Board of Advisors

The Urban Cooperative Enterprise Legal Center's Board of Advisors are transactional attorneys with extensive legal, business, and finance experience around cooperative enterprises. These Advisors provide their expertise and guidance to the Legal Center as issues arise.

Janelle Orsi, Esq.

Expertise: cooperatives, land trusts, shared housing; alternative economies and nonprofits;

Expertise: cooperatives, land trusts, shared housing; alternative economies and nonprofits;

Janelle is a lawyer, advocate, writer, and cartoonist focused on cooperatives, the sharing economy, land trusts, shared housing, local currencies, and rebuilding the commons. She is Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC), which facilitates the growth of more sustainable and localized economies through education, research, and advocacy. Janelle has also worked in private law practice at the Law Office of Janelle Orsi, focusing on sharing economy law since 2008. She is also the author of Practicing Law in the Sharing Economy: Helping People Build Cooperatives, Social Enterprise, and Local Sustainable Economies (ABA Books 2012), and co-author of The Sharing Solution: How to Save Money, Simplify Your Life & Build Community (Nolo Press 2009), a practical and legal guide to cooperating and sharing resources of all kinds.

Edward De Barbieri, Esq.

Expertise: cooperatives; community economic development law; nonprofit law; real estate law; and land use

Expertise: cooperatives; community economic development law; nonprofit law; real estate law; and land use

Ted is a Professor and Director of the Community Development Clinic at Albany Law School where he provides pro bono transactional legal services to clients needing assistance with nonprofit, small business, cooperative enterprise, and other economic development issues. Prior, Ted was an Assistant Professor of Clinical Law at Brooklyn Law School where he directed the Urban Economic Development Clinic. Ted was also a Senior Staff Attorney within the Urban Justice Center's Community Development Project where he provided transactional legal assistance to nonprofits and community groups in worker cooperative conversions, community benefits agreemeents, home foreclosures, and other community development initiatives. In addition, Ted was a 2008 Equal Justice Fellow and a Fullbright Resarch Fellow at the University College Cork, Ireland from 2007-2008. He received his J.D. from Broolyn Law School in 2008 and a L.L.M. from National University in Ireland,Cork. Ted often speaks and write on issues related to community lawyering, economic development, and the rights of low-income workers and immigrants. His latest article "Do Community Benefits Agreements Benefit Communities? is now available to read here

Melissa Risser, Esq.

Expertise: cooperatives; nonprofit law; community economic development law; land use

Expertise: cooperatives; nonprofit law; community economic development law; land use

Missy Risser is a Staff Attorney with the Urban Justice Center's Community Development Project where she represents nonprofits and worker cooperatives in transactional and land use matters. Missy also assists worker cooperatives from low-income communities across New York City, most of which are incubated by organizations that work with people with barriers to good jobs, including immigrants, disconnected youth, and people who are currently or formerly incarcerated. Prior, Missy was a Legal Fellow at CUNY School of Law's Community and Economic Development Clinic where assisted the world's largest cooperative business organization in developing a legal framework for the Mondragon USA/USW/OEOC union cooperative model. Missy is also a co-founder of 1 Worker1Vote, a nonprofit that supports the development of unionized worker cooperatives. In addition, she sits on the advisory board for designing WE, a social impact benefit corporation focused on co-creating an ecosystem of social change. In 2013, Missy received her J.D. from CUNY School of Law where she was a Public Interest Graduate Fellow and received a M.Ed. in Urban Education from Temple University and a B.A. from Vassar College. 

Samuel Gray, Esq.

Expertise: cooperatives; real estate law; social enterprise; business law

Expertise: cooperatives; real estate law; social enterprise; business law

 Sam is a Partner at Liszka & Gray, LLC. Previously, he was an Associate at the Law Office of Aaron H. Pierce in New York City where he represented social enterprises, small businesses, and worker cooperatives. He does pro bono work with the Urban Justice Center's Community Development Project assisting cooperatives and nonprofit organizations in transactional legal matters and is a member of the Steering Committee of the NYC Real Estate Investment Cooperative, a democratically-run organization dedicated to supporting community-owned businesses. Prior, Sam served with Outside Counsel to the New York City Transit Authority and with the General Counsel to the Urban Resource Institute, a nonprofit providing legal advocacy, housing, and other support for the New York City's most vulnerable populations. In addition, Sam is a Legal Fellow of the Sustainable Economies Law Center's Fellowship Program where he receives extensive training and resources to support the legal needs of local sustainable economies. He received his J.D. from Cardozo Law School in 2013 where he was an Associate Editor of the Cardozo Journal of Law and Gender. Sam is also licensed to practice in both New York and New Jersey.  

Kelsey Ripper, Esq.

Expertise: urban agriculture; nonprofit law; microenterprise; community economic development law; business law

Expertise: urban agriculture; nonprofit law; microenterprise; community economic development law; business law

Kelsey Ripper is the Director of  the Microenterprise Project at the Volunteers of Legal Service where she assists small businesses and micro-enterprises with transactional legal matters,  including contractual, intellectual property, and real estate legal matters. In addition, Kelsey is currently the Secretary of the Nonprofit Organizations Committee of the New York City Bar Association and serves as a Director of the Community Economic Development Committee of the American Bar Association's Business Law Section. Prior, Kelsey was a Staff Attorney and Equal Justice Works Fellow at Lawyers Alliance for New York where she designed and implemented a program to provide business and transactional legal services to nonprofits addressing food security, health, education, and community development in New York City, particularly through the use of urban agriculture. She received her B.A. from Fordham University and her J.D. from Fordham University School of Law. While in law school, Kelsey was a Stein Scholar for the Public Interest and gained community development legal experience at Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A's Community and Economic Development Unit and at Fordham University School of Law's Community Economic Development Clinic.