Community & Economic Development
The Community and Economic Development (CED) Clinic provides legal support to community-based organizational clients that are creating vibrant neighborhood institutions and organizing for social and economic justice. Our work is grounded in the belief that social justice lawyering is most effective when it is strategically deployed to build the power of low-income and marginalized communities. The work of the Clinic is divided into three project areas: the Worker Cooperative Law Project, the Non-Profit Legal Support Project, and the Tenant Law and Organizing Project. See below for a brief description of each project.
CED student-attorneys provide legal advice and assistance to community-based organizational clients on matters that include: forming cooperatives and non-profits, designing governance structures, applying for tax exemption, and complying with non-profit, employment, and tax laws. Student-attorneys also engage in affirmative litigation on behalf of tenant associations that are fighting to preserve decent, safe and affordable housing for low-income tenants. All student-attorneys hone key legal skills such as interviewing, counseling, legal analysis, and drafting; and engage with issues of law and organizing and ethics and professional responsibility.
The Worker Cooperative Law Project
The CED Clinic has provided legal support to a number of organizations that create and/or support worker-owned cooperatives, including ROC-NY, Green Worker Cooperatives, and the New York City Worker Owned Cooperative Network (NYC NoWC). Most recently, the Clinic has worked with the Pittsburgh Clean & Green Laundry to create an innovative unionized worker-owned cooperative laundry based on the principles of the Mondragon Cooperatives in Spain. The Clinic, with Pennsylvania co-counsel, has assisted Pittsburgh Clean & Green with its formation and is counseling its Board of Directors on the development of a democratic governance structure and collective bargaining agreement.
The Non-Profit Legal Support Project
The CED Clinic has helped a number of start-up community-based organizations incorporate as non-profits and obtain tax-exempt status, and has worked collaboratively with organizations’ directors and members to develop participatory governance structures. The Clinic has also worked with established community-based non-profits – such as the ACACIA Network and VOCAL-NY – to build out their services and support their organizing and policy campaigns.
The Tenant Law and Organizing Project
The CED Clinic provides legal assistance to tenant associations organizing to improve the living conditions of low-income tenants in gentrifying sections of the City. The Clinic recently brought litigation in Housing Court on behalf of a tenant association in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn. The Clinic also engages in community education and policy campaigns aimed at strengthening tenants’ rights and preserving the city’s supply of affordable housing.
Requirements for Acceptance into the Clinic
Students who successfully complete the CED Lawyering Seminar or Not-for-Profit Lawyering Seminar and who have a demonstrated interest in community organizing will be given strong preference for enrollment in the CED Clinic.
The seminar portion of the CED Clinic grounds students in the laws of non-profit corporations, worker-owned cooperatives, and affirmative housing litigation. Through classroom discussions, exercises, and case rounds, students engage with critical lawyering skills and legal ethics, with special attention to lawyering across difference, group representation, and the relationship between law and community organizing.
Our graduates have gone on to work in many practice areas, including community economic development, tenants’ rights, labor and employment, criminal defense, immigration, and poverty law. CED graduates currently work at the Legal Aid Society, the ACACIA Network, Catholic Migration Services, Green Worker Cooperatives, the HIV Law Project, NYLAG, and the US Department of Labor.