WASHINGTON: Hilary Bricken does not smoke pot.
This is, perhaps, the toughest thing for marijuana entrepreneurs to grasp as they look to her for legal advice. Many have offered to share their wares, but she turns them down.
“I’m relatively conservative,” Bricken explains, laughing. “One of the funniest rumors about me in the industry is that I work for the feds.”
The 29-year-old associate attorney at law firm Harris & Moure is one of a handful of Seattle-area lawyers building a growing niche practice in marijuana law. Standing out among their clients with their suits and sensible shoes, these attorneys are pioneers cashing in on the rare promise of a brand new market. They’re maneuvering to redefine themselves for a different kind of customer, and their early success suggests an untapped opportunity for other lawyers.
“It was profitable almost instantly,” said Dan Harris, a partner at the firm who thought up the marijuana practice one day while running on the treadmill at the gym. “We were shocked at the demand.”
Since the state’s voters passed Initiative 502 last fall, legalizing recreational marijuana use, Seattle-based Harris & Moure has heard from a constant stream of wannabe marijuana entrepreneurs. A typical day brings five to 15 callers wanting Bricken’s help.
And the international firm expects the prospects won’t stop with Washington state. Harris & Moure is already looking at options for its other U.S. office in Chicago. While it doesn’t have plans to go to Colorado, another state where marijuana is legal, Bricken recently passed the bar in California and the firm could some day work with clients there.
Since January, Harris & Moure’s marijuana practice, advertised under the name Canna Law Group, has generated 5 percent of the firm’s revenue. It spends about $50,000 a year promoting the new practice — traveling to events, hosting symposiums, and advertising everywhere from The Stranger to The Inlander in Spokane.
Bricken also maintains a Canna Law blog with information for entrepreneurs, updates on the state’s rule-making process and news of upcoming events.
A million-dollar opportunity
With Illinois legalizing medical marijuana this month, Harris & Moure is expecting its Chicago office to start a Canna Law practice, which would bring the firm’s total marijuana revenues to a projected $1 million in 2014 (the firm wouldn’t disclose its revenues so far).