best outcome for workers, communities and natural systems.

3. What do you find to be the most challenging about being a lawyer [or law student, legal apprentice, or other legal...

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