As an advisor and cannabis lawyer, Anne van Leynseele has always been at the top of the industries she worked in. After establishing her first company at the age of 26, she faced a few challenges and achievements that set her law firm apart from others. Anne van Leynseele shares some pros and cons of being a cannabis lawyer.
- Being a regulatory and corporate cannabis lawyer makes one bold and confident. The vocation requires an individual to continuously strive to process massive amounts of information and engage with clients, which helps one explore this ever-evolving industry. For Anne, having an idyllic childhood made her fearless when it came to her work. When she started her law firm, 7 Point Law, formerly known as Northwest Marijuana Law, Anne was all alone in a sea of criminal lawyers. Her office consisted of her laptop, a phone, and herself. However, with time her firm expanded, and within three years she was representing a quarter of Washington State’s legal cannabis industry.
- Anne believes that her role as an ethical lawyer requires one to look deeper than just the immediate client needs. This understanding of the big picture enables her as a lawyer to continuously challenge her intellectual skills while she explores the changing laws, rules, and policies. With the rapidly evolving industry filled with unscrupulous players, there is a constant need to process, analyze, and present new information. As cannabis law covers around twenty-three different areas of law it rapidly evolves.
- According to Anne, there is an immense need for dedicated cannabis lawyers to help the entrepreneurs in the industry. Especially those owners who are not traditional business people. She jokes that she is reforming outlaws, a claim that is not far from the truth. As the industry has matured, so have the issues related to it. The issues include an expansion of employee and employment issues, business litigation, and tax concerns which eclipse the demands of formation, licensing compliance, and partnership disputes. Hence, to save businesses from collapsing, there is a need for regulatory and corporate lawyers.
- As cannabis law is an evolving area of law, educating clients and other lawyers is a big challenge. Especially the clients who are already not in favor of lawyers. Hence, collaborating with them takes time and building trust in the system. When Anne faced this issue, she spent hours on one on one and group meetings to explain to the clients about the evolving regulations. She continuously processed information she had to present to them so that her clients could have greater insight.
- Practicing cannabis law is very different from practicing business law in other industries. It includes some twenty-three different areas of law, hence it becomes difficult for lawyers to stay updated to the continuously evolving information. If lawyers do not keep up with this, then they might end up costing their clients their license.
- The industry is also struggling to rid itself of criminal behavior under cover of licensed companies. With the rapidly changing regulation, there is a change in the needs of clients as well. As the industry has matured, companies and business owners face new challenges in operations, economic forces, and financial refinements. These issues along with the lack of federal support, results in a barrier to profitability. Hence, with this change in needs, lawyers need to continuously change their service as well.
On balance, Anne loves her practice, is proud of the significant contribution she makes to the betterment of an evolving area of law. In the service of elevating the industry beyond its criminal past, she is currently writing a much anticipated memoir on the early days of legal cannabis, which will be published before the end of 2021.