Legal Basics for Forming Communities

5-Week Online Course | Starts Nov 17

Again and again intentional communities fail because of legal barriers. Trying to create a different world while operating within the current one is daunting! The good news is that you don’t need to wade into the legalese alone.  Clifford Paulin Esq. has been advising communities on legal aspects of community living for 15 years. You can benefit from both his professional and personal experience of community during this unique course.

Legal Basics for Forming Communities course image

Get the early bird discount when you register before Nov 7th 🐦

Community land trusts?! Oh my!

Yes, it is a little scary. No, you do not want to be the community that says… Let’s move in together and figure the details out later. Strong and responsive legal agreements within communities are key to both their long term success and maintaining healthy relationships between community members. 

In this 5-week online course you’ll learn how to translate the values and vision of your group into clear and cohesive agreements.  Along with a global learning community, you’ll explore the basic forms of collective land ownership, buy in and buy out formulas, dispute resolution protocols, the impact of planning and zoning regulations on your community, as well as look at a variety of legal concepts that impact community and land development.

Key Course Outcomes

  • Understand different forms of legal structures for holding land collectively
  • Know the pros and cons for different structures
  • Recognize the key aspects of buy in and buy out formulas and protocols
  • Examine different conflict resolution strategies
  • Determine how to evolve legal structures over time to meet changing group and social needs
  • Survey the basics of zoning and permitting and how they affect your community
  • Learn the basics of real estate transactions and how you can accomplish  them without a relator
  • Build skills to facilitate powerful conversations about group and individual values and how those affect your legal structure.
  • Study the basics of non-profits, co-ops, and other legal entities that can work with and within your community
  • Explore environmental laws (i.e. The Endangered Species Act) and how those potentially relate to your development
  • Recognize how your financing impacts your legal structure influences
  • Investigate the basics of security and tax implications for communities

Meet Your Instructor

Legal Basics for Forming Communities course instructor, Clifford Paulin

Clifford Paulin

Clifford Paulin provides a full suite of legal, facilitation, and mediation services to individuals, businesses, communities, non-profits, and government entities. His extensive background in serving these organizations as well as being part of them provides him with a unique understanding of their needs and desires.

Clifford holds a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science from the University of Arizona, a Juris Doctorate and a Masters of Study in Environmental Law from Vermont Law School, a mediation certificate from the Center for Understanding in Conflict, and advanced facilitation training from Synectics LLC.

Clifford’s legal practice has focused on transactional law, non-profit law, and community law since 2006.  He also has extensive experience in mediation in both individual and group settings.  He has facilitated strategic planning and other processes for groups in both the private and public sectors. Mr. Paulin is also a co-founder of The Oak Granary, a land-based environmental education non-profit in Potter Valley, California.

The Online Course Experience

Live Interactive Sessions

Each week will feature a 2-hour live class with the course instructor so you can learn in a dynamic setting and get your questions answered directly. Get ready for interactive presentations, group discussion, small cohort activities and personalized support. Plus, each week there will be bonus sessions with guest speakers and panelists.

Journey with a Cohort

Join participants from around the world who are embarking on creating community for better living and more connection. You’ll have opportunities to network with like-minds and develop a network of support to carry your community project forward. Welcome to your global community of communities.

Deep Learning

Participants will have access to a private online space to connect with the instructor and other students through a discussion forum. Each week new learning materials will be uploaded to the space, including videos, worksheets and articles. You’ll be able to watch previously recorded sessions and stay on track with your weekly assignments.

Loved by Community Builders

Clifford Paulin’s knowledge completely inspired me. He is both so well versed in general law and also clearly very experienced in the legal needs of intentional communities.

Gillian C.

This class covered many of the basic elements of legal stuff you need to be thinking about if you seriously want to try to co-found an intentional community, or even if you’re considering joining an established community. Clifford pointed out many aspects of our society that make communal resource-sharing and living challenging, which felt both good and overwhelming – good, because it helps explain why so many people struggle and fail to create meaningful, functional intentional communities together, and overwhelming because it reminded me of what an uphill battle creating cooperative community culture typically is, and how hard this work is!

Emily A.

FIC’s courses aim to provide quality information that you can use immediately facilitated by professional experienced experts in their field. Love the Q&A sessions as participants ask questions I’d never ask, and the answers from course facilitators are always complete and thorough.

Dennis S.

The course covered a comprehensive amount of ground. Clifford is a wonderful educator, not just his experience and expertise, but his sensibility to the bigger picture and also his foresightful cautions, all provide a great panoramic perspective. He also has a fabulous ability to provide for questions. And in answering them, he goes into the surrounding detail, and then even asks the questioner if that answered the question!

Karen M.

As someone who is interested in starting an intentional community but has no background in real estate, finance, or law, I found it extremely helpful to get a thorough overview of these topics. Even though I still can’t claim to have mastered all of the details (many of which are context and site-specific), I now know what issues I need to consider and how to find the answers I need.

Don H.

This class is a very good starting point in educating oneself on the topic of legal basics of starting community. It covers the foundational material on the subject and helps you to investigate certain big questions and subjects at the beginning of starting this big endeavor.

Kathryn J.

Course Schedule

Live classes for the November course will take place each week alternating from noon-2pm Eastern and 4-6pm Eastern on Wednesdays.

You will also have access to three live Bonus Sessions on relevant topics with guest speakers and facilitators scheduled at various times throughout the weeks. Please view the calendar below. All classes and Bonus Session recordings are viewable afterwards.

Sample Bonus Session Topics:

  • Co-Buying Property to Start a Community
  • Legal Models for Intentional Communities
  • Intro to Community Land Trusts
  • Intro to Community Land Co-ops
  • Village Economic & Social Justice Structures

Course Registration


Legal Basics for Forming Communities

Starting From $199.00

Learn how to navigate legal systems so your community can succeed, including zoning, ownership, membership structures, taxes and more.

Duration: 5 Weeks (3+ hours/week)



Need financial support to attend a course?

Apply for a scholarship. Those with low-income and from marginalized groups are encouraged to apply. FIC is committed to ensuring everyone has access to intentional community learning opportunities.