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Cannabis: Business Fundamentals 2021


Speaker(s): Amanda R. Conley, Amanda Reiman, Amy McDougal, Courtney E. Stough, Craig Abruzzo, Erin Alexander, Jack Nichols, Jerrico Perez, Joseph Segilia, Kat Allen, Katy Young, Lara L. DeCaro, Mary Shapiro, Nicole Howell, Phillip Neiman, Shabnam Malek, Sheila Mints, Shoran Williams, Stephan Ferris
Recorded on: Apr. 12, 2021
PLI Program #: 305877

Phillip Neiman, Esq., FCIArb is a mediator and arbitrator with JAMS, specializing in the resolution of complex business and commercial disputes. He devotes much of his practice to securities and investment-related cases, including shareholder, partnership and M&A disputes, and has substantial experience in a range of other areas, including employment, insurance, IP, real property, professional liability and privacy tort cases, as well as fintech and cannabis sector disputes.

Prior to establishing his ADR practice in 2004, Mr. Neiman spent a decade as CEO and General Counsel of a FINRA-registered investment bank.

He holds a B.A. in Economics (High Honors, Phi Beta Kappa) from Swarthmore College (1985), a J.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law (1990) and is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and the National Association of Legal Fee Analysis.

Based in San Francisco, Mr. Neiman hears cases nationwide, and during the global pandemic he conducts virtual/remote mediations and arbitrations on multiple platforms, including Zoom.

For more on Phillip Neiman, including a list of representative cases, visit www.jamsadr.com/Neiman/


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.


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.


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).

 


Mary Shapiro, Managing Director of Evoke Law, PC, based in San Francisco, California, is an intellectual property attorney specializing in trademark, consumer protection, copyright, and internet law.

For 20 years prior to her legal career, Mary served in a variety of marketing positions in the book industry, including roles in retail, distribution and publishing. Mary started her legal career in 1999 at Townsend and Townsend and Crew LLP. There, Mary supported businesses in a variety of industries: technology, medical device, pharmaceutical, wineries, non-profit foundations, and consumer products.

Her cannabis practice began in earnest in 2009, offering specialized legal services in intellectual property and consumer protection. Mary strives to assist cannabis operators in selecting strong and enforceable brand names, with her day-to-day work encompassing clearing, filing, prosecuting, enforcing, and licensing trademarks in the U.S. and internationally.

In 2016, Mary rebranded the firm to Evoke Law, continuing to specialize in serving the cannabis industry. By registering brands and enforcing intellectual property rights, businesses are positioned to expand their brands nationally and globally. In the consumer protection arena, Evoke Law guides cannabis operators through the complex compliance issues associated with packaging and labeling, recalls, and advertising. The firm encourages clients to carefully view each decision from the vantage point of its overall marketing strategies and business objectives, as well as the company’s risk tolerance level. 

Mary has been a leader in bridging intellectual property law, state cannabis regulations, and the cannabis marketplace. In 2015, Mary was a founding Board member of the National Cannabis Bar Association (NCBA), which now has over 700 active members. She currently serves as the Board Secretary, co-chairs the organization’s worldwide expansion (as the International Cannabis Bar Association (INCBA), and is in a leadership role in the Continuing Legal Education program. In 2016-2017, Mary collaborated with industry advocacy groups and fellow legal colleagues, to persuade the California Secretary of State to allow registration of trademarks for cannabis products and services. In early 2018, with the assistance of a technical advisor and expert witness testimony, Evoke Law provided the USPTO with irrefutable scientific evidence that the mature stalks do indeed produce CBD in appreciable quantities without the commingling from other plant parts, including any ‘resinous’ secretions, which debunked the USPTO’s incorrect internal position on this matter, and resulted in the federal registration of a client’s trademark for a hemp-derived product.


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.


Shabnam Malek is a partner at Brand & Branch LLP. Shabnam has a broad practice but takes greatest pleasure in advising clients on how best to grow, navigate risk, resolve disputes, and how to think creatively in balance business needs and legal concerns. Shabnam is recognized as an expert in the field of cannabis intellectual property and clients and colleagues seek her out for her expertise in addressing particularly thorny and novel issues. She’s a creative thinker looking for solutions that help her clients succeed. Shabnam truly enjoys the role of counselor to start-ups, woman-owned companies, large, global companies as well individuals.

Shabnam is a co-founder and the founding President of the International Cannabis Bar Association. Today, INCBA boasts a membership base of over 600 individual attorney members and a strong international presence. She currently sits on the governing board of INCBA and helps plan the educational curriculum of the organization with a focus on INCBA’s flagship event, the Cannabis Law Institute. Shabnam is also the Chair of the PLI Cannabis Business Law program and an Adjunct Professor at the University of New Hampshire School of Law. Shabnam recently joined the editorial board of Law360’s Cannabis Editorial Advisory Board.

In addition to serving the business community, Shabnam 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. 

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 and a committee role with the International Trademark Association.  She is an active member of the California Lawyers' Association, 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.


A graduate of UC Irvine Law Kat went on to receive an LLM from NYU. As a specialist on IRC Section 280E and its application, scope, and structuring implications, Kat drafts briefs for tax court and federal appellate litigation. She performs tax due diligence on buy-side acquisitions and provides advice to clients on international and federal matters as well as state and local concerns. Kat is a regular contributor to the academic journal Tax Notes.


Amanda Reiman is the Founder of Personal Plants, a DIY earth medicine kit and e-learning platform. She is also the VP of Community Development for Flow Cannabis Company, a distributor and manufacturer in Mendocino County, CA. Dr. Reiman is on the Board of the Mendocino Cannabis Alliance, Cannabis Doing Good, the California Cannabis Tourism Association, and The Initiative, the first incubator/accelerator for women-owned cannabis businesses.

After receiving her PhD from UC Berkeley, Dr. Reiman was the Director of Research and Patient Services at Berkeley Patients Group, one of the oldest dispensaries in the country, and the Manager of Marijuana Law and Policy for the Drug Policy Alliance, a national non-profit that was engaged in the drafting and campaigns of legalization initiatives across the country and abroad. She also taught courses on substance abuse treatment and drug policy at UC Berkeley for 10 years.

Dr. Reiman is an internationally recognized cannabis expert and public health researcher. Dubbed “The Brain” by Elle.com, she is a leader the field of cannabis as a substitute for alcohol and other drugs and has presented her research on cannabis dispensaries and the use of cannabis as a substitute for opiates all over the world. Also an expert in cannabis policy on the local, national and international level, Dr. Reiman was the first Chairwoman of the Berkeley Medical Cannabis Commission and also sat on the Oakland Cannabis Regulatory Commission. She currently resides in Mendocino County, California.

 


As General Counsel and Chief Compliance officer for Harborside Inc. (and its predecessor FLRish Inc.), Jack Nichols plays a critical role at a publicly traded company on the Candaian exchange. He is an executive team leader overseeing all legal, policy, compliance, government relations, safety, and security issues to mitigate risk for a vertically integrated and rapidly growing startup business. In his role as General Counsel, he negotiates complex private equity issues, IPO initiative deals, and leverages litigation experience to build frameworks that minimize risks while achieving business targets.

As Harborside was positioned for a reverse triangular merger, Mr. Nichols managed the business integration of both entities and led due diligence of organizational functions, assets, leases and all programs. He has successfully directed all license application and maintenance processes through state and local authorities, including the Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC), California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), and municipal jurisdictions for all phases of licensing. Given the evolving landscape in Cannabis, Mr. Nichols works with more than nine outside legal firms, as needed, for complex legal matters, risk mitigation, HR, securities law, IP, merger & acquisitions, and labor and employment employee disputes.

Mr. Nichols is known for spearheading new cannabis policy at the state and federal level and has been a key advocate for the Safe Banking Act passage in Congress as a member of the Federal Policy Advisory team on behalf of CCIA.  He has also lobbied effectively for policy change at alllevels on key industry issues resulting in reduced tax rates, increased testing batch sizes, drive-thru licensure and millions of dollars in business cost reductions. His long career in law enforcement prior to joining Harborside culminated with his role as Special Assistant US Attorney in the District of Maine, followed by General Counsel for Creative Services, Inc. a global security firm serving corporate and government market sectors.

 


As VP, Associate General Counsel at Parallel, Courtney is responsible for all corporate and transactional legal matters for the Company, including equity and debt financings, M&A, joint venture and strategic relationships and corporate governance and assisting with transitioning to a public company in connection with our recent announcement to become a public company via a SPAC transaction.  Courtney provides legal guidance on all aspects of Parallel’s legal affairs in coordination with the Chief Legal Counsel.

Prior to joining Parallel, Courtney was a partner at Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough in Atlanta, where she worked in the areas of corporate law, mergers and acquisitions and venture capital. She represented investors and also served as outside general counsel, assisting companies with a variety of corporate transactions throughout their life cycle from formation to exit.  She is a member of the Atlanta Bar Association, the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Georgia and the State Bar of Louisiana. She also serves on the Board of Directors of the Technology Association of Georgia Corporate Development Society and serves on the Atlanta Women’s Foundation, Women in Finance Committee.

• Tulane University Law School, JD, cum laude, 2012

• Yale University, BA, Political Science, with honors, 2009

 

 


Craig Abruzzo currently serves as Chief Legal Officer of Kiva Brands, Inc., the market leader in premium cannabis edibles. Kiva’s award-winning chocolates, mints, and gummies are the most precise, discreet, and delicious on the market. Kiva has become the most recognized edible brand in cannabis with a loyal customer base throughout hundreds of dispensaries in 8 States.

Craig established the foundation of his in-house legal practice during his 6 years at IGN Entertainment, Inc. culminating in its sale to Fox Interactive in 2005. Craig then joined Associate Content (AC) as its fifth employee as General Counsel. While at AC he oversaw the growth of the company to over 90 employees and its eventual sale to Yahoo! in 2010. After serving his time at Yahoo!, Craig joined Birchbox as General Counsel in 2012. In his 4 years at Birchbox, Craig oversaw the expansion of Birchbox’s business from 60 employees to over 350 employees across 5 countries and scale to over 1.5 Million subscribers.

As the Dodgers did decades before, Craig left the friendly confines of Brooklyn, for the sunshine of LA to join Thrive Market, Inc. as its General Counsel where his remit included, among other things, IP strategy, HR, Corporate Development and Compliance.

After 4 years at Thrive Market, Craig moved to his current role as Chief Legal Officer at Kiva Brands where he oversees legal operations, IP strategy, FSQA and compliance.

Craig has a bachelor's degree in International Relations with a focus in Economics from Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. Prior to graduating Syracuse, Craig took an 18 month leave of absence to travel and study Mandarin in China and Taiwan. After graduation he attended the Brooklyn Law School where he obtained his Juris Doctor.

Craig currently lives in Los Angeles with his beautiful wife, and his two lovely children. Francesca, who is seven, and Jasper, who is five.


Erin Alexander is the Associate General Counsel for multi-state operator Cresco Labs. She oversees regulatory legal and licensing across all states where Cresco Labs owns / operates cultivation, processing, distribution and retail facilities. She also provides counsel on a wide spectrum of legal matters and oversees Cresco Labs’ license application submissions. Prior to her time in the regulated cannabis industry, Ms. Alexander was an attorney for the Illinois Gaming Board. Ms. Alexander is a former Board Member and Vice President of Illinois Women in Cannabis, a not-for-profit organization that promotes women’s role in Illinois’ expanding cannabis industry. She earned a Bachelor of Arts from Florida State University and a law degree from Northwestern University School of Law.


Jerrico Perez Bennett is Counsel in Vicente Sederberg's Denver office. She focuses her practice on administrative law, regulatory compliance, and national marijuana business applications. Jerrico assists cannabis business owners and other associated individuals and entities with regulatory, licensing, and compliance issues, and has successfully represented clients in state and local hearings, negotiating and resolving regulatory disciplinary actions, and successfully appealing and seeking judicial review of final agency actions. She has also helped her clients receive licenses in multiple competitive and non-competitive application processes, including Colorado, Ohio, Hawaii, California, Maryland, and Canada. In a constantly-evolving legal landscape, clients look to Jerrico to help them navigate the complex regulations governing the production, manufacture, and distribution of cannabis and cannabis products in the United States and abroad.

Jerrico began her career in cannabis working with a marijuana consulting group assisting with national licensing applications. During law school at the University of Denver, she was a law clerk at Vicente Sederberg, practiced in the DU Criminal Defense Clinic, and was a member of DU Law’s Students for Sensible Drug Policy chapter. Jerrico obtained her B.A. in political science and government from the University of Texas, Austin, and while there, she interned for Texas State Representative Ry Guillen during the 82nd legislative session. 

 


Joe Segilia is the General Counsel of Terra Tech Corp., a publicly-traded, vertically-integrated, multi-state cannabis operator, where he oversees the company’s legal department. He began his career at a multinational law firm and practiced in New York and London. Prior to joining Terra Tech, he was a partner at a New York law firm where he represented several cannabis companies. Joe received a JD from NYU and an LLM from University College London.


Ms. McDougal is an attorney certified by the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics as a Corporate Compliance and Ethics Professional (CCEP) since 2010. She is licensed to practice law in Virginia, the District of Columbia, and Georgia. Ms. McDougal is also a Credentialed Advocate (CA), certified at the Intermediate level as a Comprehensive Victim Intervention Specialist by the National Organization for Victim Assistance. 

After graduating from the Peabody Conservatory of Music of the Johns Hopkins University and Vanderbilt School of Law, she served as a Special Assistant United States Attorney and an Air Force Judge Advocate General, attaining the rank of Major. In her military capacity pre-9/11, Ms. McDougal’s work focused on government ethics, government contracting, and prosecution of military and civilian criminal offenses. After 9/11, Ms. McDougal was assigned to various bases for contingency operations duty. Her practice focused on military trial and appellate litigation, including arguing cases before the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. In her civilian career, she has served as in-house and General Counsel. 

In 2013, Ms. McDougal launched CLEAResources, LLC, a Woman-Owned and Veteran-Owned small business. “CLEAR” stands for “compliance, legal, ethics, and risk.” She assists organizations with development of the compliance and ethics program infrastructure required by the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, Federal Acquisition Regulations, and other ethics and compliance statutory frameworks. Ms. McDougal has developed, implemented, overseen, and managed all aspects of compliance and ethics programs for global clients. Her team also functions as out-sourced Chief Ethics and Compliance Officers.

CLEAResources’ clients draw from all industries, including Fortune 500 companies and government contractors. Most recently, Ms. McDougal has been recognized for her compliance and ethics expertise in the nascent legalized cannabis industry. She serves on the board of directors of the International Cannabis Bar Association and is Chair of its Ethics Committee. Ms. McDougal is also a founding director of the International Association of Independent Corporate Monitors. She has served as a monitor under several administrative compliance agreements.

In 2020, Ms. McDougal was honored to be a Finalist for Compliance Week’s “Excellence in Compliance Awards” in the Best Consultant/Advisor Category and serves on Compliance Week’s Advisory Board. She was also named as a 2020 Cannabis Law Trailblazer by National Law Journal. Ms. McDougal is an award-winning author and was recognized by the Board of Contract Appeals Bar Association for her article on conflicts of interest. Ms. McDougal was honored to receive the Association of Corporate Counsel Community Service award in 2013 for her pro bono work for veterans, and to be included as a member of the Lawyers Weekly 2013 class of “Influential Women of Virginia.” 

Ms. McDougal is based in the Washington DC metro area with the guinea pigs left behind by her two college-aged children. She enjoys being artsy and returning to her musical roots in her free time.


Ms. Mints’ experience in healthcare transactional matters includes shareholder and employment agreements, purchases and sales of medical practices, including ACO and IPO transactions, and practice mergers. Ms. Mints acts as general counsel to many large practices and ambulatory care facilities, assisting with transactional, tax, human resources matters and negotiation with payors and vendors. Ms. Mints also handles governmental and commercial payor investigations and audits into health care billing and coding practices.

As Chair of the firm’s Cannabis Law Group, Ms. Mints counsels businesses, public entities, and entrepreneurs interested in entering the multifaceted cannabis market. Ms. Mints is the general counsel of the Cannabis Advisory Group, a nonprofit organization of a diverse group of professionals with expertise in cannabis policy, regulatory compliance, business, social justice, economics, science and medicine that are united in the desire to maximize the context for the legal access to hemp and cannabis, both in adult-use and medicinal market.

An experienced tax lawyer, Ms. Mints represents her clients before the Internal Revenue Service, the federal Tax Court and state taxation departments in a variety of tax matters.

 


Shoran Reid Williams’ litigation practice spans more than 25 years.  It ranges from in-house counsel for a Fortune 500 insurance company to law firm practices in both Georgia and Michigan.  In addition, she has spent several years as an adjunct law professor, author and small business owner.

Ms. Williams’ litigation practice experience extends into the areas of administrative law, civil litigation, appellate law, personal injury and family law. Ms. Williams is a trusted advisor on legal issues related to the rapidly growing and evolving cannabis and hemp industry in North America.  Two noteworthy bills that have accelerated the interest in the industry are the United States 2018 Farm Bill and Michigan’s activation of authority pursuant to the United States 2014 Farm Bill being utilized to launch the State’s Industrial Hemp Ag pilot. Ms. Williams is familiar with the ins and outs of the 2018 Farm Bill and including the fact that marijuana remains a Schedule 1 drug in the U.S.  She can counsel Michigan entities on the licensing process, THC testing procedures, inspections, disposal of plants carrying >0.3% TNS and record keeping.

Ms. Williams works with clients to gain their respect through realistic, strategic initiatives that anticipate the changing needs of the workforce, building a winning culture and driving continuous improvement. She endeavors to decrease the costs and complexity of initiatives in order to optimize resources focused on business outcomes. Ms. Williams is an advocate for sustainable change with regard to diversity and believes that requires Shoran Reid Williams — Miller Johnson involving the right parties and effectively engaging with them on issues.

Ms. Williams is a member of the American Bar Association Personal Injury Law Section.  She is also a member of the State Bar of Michigan and the Grand Rapids Bar Association.  She is licensed in the state of Georgia and practiced in Atlanta for a number of years. She continues to be a member of the Georgia State Bar, and is a past member of the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association and the Georgia Association of Black Women Attorneys. In 2020, Ms. Williams was accepted into the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity (LCLD) Fellows Program. 

Ms. Williams is the author of “Waking the Sleeping Demon: 26 Hours of Terror in Atlanta”, a non-fiction account following the life of a prosecutor during the hours that Brian Nichols escaped from and eluded police. 

She currently serves on the Advisory Board for the Womens’ Resource Center and is a member of Inforum – women’s alliance. Education Ms. Williams earned her J.D. from The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law in 1994.  She participated in the St. Anne’s College of Law Program at Oxford University.  She was on the National Moot Court Team.  Ms. Williams received a Bachelor of Public Administration degree from Miami University in Ohio in 1991. She is licensed to practice in Michigan and Georgia.


Stephan attended San Francisco State University where he earned his Bachelor of Arts in Broadcast and Electronic Communication in 2012.  During his studies at San Francisco State University, he discovered a fascination with the intersection of law and media, which prompted his decision to study law at the University of California, Hastings.  In law school, he centered his training and education on emerging legal issues in cannabis, digital media, intellectual property, and business matters.  He began practicing law in 2018 and founded the Law Office of Stephan F. Ferris in 2020 to extend his experience in business and build upon his passion for equity, diversity, fairness, and inclusion in cannabis and entertainment. 

In 2018, he was admitted to the Equality California Leadership Academy, and in 2020, he attended the Cannabis Law Institute, hosted by the International Cannabis Bar Association as a way to specialize his expertise. 

Stephan is part of an emerging generation of openly queer and sexually progressive activist attorneys who see the law as an opportunity to make social, civic, and cultural change.  He uses his skills and experiences to amplify this perspective to a wide range of audiences through multiple published pieces and speaking engagements related to sexual health, activism, and the law. 

Stephan balances his professional life with active social and volunteer commitments including service with various Bay Area LGBTQI+ organizations, such as the San Francisco Leather Cultural District.  Currently he is a board director for Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom (“BALIF”), serving as the New Lawyers & Law Students Committee Co-Chair.

Stephan is licensed to practice in the State of California with his primary residence in San Francisco and an office centrally located in the heart of San Francisco’s Castro District.