Law 739 - Community Economic Development

Scott L. Cummings

Scott L. Cummings

Robert Henigson Professor of Legal Ethics
Professor of Law
B.A. University of California, Berkeley, 1992
J.D. Harvard, 1996
UCLA Faculty Since 2002
Course Description:

Community economic development (CED) is an important strategy for fighting inequality and building power, in which lawyers play critical roles. A main goal of CED, advanced by grassroots organizations, is to promote economic transformation and strengthen political participation by marginalized communities. Toward this end, CED encompasses a set of multi-disciplinary techniques, integrating aspects of strategic research, finance, policy design, infrastructure development, and community organizing. This integrated approach is used to advance projects led by community groups to create living wage jobs, stimulate the development of affordable housing, expand the availability of critical services, and build the capacity of movements for economic justice.

The focus of the CED Clinic is on representing community organizational clients engaged in active economic justice projects and campaigns in the Los Angeles area. Students work closely with the instructor and co-counsel from partner legal services groups to provide strategic legal support, transactional assistance, and policy analysis. In the past, the Clinic has represented groups working on community benefits agreements, worker cooperatives, low-income housing land trusts, port trucking policy, worker center capacity-building, and transit-oriented affordable housing. To prepare for client work, students will read and discuss background legal and empirical material, while engaging in structured in-class exercises. Classroom time will also be devoted to discussion of client projects.

This is a graded, 6-unit course. Business Associations, Nonprofit Law, and Local Government Law are recommended but not required. Enrollment is limited to 8 students and admission is by consent of the instructor. The class meets twice a week and, in addition, requires a substantial out of class commitment (approximately 15 hours per week). Students must be able to travel for client meetings.

Course Learning Outcomes:

As part of the UCLA School of Law’s Clinical Program, the CED Clinic is designed to teach students to integrate and apply lawyering skills, knowledge of substantive law, and appreciation of professional lawyering obligations. Clinic students realize these goals by working on real client problems in the context of CED practice. By the end of this Clinic, students should gain the following substantive knowledge and practical lawyering skills, which are central to the CED lawyer’s role:

  • Experience with core CED lawyering skills, including (depending on client projects):
    • interviewing and counseling organizational clients
    • fact investigation
    • transactional design and formation
    • drafting legal opinions and organizational documents
    • strategic problem-solving for campaigns
    • oral and written advocacy
    • policy development, advocacy, and assessment
    • development and delivery of community education and training materials
      • Knowledge of substantive law related to different aspects of CED practice, including elements of nonprofit, corporate, and tax law; land use and local government law; state and local housing law; contract law; and labor law.
  • Understanding of the nature and extent of housing insecurity and labor precarity in Los Angeles and strategies developed by community members and lawyers to challenge them.
  • Skill set for working in the context of community-based campaigns, particularly those led by coalitions, to redress economic inequality.
  • Familiarity with different approaches to CED lawyering and their professional and ethical dimensions.