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Cannabis: Business Fundamentals 2019

Speaker(s): Amanda R. Conley, Beau Epperly , Christopher J. Davis, Daniel Xu, Katy Young , Kimberly R. Simms, Lara L. DeCaro, Nicole Howell , Phillip Neiman, Rebecca Stamey-White, Shabnam Malek
Recorded on: Apr. 16, 2019
PLI Program #: 266258

Phillip Neiman, Esq. has been settling high-stakes disputes as a full-time neutral since 2004 and has successfully mediated over 1,700 disputes. He devotes much of his practice to securities, financial and commercial cases, with additional expertise in employment, real property, trust/estate, insurance and professional liability matters. Mr. Neiman also has extensive experience resolving disputes involving privacy torts and significant personal injuries.

As a former investment banker, Mr. Neiman brings a unique skill set to his work as a mediator and arbitrator. He spent more than a decade raising capital for growth companies in the technology space, serving as lead facilitator in privately negotiated transactions between public issuers and institutional investors, including hedge funds, foreign banks and asset managers. He draws on this dealmaking background when mediating disputes and on his deep industry knowledge when adjudicating cases.  

Before establishing his ADR practice, Mr. Neiman served as CEO and General Counsel of a FINRA-registered broker-dealer. He was tasked with reconciling the competing interests of public company shareholders, senior management and directors, institutional investors, traders, compliance officers and regulators. This proved to be important training ground for work as a mediator, which requires an understanding of all perspectives to find common ground, identify a range of potential solutions and settle cases. Mr. Neiman’s business background allows him to quickly grasp the issues in complex commercial cases when serving as an arbitrator, eliminating learning curve delays, and expediting the legal analysis and decision making process. 

As a mediator, Mr. Neiman is known for his rigorous preparation, a routine that includes pre-mediation calls with counsel, reviewing all material pleadings and ancillary documents, summarizing disputed facts, legal issues and damages claims, and crafting a session agenda to ensure efficient use of participant time.

Mr. Neiman describes his approach as “facilitative until an evaluation is called for.” He is adept at guiding the parties and counsel through their negotiations and frequently uses technology to help analyze proposals in light of potential outcomes at trial. 

Mr. Neiman’s success as a neutral is a testament to his tenacity and perseverance. He is routinely praised by counsel for taking ownership of the resolution process, bringing a dose of calm to emotionally charged conversations and settling cases that seemed destined for the courtroom. 

Amanda Conley is a founding partner at Brand & Branch LLP and co-founder of the National Cannabis Bar Association. She helps creative entrepreneurs across a variety of industries protect, leverage, and enforce their intellectual property. She specializes in helping clients navigate highly-regulated industries such as cannabis, hemp, dietary supplements, and new and emerging technologies. She also advises on advertising, marketing, website, and labeling compliance.

Amanda graduated from NYU School of Law in 2011 and began her career at O’Melveny & Myers (OMM) in San Francisco with a focus on intellectual property counseling and litigation. Recognizing the need to provide nimble, tailored, practical legal services to clients operating in new and emerging industries, Amanda and her law partner Shabnam Malek founded Brand & Branch in 2015. Initially focused on providing intellectual property legal services to cannabis industry clients, Brand & Branch has expanded its reach to serve clients across multiple industries by providing legal and business strategy advice meeting their diversity of needs. 

During the launch of Brand & Branch, Amanda and Shabnam also co-founded the National Cannabis Bar Association, which recently expanded its reach to become the International Cannabis Bar Association (INCBA). Today, INCBA boasts a membership base of nearly 500 individual attorney members and a strong international presence. Amanda and Shabnam's vision for the organization was realized in the organization's flagship annual two-day legal educational event, the Cannabis Law Institute, at which they've spoken two years in a row. Amanda and Shabnam also co-founded the Bay Area chapter of Women Grow in 2014.

Amanda is an active member of the national business networking organization Provisors, where she leads the organization’s first Northern California group exclusively for professionals serving the cannabis industry. Her other professional affiliations include the International Trademark Association, where she serves on a committee, the California Cannabis Industry Association, the California Lawyers Association, and the Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom. She regularly speaks about growth and intellectual property issues pertaining to the cannabis industry and on intellectual property matters generally.  She also regularly speaks at legal and cannabis industry conferences throughout the U.S. and internationally on the topics of intellectual property, advertising, and the importance of diversity across all industries. Amanda has been named a Northern California Rising Star by Super Lawyers Magazine for the past two years.

Beau Epperly advises startup-business clients in all aspects of the startup cycle; from formation to exit.  He guides mature companies through complex securities and tax regulatory matters. He and his team have led a wide variety of complex and unique funding deals for startups and recapitalization funding for existing businesses.  Beau is recognized for his ability to advance creative solutions to difficult problems; and as a result has saved deals from failure. 

As a trial attorney, he has led cases through all aspects of litigation, including discovery, motion writing, mediation and jury trial to verdict.  He can still mix it up in the litigation world when he gets irritable and feels like he needs a good fight. And more importantly when he can serve his team and the clients he works with to achieve success with their cases.

In addition to practicing law, Beau co-founded two companies: TriVino, a supply-chain management company for California wineries, and All9s, a cloud-to-cloud disaster-recovery software-as-a-service (SaaS) company for cloud-based businesses.        

"Epp" as he is known to his friends, played and coached rugby domestically and internationally for 17 years in parallel with his professional pursuits.  He is the head coach of the Olympic Club 7s men's rugby team in San Francisco. He has also served as a board member for Easter Seals Bay Area, an organization assisting families blessed with children with autism. 

Daniel Xu is a licensed patent attorney at Levine Bagade Han, LLP focusing primarily on helping clients obtain patents in the United States and jurisdictions outside of the U.S. including China, Europe, Japan, Canada, and Australia. Daniel has drafted hundreds of patent applications for companies of all sizes ranging from one to two-person start-ups to multinational corporations. Daniel also helps inventors minimize their patent litigation risk by counseling them on how best to avoid being sued for patent infringement. Besides his law practice, Daniel has also taught a course in intellectual property law at the extension program of UC Berkeley. Daniel holds a bachelor’s degree from UC Berkeley, an M.S. degree in biomedical engineering from UCLA, and a law degree from Duke University. Daniel is a member of the state bar of California and is registered to practice before the USPTO.

Katy Young represents both plaintiffs and defendants in business disputes and real estate claims, including matters for cannabis industry litigants. For cannabis businesses, she handles mostly partnership disputes, securities problems, and breach of contract matters, including leases. She graduated from University of the Pacific cum laude where she played water polo on scholarship and then she received her law degree from University of San Francisco where she graduated magna cum laude. She has been named a Northern California Super Lawyer Rising Star for 2014 through 2018. In 2018, she was named to Benchmark Litigation’s top 40 under 40 list.  She’s also the President of the National Cannabis Bar Association.

Kimberly R. Simms earned her law degree from Thomas Jefferson School of Law and became a member of the California State Bar in 2009.  Kimberly has dedicated her entire legal career to the cannabis industry. She started her law practice immediately after law school with a focus on the legal and regulatory needs of the medical marijuana industry.  In her law practice, she has negotiated with government officials to craft reasonable and effective regulations that allow for safe access, handled complex land use and zoning matters, advised on local and state regulations and advised hundreds of cannabis entrepreneurs to develop their cannabis business strategy and structure.

Kimberly is recognized as a leading expert in this emerging area of law.  She has taught courses and lead seminars which focus on how to comply with the ever-changing legal and regulatory requirements of the cannabis industry.  She is considered a trusted source by the media and has been interviewed by NPR, CNN and many local media outlets.  Kimberly was a founding Board Member of the San Diego Cannabis Industry Association, San Diego’s leading cannabis chamber of commerce and political advocacy organization.  Kimberly served as the founding and acting Chapter Chair for San Diego Women Grow from 2015-2018.  It is with great pride that Kimberly also serves as a Board Member of the California Cannabis Industry Association and co-chair of the Retail & Delivery Committee.  Kimberly is committed to working hand in hand with other cannabis industry leaders to navigate the ever-changing regulatory landscape of California’s robust cannabis industry.

Kimberly maintains the following memberships: California NORML, American’s For Safe Access, National Cannabis Industry Association, California Cannabis Industry Association, Women Grow, the National Cannabis Bar Association and San Diego Leadership Alliance.

Lara DeCaro is a regulatory and business attorney based out of San Francisco. She has concentrated her legal career in the areas of intellectual property, corporate governance and compliance, mergers and acquisitions, commercial transactions, and real property. She is also an experienced mediator.

Most of Lara's clients come from highly regulated industries and she has translated that knowledge into a comprehensive cannabis practice that she has maintained over the past 11 years. She represents the top retail facilities and multiple manufacturing and cultivation facilities across the San Francisco Bay Area in all aspects of their business. Lara is also very active in the legal community. She is a founding board member and former executive officer of the National Cannabis Bar Association and currently sits on the Executive Committee of the Bar Association of San Francisco Cannabis Law Committee.   

Lara commenced her legal career as a litigator in Northern New Mexico, where a brief she authored was submitted to the Supreme Court of Colorado, and made law in her client’s favor. She also successfully defended cannabis and other criminal charges locally. Lara later took a position as in-house counsel for a premier company in the risk evaluation software industry and spent several years in the legal department of a leading bio-pharmaceutical company. Both positions served as important career mechanisms that further developed her knowledge base, business sense, and transactional experience.

Lara earned a double BS from the University of Southern California and her Juris Doctor from Tulane Law School. She is admitted to practice in California, Colorado, and New Mexico (inactive).


Nicole Howell is one of California’s most respected and effective cannabis business and regulatory attorneys. Industry executives, private investors, and public companies turn to Nicole for her perspective and proven track record in advising the industry’s most successful operators through California’s challenging and dynamic market.

In serving as general counsel to the state’s movers and shakers, Nicole has guided her clients over the major (and novel) corporate and regulatory hurdles unique to a market in its first decade of existence. Her role as lead regulatory counsel in successfully closing one of 2019’s largest and highest profile Canadian public company acquisitions of a beloved California enterprise demonstrates her skill in navigating bet-the-deal matters of first impression. Her work in structuring the legal framework for the state’s most innovative and fastest growing delivery provider illustrates her dedication to rolling up her sleeves to craft creative legal solutions that fuel business growth. Bold businesses and brands rely on Nicole’s counsel to be rooted in a rich understanding of the nuances, rules, and relationships that go into winning a successful outcome.

Nicole works actively with local and state legislative and regulatory efforts, having served as a member of State Treasurer John Chiang’s Cannabis Banking Working Group, as Chief Policy Advisor to the California Growers Association, on the Board of California NORML, and currently is involved in other industry and business related organizations, including the National and California Cannabis Industry Associations, International Cannabis Bar Association, San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, and the Executive Committee of the Cannabis Section for the San
Francisco Bar Association.

Nicole has been recognized as one of the top 75 “Most Important Women in Cannabis” by Cannabis Business Executive, of the “30 Most Powerful Cannabis Lawyers” by MG Magazine, annually ranked by Super Lawyers magazine since 2012, and recognized for several years running as an “Attorney to Watch” by Chambers and Partners USA. In 2018, the firm was recognized by Entrepreneur Magazine in the nation’s top five cannabis firms. Nicole regularly speaks, teaches, and writes on the topics of cannabis and hemp business and regulatory law, and the decriminalization of plant medicines and other emerging therapeutics.

Prior to founding Clark Howell LLP (originally Clark Neubert LLP) Nicole practiced law at the San Francisco firms Clarence Dyer & Cohen LLP and Farella Braun + Martel LLP, where she earned a reputation as a tenacious, solution-oriented advocate in high stakes, parallel civil, criminal, and regulatory matters.

Rebecca Stamey-White is a partner with Hinman & Carmichael LLP, a nationally-recognized boutique law firm representing the alcoholic beverage, hospitality and cannabis industries and their service providers. Rebecca helps her clients secure and maintain their required alcohol and cannabis licenses by providing licensing, production, distribution, sales, and marketing counsel and defending clients before alcohol regulatory bodies when their licenses are at risk. She is the practice leader for the firm’s marketing, e-commerce, and cannabis practices. She has a particular interest and experience structuring compliant sponsorships and events, marketing campaigns and promotions, e-commerce platforms, and complex route-to-market licensing strategies.

Prior to Hinman & Carmichael, Rebecca was an associate in the San Francisco litigation group of Kirkland & Ellis LLP, where she worked on litigation involving constitutional challenges to state alcohol direct shipping restrictions and provided regulatory advice to California wine industry businesses, among other general litigation matters. Rebecca received her Bachelor of Arts degree in History & International Studies from Northwestern University and her juris doctor from Northwestern University School of Law. 

Rebecca is also professional faculty at Sonoma State University’s School of Business and Economics, teaching Wine Law and Regulatory Issues at the Wine Business Institute. She is also a frequent speaker at industry conferences, law and business schools and continuing legal education programs on the latest legal issues in the alcoholic beverage and cannabis industries.

Shabnam Malek is a partner at Brand & Branch LLP and founding President of the National Cannabis Bar Association. Shabnam's background is in trademark law, and she cut her teeth on all things intellectual property as an associate at O'Melveny & Myers (OMM) in San Francisco. While at OMM, Shabnam developed a broad practice in ITC enforcement, district court litigation, Trademark Trial and Appeal Board disputes, and trademark prosecution strategy. She represented large, global companies as well as smaller technology startups and local food manufacturers. She also developed a robust pro bono practice representing imprisoned women before the California Board of Parole Hearings as well as representing houseless San Francisco residents through the Coalition on Homelessness. Since her days in "big law," Shabnam has expanded her practice to include promotions and sweepstakes law, advertising law, and the representation of lawful cannabis and hemp companies throughout the United States. 

During the launch of Brand & Branch, Shabnam and her law partner, Amanda R. Conley, founded the National Cannabis Bar Association, which recently expanded its reach to become the International Cannabis Bar Association (INCBA). Today, INCBA boasts a membership base of nearly 500 individual attorney members and a strong international presence. Shabnam and Amanda's vision for the organization was realized in the organization's flagship annual two-day legal educational event, the Cannabis Law Institute, at which they've spoken two years in a row. Shabnam and Amanda also co-founded the Bay Area chapter of Women Grow in 2014.

Shabnam's practice now focuses on advice and counsel to companies seeking to expand their presence or intellectual property portfolio across industries as well as across state and international borders. Clients benefit from Shabnam's expertise in the areas of regulatory compliance and intellectual property licensing, in addition to her well-developed understanding of the intersection of law, strategy, and business.

Shabnam regularly speaks and writes on the topics of trademarks, brand expansion, regulated industries such as cannabis and hemp, and the role of women in creating change. Her professional affiliations include holding a seat on the Board of Directors of the International Cannabis Bar Association, membership with the International Trademark Association and California Lawyers' Association, where she serves on committees, and memberships with the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Lawyers Guild, the Queen’s Bench, and the Bar Association of San Francisco. Shabnam was named a Northern California Rising Star three years in a row by Super Lawyers Magazine.

As the Executive Director of the National Cannabis Bar Association (NCBA), Christopher Davis has overseen the development and implementation of all that NCBA offers its members today, including its annual Cannabis Law Institute, the proliferation of NCBA educational programs across the country, and other benefits NCBA offers to support its member-attorneys in their daily practice of law. 

Chris shifted his focus to the cannabis industry in 2015, first as a volunteer editor at the National Cannabis Bar Association, and then by representing cultivators in Northern California. Before that, Chris was a Legal Editor in the Finance and Banking Regulation group of the Practical Law Company (now a facet of Westlaw), and was also a securities litigator in New York.

Chris is a member of the California and New York Bars, and is a graduate of UCLA (cum laude) with degrees in Business/Economics and Accounting, and The George Washington University Law School (with honors).