Services and Methods
The Urban Cooperative Enterprise Legal Center (UCELC) implements a multi-disciplinary approach to creating and supporting cooperative enterprises that models after George Lopez' "rebellious lawyering" principal and Janelle Orsi's "sharing law" technique and includes community transactional lawyering, community planning, participatory research, advocacy and policy, and education.
The work of UCELC goes beyond systematic limitations and seeks creative solutions to problems affecting low and moderate income communities in urban areas. This includes providing legal support for entity formation and capital raising, mobilizing community members into cooperative units in order to maximize and leverage their capacity, creating community plans through the participation of community members in order to create community-supported enterprises, and advocating on behalf of community enterprises in order to garner multi-stakeholder support.
Community Transactional Lawyering
UCELC's community transactional lawyering model aims to assist low and moderate income communities to become self-sufficient, self-reliant, and sustainable by incorporating client education and participation in its cooperative legal strategies. Creating and supporting cooperative enterprises involve a myriad of transactional legal work, including:
- Entity Formation, Reorganization, & Dissolution (determining proper legal entity structures that will best advance cooperative enterprises)
- Tax Law and Compliance (determining tax implications and liability of cooperative enterprises)
- Intellectual Property Law (trademark and copyright services in furtherance of the work of cooperative enterprises )
- Securities Law and Compliance (determining compliance and Federal SEC and State securities regulatory implications of cooperative offering plans, direct public offerings, crowd-funding, and other alternative investment activities)
- Contracts and Agreements (drafting and reviewing contracts and agreements designed to promote cooperation and that are unique to the specific needs of each client, i.e. no boilerplate)
- Mediation (serving as a mediator in order to (1) avoid the divisiveness of litigation, and (2) collectively solve disputes and promote cooperation among members of cooperative enterprises)
- Negotiation (facilitating transactions and exchanges through strategic discussion and compromise)
- Land Use and Zoning (advising on land use and zoning implications of cooperative enterprises and advocating on behalf of cooperative enterprises at zoning and board adjustment hearings)
- Real Estate Transactions (drafting and reviewing deeds and real estate sale/lease contracts, and providing legal guidance in real estate finance and planning)
Community Planning & Advocacy
UCELC also engages in community planning in order to effectively support cooperative enterprises within low and moderate income communities. Operating from Jane Jacob's view of urban planning, which recognizes the limitations of traditional urban planning methods, namely the exclusion of community members from the planning process, UCELC's community planning involves mobilizing community members and requires their participation in research, data collection, and drafting neighborhood community plans. UCELC employs a number of community planning tools in its work, including:
- Community Mobilization (leveraging social capital to facilitate financial exchanges within the community by educating and bringing community members together to form cooperative enterprises)
- Participatory Research (utilizing research methods that require the input and realities of community members through qualitative research methods, including interviews, surveys, focus groups, and observations in order to provide specific community solutions)
- Community Plans (developing plans that support cooperative enterprises through the direct participation of members of the cooperative enterprises and broader community)
- Advocacy and Policy (engaging in limited lobbying services, and writing advocacy reports and policy white-papers supporting cooperative enterprises with direct contribution from clients)
In addition, UCELC educates its clients and the broader public through:
- Original Publications and Other Research Initiatives on cooperative enterprises and related content.
- Educational Workshops that provide community members with an overview of cooperative enterprises through interactive presentations.
Cooperative Academy, a 13-week course carefully crafted and designed to educate and train participants on the history, principals, and modern trends of cooperative enterprises; cooperative management; community planning methods and cooperative finance; cooperative legal and tax implications; and lastly, provide practical exercises designed to empower participants through hands-on experience and a final work product designed to jumpstart a cooperative enterprise unique to the participants' needs and reality.
- Client Participation in services, such as through participatory research and community plans.
Reduced Fee-for-Service Model
UCELC has a fee-for-service model where clients are charged reduced or discounted rates for its services in order to promote sustainable economies through nonprofit enterprise. With this model, clients and members that are served by UCELC in return, support and sustain it through reduced fees. This is a grassroots model and is especially important for maintaining the independence of UCELC so that it can effectively respond to the needs of the community without compromising its mission. In addition, a reduced fee-for-service model is important for sustaining the work of UCELC, especially where donations prove to be insufficient.