A lot of us started law school thinking we knew exactly what we would do with a law degree. So what happens when a surprising, but very different opportunity comes along? Jerome Crawford didn’t set out to become a cannabis attorney, but he’s thankful for the goals and pursuits that made him into a good lawyer and led him to the career he enjoys today. DeMario Thornton talks with Jerome about both his law school and professional experiences and why law students should never feel guilty about pivoting to new and different opportunities in law.
Jerome Crawford is Chief Legal Officer at Pleasantrees Cannabis Company.
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DeMario Thornton: Hello, everyone, and welcome to the Legal Talk Network Podcast. This is actually the Law Students Podcast and it’s April. And today we have a chilling, no, chilling is probably like not the word. A smooth, laid back, it’s April. That means that it’s National Cannabis Month. You know what that means? That means we need to have somebody on this podcast that’s in the cannabis legal field.
So without further ado, we have the one and only Jerome Crawford. He’s the chief legal officer at Pleasantrees Cannabis Company. Welcome, Jerome.
Jerome Crawford: Mario, I appreciate you having me, my friend. You’re right. It’s a holiday. It’s a national holiday here in the month of April, 4/20. And like most people do their birthdays, we celebrate the entire month long.
DeMario Thornton: Okay, good deal. So I have so many questions. This is pretty much just going to be a conversation. Our backgrounds are very much so similar. You actually finished undergrad, a year before I finished undergrad, and you went straight into law school. And so what made you go straight into law school versus just, like, holding off?
Jerome Crawford: I like to put myself in 2008, Rome, and I say 2008, right? And I call myself my nickname. That’s what I would call myself at the time, because I go, what would I have done had I taken the break, right? Now, in hindsight being 2020, I can tell you 20 different reasons why taking a break wouldn’t have been necessarily a bad thing, but would have had a ton of benefits. At that time, I believe mindset that I knew going into undergrad.
So I want to go to law school because I want to be a lawyer. Not because I just want to go to law school, but I know that that’s the vehicle, right? That’s the hurdle that I have to clear say 2008. Because again, I did that victory last year, right? So I took that fifth year, which in large part was because I was involved in a ton of things on campus, some leadership roles, and I was studying for the LSAT. So I took that last year to do that and not that I felt like I had a gap year, because I didn’t. I was a college student that never took a summer class, kept a schedule that like, hey, once I’m at a full load, I don’t need 17, 18 credits. I might have been 12, 13, 14 some semesters, because that allowed me to have that extra-curricular activity or that public service involvement that I wanted to have. So I think I always saw it. I said look, if I don’t go straight through the question, will I come back? And so I go straight in and it was fun, and I definitely do not regret the decision. But I can’t tell you it’s “one’s right or wrong,” like you made it for yourself. It all comes down to what’s the right thing for your path.
DeMario Thornton: Right. And I actually, I want to tell the listeners, I waited ten years, and it was the best thing for me. I don’t think that I was personally ready or maturity wise ready. And with you making that bad decision, you picked the fraternity that’s not, the fraternity that I selected, you know you have to live with the choices that you make. Shout out to D9 out there. If you’re listening, shout out.
Jerome Crawford: We got to give a personal shout out. I mean, you know, I saw that brand sneaking out (00:03:38).
Jerome Crawford: Shout out to the brothers of achievement, Capazcepa(ph) Fraternity, Inc.
DeMario Thornton: Indeed, indeed, indeed.
Jerome Crawford: As well as the brothers of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. from the wristband there and look my (00:03:50) so it’s a lot of love all the way around.
DeMario Thornton: Good deal. Good deal. Okay. So you get into law school. In your first summer, you pretty much do what everybody does and you did a summer associate position, right?
Jerome Crawford: Yeah.
DeMario Thornton: Are you a first generation law student or a lawyer or you had people in your family that were lawyers?
Jerome Crawford: First generation. I didn’t know what the word litigation meant until I got to law school.
DeMario Thornton: Okay.
Jerome Crawford: I said, what’s other — they can be a litigator. I said, that sounds like a cuss word. But anyway — and they’re like “Oh, okay, got it.”
DeMario Thornton: That’s so funny. Because I just thought coming into law school, well, when it’s time to do OCIs and everything like that, I thought that you’re either a criminal lawyer or a person that just works in an office and when they taught me the term transactional versus litigator, I was like, “Okay, we can work with this. Okay. I know. Okay. I want to be in a courtroom.” So you do your summer associate position. I’m assuming you get the job and you go straight into big law, right?
Jerome Crawford: Man, only was that easy, no. We did not just get the job. And I should note, I mean you raised it interestingly to about the caveat of doing what everybody does, so to speak, and getting a summer associate position, but it’s kind of the opposite.
It’s what people want to do. I mean, I think what we get pitched in law school traditionally and I should note as a sidebar, we may get there. I’m an adjunct professor now, so I teach in law school. So it’s just weird. And the irony doing that is that they knew because I’m so radical, like, I’m raging against the machine level radical as far as the amount of change. I think we need to really revamp legal education in a way.
DeMario Thornton: So that means you turn in your grades on time you don’t have us waiting.
Jerome Crawford: I do turn them in on time. I’m not here to screw your GPA up, unless you want to screw it up. Let me help you. I teach clinical experiential stuff, too, man. But back to the question. And it’s like, I didn’t know what a summer association, I didn’t know what litigate meant. I was very fortunate, program through an organization called Wolverine Bar Association, which is one of the affiliates of National Bar Association.
So there’s a couple of them here in the State of Michigan and that affiliate in particular had a stronghold, if you will, in representing black lawyers, judges, law students in the State of Michigan for over 100 years. I have opportunity to serve on the board later and become president of the organization back in 2020. Not 19, excuse me. And so, having done that early on, a decade prior, I didn’t know what (00:06:19) was. They had a summer associate program, a clerkship program, where they had the partnerships with the big firms. I didn’t know and appreciate that time how fortunate I was to actually get a position through that, because you realize it’s a very tiny percentage of anybody in law school that gets the OCI process and gets the summer gig.
It’s even fewer that might look like you and I and with that underrepresentation issue, I think I realized in hindsight, man, this is such a blessing. On top of that, I got that position in my first year, which most summer associate roles are you interview the summer after your first year in OCIs and you get them in your 2L summer, right. So I got to get mine out of that first year and say I got the job and move forward. No, the firm that I actually interned at was one I did not return to. And it was interesting because I did not get the return offer. And I boldly always say that because it was a fit thing. I was given the traditional, well, this is why reason, which was made about my work that never seemed to say anything during the summer. But all of a sudden now there was work product issues that I later found out from friends of mine that were in our partners at the firm and whatnot, that it was — they thought you were a flight risk. They didn’t like my — of how dare I go in talking about I love entertainment law and sports law. And for those that don’t know, I’m attorney by Dave(ph). I’m also acting a stand-up comedian, man, and so, like, I wear it on my sleeve. And so they don’t care to hear that. I can’t put you in a room and you stay there forever. And so little did I know that was the motivating factor, but it was also a blessing in disguise because I got to go into the OCI process, interview, interview, interview, find the right fit. And a couple of years later, I began my career at Dickinson Wright.
DeMario Thornton: So just a quick pro tip. Would you suggest that lawyers who really or students who really want to, I guess, hold their royal oats, keep that to themselves, or just be their selves when they’re doing that OCI?
Jerome Crawford: Be yourself. I say that with one reason and caution. By that I mean everything ain’t for everybody. And I’ll be clear, I wasn’t out here speaking recklessly by any means. It was, unfortunately, the nature of that firm, which touted themselves as a sports firm, because they represented the Ford family, which the Ford family owned the Lyons, right? And they were literally office was within Ford Field where the Lyons play.
So it wasn’t like I’m speaking out of left field. The true meat and potatoes of that firm was not what they necessarily touted and used as an attractant. It was actually a different type of type of law. And again, like I said, it was a total blessing in disguise. Reason I say, if that’s your mission to slow your world, if your mission is to do certain type of work, you tailor that message for the audience, but you still got to be true to yourself, you know what I mean? Because if you don’t, you’re going to be miserable.
DeMario Thornton: Very much.
Jerome Crawford: Well, paycheck in a bag it ain’t worth it. I can tell you that.
DeMario Thornton: It’s definitely not, I actually summer. I had a split summer, my first summer, and I was like, you know what, let me be my real self at this phase because they don’t have to take me as I am.
Jerome Crawford: Take me as I am.
DeMario Thornton: Because I can’t play this role for too long so let me just go ahead and yeah. So you get the job that you believe is fit for you. You get out of law school, and then you love it there, and you’re there for four or five years?
Jerome Crawford: I love it. I love it. I’m there forever. It’s the grind that it’s touted to be. I worked in big law. It was a national law firm. They were half the size, maybe a third or so than they are now. So they’ve grown dramatically over that that time. But in the day, as I told this to a mentee recently, I said, “Look, there’s a reason that they can pay you a six figure salary.” Because they get four to five times of that offer. You just multiply your billable rate times those hours, right, and assume they collect a certain percentage. That’s what they’re making. They have no problem giving you that nice office to you and that nice salary to you because they’re going to make it. So my point is, they’re getting something from you, what are you getting from them? Are you getting real world experience that you can tailor and parlay later?
So going to the firm, even though I’m in house (00:10:32) knowing I’m a GC now, that wasn’t the goal at that time, in real time. I want this firm to be a great training ground and get as much as I could out of them from skills, opportunities. So I really just kind of took my — I took my career by the reins pretty early. I mean, I had a template email and draft in my box, in my inbox where I would send it to all man. I was again pulled to be a litigator. I finally figured out what that word meant later. And so I get pulled in to be a litigator and I’m in that group. But thankfully, this is a tribute testament to that firm, they let me go out and find other type of work if I wanted to, not just what was fed to me, because what’s fed to me and I had a partner tell me this he said, “Look, I found my transactional side.” And he said, “If I was you, I’d found it early rather than late, and I’m glad you found yours.” He said, “Because it took me too long.” He said, “Now, it doesn’t benefit me as a partner that you want to do different things.” Because I was always the person that liked not just cookies. I like cookies, cake and ice cream at the same time on the same plate. Why not? I like dessert. Why not have — but I had to go build that.
So I’m going to reach out with that draft email to the partner that was doing the IP work. That’s how I started doing Walmart and Google’s IP work, right? I want to talk to the partner that’s doing corporate work because no one’s coming to give it to me. I got to reach out and show interest in somebody that’s doing that and say, how do we work alongside each other? How can I be a value at? Because they’re getting something from me, what am I getting from them? Than just donating my hours everywhere, I’d rather be in areas and skill sets I want to grow. And little did I know, maybe even as consciously, I was building myself up to be a generalist, and that worked perfectly for me, ultimately, in an in house sector.
DeMario Thornton: Got you. Okay, so we are going to take a quick break and we will be right back.
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DeMario Thornton: All right, we are back with Jerome Crawford. And now we get into the good stuff. Okay, so now you leave the big firm and you go into general counsel. So this is a quick question from me. What is it about being general counsel? Why are so many big law like why is that like the holy grail leaving big law?
Jerome Crawford: Good question. (00:13:40) was not overnight. I worked as an associate GC at my first company, then senior corporate. The next one then took over as chief legal officer at Pleasantrees just very recently where I started GC here. Many people in the legal field are title driven, I think, and it’s the nature of our field. Think about how we are laws introduced to us when we want to apply to law school. It’s very prestige driven, what’s the ranking of the school, the terms my job opportunities. So all this prestige stuff navigates how we value ourselves for better or worse. Being in the firm am I a partner or I’m not a partner. Am I senior attorney or senior associate or I want the word associate, all these connotations get attached. I personally have never been title driven. I had other opportunities. I could have been a GC years ago. Just of who was just a title. But I said back to the fit. No different than that first firm that didn’t quite work out to my favor, to my benefit. It’s like, oh, where’s the fit? Where do they celebrate me? And again, go somewhere that you’re celebrated, not tolerated.
DeMario Thornton: Yes. Message.
Jerome Crawford: What was doped about it was that, the reason I think it’s touted and I love that you asked that question, I mentioned the Wolverine Bar Association, right? And I was the president of it. In my president this year, I chose from my people that will win this like the very particular award. Like the recipients, I want to honor all of the because we’re an organization for black attorneys who are the black GCs in the State of Michigan.
Man, I can only find eleven in the whole state across industries. Now, is it some chance, somehow, somewhere that maybe is a person that technically is a small company and they happen to be a GC, too? Could have been. But from anybody that was on record that we could find and I was part of organizations. There were corporate council based orgs. Man, it was all I could find. And I was not yet a GC, but I was in house. And because I was in house and I’d realized that it is a title that is so rare. Even being in house at companies is so rare.
So I think that’s why in part that it’s sought after. But the way people even get their GC roles is not the traditional way of moving up a ladder necessarily. I mean, sometimes if somebody had to leave or you had to, literally every GC told me, man, you’re going to get fired.
DeMario Thornton: My mom calls them homemade jobs. Like a homemade teacher never leaves their job. They’re going to stay there forever and you’ll be lucky to get their job once they decide to leave.
Jerome Crawford: That’s right. A lot of times it’s lateral or is diagonal, right? It’s not a move up necessarily. This ladder you move up to a point, you find sponsors, allies and the like but yeah, I think it’s celebrated, man, because it’s so rare in general. It obviously was rare for me, and I share that story about being part of a minority group is underrepresented, but overwhelmingly it is just something that very few folks, I think, can attain. And there’s something to be said about being a head of the function and having ultimate report and responsibility and all that comes with it. But as I know, all those aren’t created equal. And that’s actually the class I teach, is corporate counsel to law students.
DeMario Thornton: So you’re navigating through this legal field and I’m seeing that you went to a PWI and you are in all these spaces. Have you ever felt lesser than or not equipped just by being black?
Jerome Crawford: The PWI, predominantly white institution? Of course, we break that one down for all of us. For our non-Greek folks in D9.
DeMario Thornton: That is correct.
Jerome Crawford: All up in our nomenclature. Did I feel that way? I got used to being one of the only, if not the — I mean, I remember I went to Michigan State for undergrad and law school. So it wasn’t necessarily abnormal for me to be the single black spec or brown spec in a classroom. That was amplified, I guess you could say, in law school with some respects it’s the same. Like Michigan State undergrad was probably 9, 11, 12, 13% at that time. In the law school wasn’t much different, probably a little lower. So it was all proportional to me. Let say I felt under prepared because of who I am? No, I would say it had, if anything, more to do with the great question you asked earlier, I’m a first generation. I didn’t have any lawyers. I had anybody I could talk to and ask a question of and see, there are people that grew up with my grandfather was a lawyer is, and retired, my uncle, my aunt. So somebody I could even talk to and talk about the LSAT.
I joked with folks recently at the ABA meeting, the Young Lawyers Division and HOD Health delegates ultimately voted on a huge resolution that’s been pinging around for a year or so and you’re probably familiar with it which is — our meeting a couple of months ago and it got voted on right at this ABA meeting. And that meeting was really important because it talked about LSAT and preparation and what you –. And the results that have since come down. That mid-year meeting, it was tough because they’ve been trying to eliminate this LSAT and thing that is inherently biased. I joked to those folks at that meeting back most when I was there, that the LSAT made me think I couldn’t read.
DeMario Thornton: Listen, I thought I was illiterate. I’m telling you for real, I thought I was illiterate going through the LSAT. I’m not even a person that’s like one of those people like abolish the bar exam or I’m not smart, but I’m telling you, the LSAT literally made me feel like I was going trying to register to vote in Selma, Alabama in 1965. I’m not even kidding.
Jerome Crawford: Yeah, you really felt like I’m not supposed to be here.
DeMario Thornton: Yes.
Jerome Crawford: But you mentioned the bar exam, too, is on record being known as a weed out thing. Like literally, there’s written texts that talk about keeping out unsavory types and characters from the bar. Those directed towards so it’s an interesting thing, man. That’s why I said I probably experienced the most was like, there’s nobody I can talk to. Who can I ask a question up and give me a little insight. I had to figure out a lot of things in real time, but I’m thankful for mentors along the way, allies, champions, people I was able to talk to, whether it been when I was going through the vetting process to get in school, to being in the firm, to being in my first in house counsel roles and mentors that may or may not have been in my company. Somewhere, somewhere in my report to somewhere outside altogether. You never know where you’re going to find that love at, but when you find that latch onto it, because, like, I tell my students, don’t reinvent the wheel.
They’re not listening every single day. They’re not changing the law that much every year. Like, it’s going to be pretty similar. So even when you’re in law school, like, one of the best things you can do is a 1L, talk to the 2Ls, talk to the 3Ls, talk to people that just had that class and that professor and figure out the strategy, don’t isolate yourself. And remember, there’s immunity aspect to it, and that’s how people get through life. It’s community.
DeMario Thornton: Yeah. Okay. So you talk about how the LSAT is and how it made you feel, and I have felt this exact same feeling. So quite naturally, I came to law school because of all of the social injustices and what I see on TV, and I’m like, yes, I am going to fight for the rights of the people. And you get in law school and you do well, and then you have all of these other opportunities. Have you ever felt like, well, first of all, let me ask you, what did you want to do with your law degree when you first came to law school? Was there a reason that you went to law school?
Jerome Crawford: Yeah, quick answer. I mentioned I’m an actor and a comedian. I’ve been with agencies and signed for 20 plus years almost now, and I want to be an entertainment lawyer. That was my dream. That was the initial pool I’ll say into it.
DeMario Thornton: Yeah. So when you’re in law school and that exact thing doesn’t happen, do you pivot? What do you like, okay, I’m going to just put this down the road, or what happens? Because I know a lot of students are like, if I don’t become the thing that I came in here to be, I have failed or I have sold out or you know.
Jerome Crawford: Much of life and what we experience isn’t just based on what we want. It’s based on the opportunities that are available within that. Now, a lot of folks believe you can create your own opportunities, and I believe you can as well. But you still have to create them oftentimes with a landscape. And sometimes when the opportunity — sometimes it’s not a no, it’s a not yet, or it’s a not here, it’s over there. That’s where it exists. I never thought I’d be in cannabis like those on my cannabis story episode. I wasn’t even that guy. I just didn’t think that was a path I never thought about. It wasn’t my history, but it became one of the biggest blessings from a career advancement standpoint and also the type of work I wanted to do that you mentioned social justice, giving back that altruistic side.
At that ABA meeting I mentioned I attended recently, there was a cousin of one of the attendees with me, was in law school nearby the area and he talked about what he wanted to do, (00:22:38) juvenile justice and being at work. And he said, “But you know what? My bleeding heart doesn’t necessarily match my bleeding wallet.” And I was like, “Hoh! That’s heavy.” Because sometimes, especially with looming debt that people might have on their heads, I know folks that have gone to public service fields that just say, I love and want to do that work, but can I even sustain a lifestyle? Can I even pay for these loans in a reasonable fashion and do that at the same time? So I say hold on to dreams. I believe in being a dreamer. Got to be a dreamer. You got to know what excites you that you latch onto. But ultimately, how might you have to adjust that through the tunnels and the funnels of life, the life to kind of push you certain directions. So it’s not feeling like you’re a failure because I mentioned entertainment law. Mine may be not appearing as less altruistic, but definitely pure to my core, who I am and to this day that I’m still able to do.
Ironically, man, I had never done more entertainment law in my life until I got in cannabis. I didn’t think I was going to do that. I mean, I was literally talking today with a potential partnership, you know what I mean, that we’re unpacking for potential licensing deal with a well-known person that you all would know if I gave him the name right now, right, in the entertainment and music industry about doing this type of brand like that. Those are the things I got exposed to little do I know coming in this space. So never feel like you’re a failure. Even if you have the altruistic public service, I want to do this, think about ways you can still give back, right? You might have one thing that pays the bills, keeps the lights on, but you do it through your pro bono, through your public service work. I’ve always been very committed to doing some level of give back work. So it’s what you do with your time that you still can be fulfilled. And maybe that’s the way you actually build up the network and the context and your knowledge base. Before you know it, two, three years into the job that was paying the money, now you can pivot. Now you can jump into that thing fully and more head first.
DeMario Thornton: Good deal. Okay, so we will take a break and we will be back with Jerome Crawford after these messages.
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DeMario Thornton: All right, we are back. And now I think it’s the moment that everyone has been waiting for it. Well, I mean, I just assume this is all right. So let’s talk about cannabis law. Okay. So you’re saying you’re the first in your family to go to law school. I am pretty sure that when you tell your family that you work in cannabis law, they’re like, okay, what’s the outset that I can have to not get caught? Or, I’m sure they’re asking you questions more in a criminal sense. No?
Jerome Crawford: That happens a lot. I mean no different than you probably can’t recall, and everybody can have gone home for Thanksgiving your first year in law school, and your family immediately thinks, you know all the laws. I had this question about you, and I’m like, hey, I’m taking torque now. I don’t even know that many laws. Like, I’m figuring out a few of them. Right, but you’re like, what about this law over here? They immediately found a thing.
DeMario Thornton: Yeah. Can you read this contract? I know what a contract is.
Jerome Crawford: Just figured out what consideration was last week. I’m trying to, you know, like give me a chance here. Think this is acceptance, but I don’t know, man. Like (00:26:50). Yes, to answer your question, man, definitely that was — because now you talk about substantive. I’m talking about specific area. Cannabis law, all the cannabis law. So what state doing is and again, even that with a body of law nationwide, that’s small, right, from talking about operationally and then my state is technically small. It’s still so much. And so I entertained a lot of those questions on it, and, yeah, I definitely learned a lot and could answer a lot of those more about, like, yeah, man, two and a half ounces.
DeMario Thornton: So you’re in cannabis law, so what does your job entail? I know you talked a little bit about a little bit of entertainment aspect, but what does your actual job entail?
Jerome Crawford: So when people ask me nowadays what type of law I practice, I tell them it’s problem solving law. That’s my substantive area. And that is because I’ve been a generalist for probably seven years now. And generalist just means that one day it could be an environmental issue, the next day it’s an IP, the next day it’s a contract, and it’s dispute. The next day, we’re talking about something involving the operating agreement and equity and investors and things of that nature. The next day, it’s an HR issue on employment. So literally, I’ve been fortunate because I had all these multifaceted experiences in substantive areas. That’s what I brought to cannabis.
On the flip side, I was a newbie to cannabis law. I didn’t know much about it. Our former CEO(ph) that actually recruited me in, who also has been and remains a close friend. He knew a lot about cannabis law because he’s one of the pioneers of it. But ironically, when he took the gig here, he had never met in house counsel. So we were like a perfect yin and yang for each other, because it was like, well, I know what running a legal department looks like. I know what the different substantive areas if you run a business that the business is likely to encounter. Contractually, if you have humans, human resource if you have employees, what that looks like, and just how to run nails from a lifecycle. So we were like we were able to really company each other, and I think we both kind of sharpened each other, like that iron you expect to do.
And now my day to day could be a variety of these areas, but you’re also liking it to the fact that you are a business partner. Like, I tell my students so, again, the class I teach and I’ll give you an example why I think this helps answer what anybody does in in house settings, why in house settings aren’t created equal. I tell my students they extern in different legal departments why they take class with me. So that’s like their practicum, the colloquium is with me, and I basically give them what’s the nuts and bolts of what it means to be an in house lawyer. Well, some of those days are substantive, man. We’re talking employment law, right? We’re talking about corporate governance, talking about negotiations. Other days, it’s the “soft skills” that they tell you in law school aren’t important. That’s the most important stuff. I believe and obviously being in house counsel, but I would venture to say, and I submit to you the same thing for being if you want to be a successful partner in the firm. Because who I’m looking at when I hire lawyers are the people that actually get what it means to be a business partner. They get what it means to understand not just this one very narrow issue I’m retaining you for, but impacts the entirety of my business and what keeps you, frankly, on the rolodex to get the call again, right, and build that relationship.
So my days may substantially vary based on whatever, as I mentioned, problem solving law, what problem, are we going to have an encounter that we got to have to deal with and unpack and literally, I got a call on the way home right before we jumped in our podcast, and it was about compliance related stuff. The one thing I’ll add about being a cannabis attorney, foreign operator. I’m at a company where we actually are licensed operator, where we have largescale grow operation, processing, facilities. We have multiple retail stores. So there’s a body of law and a regulatory scheme that we got to answer to. That is a lot of my time is navigating that regulatory scheme so complex rule.
DeMario Thornton: Making sure everybody’s —
Jerome Crawford: That’s right. Interpretations. Are we doing it right? I don’t know. The rule is kind of great. How do you know? They made the rule up last March. Like, literally, that’s what I mean. Like, the body of law is so new, you don’t have case law and answers that say, what was the court’s interpretation of that statute? The statute has been around three years. Nobody knows. So that’s the intricacy that we have to navigate.
DeMario Thornton: Okay, so I’m listening to this podcast, and I want to get into cannabis law. Not me Mom, but the people listening. Yeah, I’m asking for a friend, Mom, you don’t have to worry about it. I’m not interested in cannabis law. What are the skills that a person needs to do, or where do I even begin if I want to get into this line of legal practicum?
Jerome Crawford: Number one, learn how to be a good attorney. The best set of skills I picked up from being in big law wasn’t the fact that I got to touch these different substantive areas, and practice is X percent this and X percent that. I learned how to be a good attorney. I learned what it meant from I was fortunate to get cases that allowed me a lot of client interaction early on, on my litigation side. And then once I expanded outside of litigation, it was any substantive work. I started to work with the same in house counsel that I now am that hired those attorneys. And I knew what that took, and I got glimpse into their worlds. I knew how to do good, quality work, have attention to detail.
Because as much as people think that, oh, if I want to do this field, I mean, I got to do that type of work all the time, you mentioned cannabis. The cannabis associate in the firm is not necessarily have a body of law doing this specific cannabis thing all the time. A lot of folks that work on cannabis work say you’re at a firm, let’s call it external versus internal you’re outside council, you’re dealing with whatever issues that come up. A lot of that probably is what we call regulatory or compliance based, like the licensing process to get your licenses, to maintain them, to interpret these rules that are different in every state and sometimes every city. That’s your value add. So if you want to be a good attorney, you don’t have a problem solved to help them with that, I would suspect. And definitely with folks in law school now, there’s going to continue to be more and more, let’s call it internship type opportunities available. But I get it, they’re rare. The same way that associate positions can be rare, summer associate.
Reach out to companies that may be either in your area or not in your area. And one thing that we, lawyers, love is free work, right? And I’m not saying it has to be free, but at a baseline, find ways that you can meet with somebody. Another thing that lawyers love to do is talk. So you might do what I like to call the informational interview. Reach out to people that are at maybe a certain company, maybe they’re in house, maybe they’re a partner in a firm that does a lot of cannabis work. Hey, I’d love to hear more about your journey and explain that to me, that type of thing. And what you’ll realize, particularly for cannabis, because we’re isolating that narrow topic, the stories are going to vary. So crazy, more than you ever imagined because you’re dealing with a nascent industry that just started. So you’re not going to have a lot of the traditional stories. And I think a lot of folks are going to tell you what I’ve told you is about folks knowhow to become a good lawyer because that’d be the best skill set that you can offer.
Now if you are targeted on a certain state and area connections in there, yeah, get to know the body of law, get to know the regulatory scheme that might work for there and figure out just how can I serve this industry and add unique value.
DeMario Thornton: You heard it here, folks, that is how you get into the cannabis industry. Be a good attorney first. Thank you so much Jerome, for coming and giving us gims. Thank you so much for listening. And once again, this has been the Legal Talk Network with the Law Student Division Podcast.
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