Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - 20

Working out of their homes at night and doing "grunt attorney work" during
the day, Kinner and McGowan launched their firm with just one client. "We were
getting hired as independent contractors, reviewing documents and working
on projects at Big Law firms during the day," McGowan recalls. "It was good
work while looking for a job."
Except the coveted job never arrived. "We both graduated at the worst
possible time," says Kinner, who earned her JD from the University of the
District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law in 2010. McGowan graduated from New England Law Boston the same year. "Big firms weren't hiring.
People who would have gone to big firms were going to nonprofits, which
was where I wanted to go. Government agencies were cutting back on
spending, and judges weren't hiring. It was just a really bad time to graduate
from law school," Kinner says.
Indeed, the 2008 recession had a "monstrous impact" on the legal profession,
says Dan Mills, assistant director of the D.C. Bar Practice Management Advisory
Service (PMAS). "I started getting calls from lawyers who had just gotten laid off
by their firms. They were usually young associates at firms with no lateral move
opportunities. And no other firms were hiring," Mills says.

While studying for the bar exam, Kinner and McGowan worked at the same
restaurant. They kept in touch after passing the bar, commiserating about the
dire legal job market. Eventually, Kinner began practicing as a solo lawyer
focused on litigation; McGowan's interests leaned toward transactional law.
However, both shared a fascination with cannabis law - they just didn't know
how to get into that legal space at the time. The legalized cannabis industry
was still in its infancy in Washington, D.C., in 2013 when the city implemented
its medical marijuana program. The following year, Maryland legalized medical
cannabis.
Soon enough, a friend of McGowan's who worked as an associate at a large
Colorado law firm specializing in cannabis law reached out to him for legal
assistance on behalf of Maryland-based clients. McGowan and Kinner, both
licensed in Maryland, took a chance.
"We learned [cannabis law] from the big boys," McGowan says. "We cocounseled with a big firm and worked on an application for a license. That's
what got our foot in the door."
Cannabis law falls under the "general" practice area category under which 261
D.C. Bar members in Washington, D.C., have listed themselves as practitioners
as of February 2019. Of the Bar's 169,403 members, almost 5 percent - 7,152
members - identify as "sole practitioners."
McGowan says there are only a handful of lawyers in the Washington, D.C.,
area who specialize in cannabis law, mainly because the industry is still relatively new and most Big Law firms with federal clients are leery of touching it.
Despite laws in the District and several other states legalizing cannabis possession for medical and some recreational use, possession and distribution of
marijuana is still a federal crime. There are other stigmas attached to the
cannabis world as well.
"Some people still think we sell marijuana or we represent people like Cheech
and Chong," Kinner says. "We are attorneys who ensure that legal businesses
are able to comply with state governments. It's true that generally our clients
are more relaxed. They are not coming to us wearing suits. But all of our
business clients are professional people."
Most of Kinner and McGowan's clients are dispensaries, cultivation facilities,
and physicians who prescribe medical marijuana to their patients. Their firm
has also written legal letters to landlords on behalf of tenants who are
20 WASHINGTON LAWYER

*

APRIL 2019

*

Courtesy of Ben Glass

TAKING THE LEAP

THINK FIRST,
MARKET SECOND
Before launching a solo or small niche practice,
ask yourself three pivotal questions, says Ben Glass,
lawyer, book author, and founder of Great Legal
Marketing, LLC:
1. What kind of life do you want to lead?
2. What type of firm or practice would support
that life?
3. Who is your avatar client?
Once you've answered those questions, Glass says,
you can create a marketing plan that speaks directly
to that client or type of business.


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Washington Lawyer - April 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Washington Lawyer - April 2019

Digital Extras
Your Voice
From Our President
Practice Management
Calendar of Events
DC Bar Practice Management Advisory Service feature
Niching Down to Build Up feature
Going Small feature
Global & Domestic Outlook
Worth Reading
Media Bytes
Attorney Briefs
Ask the Ethics Experts
Disciplinary Summaries
The Pro Bono Effect
Community & Connections
Last Word
Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - Cover1
Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - Cover2
Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - 1
Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - 2
Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - 3
Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - Digital Extras
Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - Your Voice
Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - From Our President
Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - 7
Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - Practice Management
Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - 9
Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - Calendar of Events
Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - 11
Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - 12
Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - 13
Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - DC Bar Practice Management Advisory Service feature
Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - 15
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Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - 17
Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - Niching Down to Build Up feature
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Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - 23
Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - Going Small feature
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Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - Global & Domestic Outlook
Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - 39
Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - Worth Reading
Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - Media Bytes
Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - Attorney Briefs
Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - Ask the Ethics Experts
Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - Disciplinary Summaries
Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - 45
Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - The Pro Bono Effect
Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - 47
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Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - Community & Connections
Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - 51
Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - Last Word
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