With our blog and our Facebook page continuing to gain readers nationwide, and as our own cannabis clients expand into states in which our law firm has no licensed lawyers, cannabis businesses are regularly asking for our advice on who they should hire as attorneys in various states. Just this week we were asked about Massachusetts, Maryland, Connecticut, Texas, and Hawaii. Since we do not have lawyers licensed in any of these states, we have absolutely no dog in those fights. We’ve even been retained (and paid) to help a client find the right lawyer.
When asked by a non-client what law firm to hire in a state that our lawyers do not cover, we are reluctant to name names. So instead, we give a few minutes of advice on what to look for to find the “right” law firm. This post is intended to do the same thing: to provide guidelines for choosing the right law firm for your cannabis business, which guidelines we intend to use as a quick reference/link in the future.
Here in somewhat random order are some of the criteria we suggest that you employ in your cannabis business lawyer search:
1. We almost always favor small law firms over solo practitioners because one lawyer simply cannot sufficiently cover and address all of the things required to represent a cannabis business, including the following:
- Corporate law
- Contract law
- State licensing
- Real estate law
- Intellectual property law
- Administrative and compliance law
- Employment law
2. We do not recommend law firms that do nothing but cannabis law. How good can a law firm be if it does only one thing and that thing only recently came into existence? If they do nothing but cannabis law, you have to wonder how much work they had before cannabis. You should try to choose with a law firm with lawyers who were doing deals and licensing work even before cannabis was legalized.
3. We never recommend law firms essentially made up of lobbyists and/or criminal defense lawyers if clients have business and/or corporate needs. Lobbying lawyers are great for lobbying and criminal lawyers are great if you are facing jail time, but cannabis businesses are legal businesses and so they need lawyers who above all else know business law and work exclusively in that realm.
4. We use various other factors to judge a law firm, including its clients (though many firms, including ours, do not list clients so as to protect client privacy), the schools its lawyers attended, the rankings of its lawyers on various lawyer ranking sites, its lawyers’ speaking engagements and publications, and its reputation among the lawyers we know in that city.
5. Finally, like your lawyer. We realize most people don’t “like” lawyers, but when you find yourself shopping for one to assist you with your cannabis business, it is important that you find someone who is a good fit for you. You should try to meet with (or at least speak over the phone with) an attorney before deciding to hire him or her. If you don’t get a good vibe, if you feel the attorney is too stuffy, or if you are just not satisfied with the answers you are getting to your questions — take a pass. If you have followed the advice above, there is nothing wrong with going with your gut here. The attorney-client relationship should be one built on trust and compatibility, and this is even more important when wading into the murky waters of legalized marijuana.