Legal Basics for Forming Communities

5-Week Online Course | Starts September 14th!

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 you don’t need to wade into the legalese alone.

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Save $100 (on September course) through 8/28/22!

You don’t 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 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
  • a variety of legal concepts that impact community and land development


You will leave this course with…

  • An understanding of the different forms of legal structures for holding land collectively
  • Knowledge of the the pros and cons for different structures
  • The ability to recognize the key aspects of buy in and buy out formulas and protocols
  • A general understanding of the different conflict resolution strategies
  • Be able to determine how to evolve legal structures over time to meet changing group and social needs
  • Be able to survey the basics of zoning and permitting and how they affect your community
  • And understanding of the basics of real estate transactions and how you can accomplish  them without a relator
  • Basic skills to facilitate powerful conversations about group and individual values and how those affect your legal structure.
  • General knowledge of basics of non-profits, co-ops, and other legal entities that can work with and within your community
  • A general understanding of environmental laws (i.e. The Endangered Species Act) and how those potentially relate to your development
  • Be able to recognize how your financing impacts your legal structure influences
  • Investigate the basics of security and tax implications for communities

Meet Your Instructor

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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.

Course Syllabus

  • Class 1: Legal structures for community land holdings
  • Class 2: Successful buy in/buy out provisions
  • Class 3: Dispute resolution provisions
  • Class 4: Zoning and land uses impact on community structure
  • Class 5: Decision making structures

Course Schedules

All classes will be recorded and viewable with other class materials for up to 3 weeks after the last class. Live classes will be hosted via Zoom.
Please click the month below to view the respective class dates and times.

March-April 2022

March-April 2022

  • 3/30/22
  • 4/6/22
  • 4/13/22
  • 4/20/22
  • 4/27/22

All classes are on Wednesdays from 12:30-2:30pm Pacific / 1:30-3:30pm Mountain / 2:30-4:30pm Central / 3:30-5:30pm Eastern

September-October 2022

September-October 2022

  • 9/14/22
  • 9/21/22
  • 9/28/22
  • 10/5/22
  • 10/2/22

All classes are on Wednesdays from 12:30-2:30pm Pacific / 1:30-3:30pm Mountain / 2:30-4:30pm Central / 3:30-5:30pm Eastern


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 Maleski

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 Hall

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 Abel

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 Johnston



Legal Basics for Forming Communities Course

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 (2+ hours/week)

Save $100 (on September course) through 8/28/22!



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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.