Cannabis Real Estate Attorney? LL.M. Alumna Shares Journey into Specialty

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Jessica Feingold, a 2010 graduate of the Robert Traurig/Greenberg Traurig LL.M. in Real Property Development knew she wanted to apply to the RPD Program as soon as she received her J.D. in 2009.  Real estate runs in her family, and she had heard about the Program from Developer in Residence Howard Shapiro. “It was an easy choice,” she said, “as the RPD LL.M. Program is one of the best in the nation.  I knew then, as a recent law graduate, that my decision to get my LL.M. would have a tremendous, long-term impact on my career. 

Jessica Feingold, LL.M. '10

LL.M. in Real Property Development Helps Land First Big Law Job

“There is no question that my LL.M. degree helped me during the interview process for my first big law firm job,” Feingold said about interviewing for an associate position with the Miami office of Akerman LLP. The LL.M. made her “a lot more competitive with an advanced, specialized degree; especially during a time when our economy was in a recession and legal jobs were scarce.” She believes the RPD Program helped set her apart and become more knowledgeable, given that the LL.M.  “as an advanced degree, is hyper-focused in real estate transactions and development.”

Law Practice Focused on Nascent Cannabis Industry

While she started out as a “traditional” associate, Feingold has developed a great deal of expertise in the legal and real estate aspects of the relatively new cannabis industry. The genesis of her entry in the cannabis legal field was fairly straightforward, “There was a desperate need for real estate lawyers to help clients negotiate real estate transactions in Colorado, one of the first states to legalize marijuana,” she said. “The industry was exploding with clients actively acquiring real estate, whether for cultivation or distribution purposes. They needed counsel to help navigate the multitude of issues - zoning, use permits, licenses, etc., and to be protected from liability."

Responding to this need, and seeing the opportunity, Feingold is now Senior Legal Counsel for Stem Holdings, Inc. and its operational affiliates. Stem is a real estate company focused on acquiring and building state-of-the-art cannabis facilities and leasing them to its multi-state, fully-vertically integrated operational partners, focused on all aspects of the manufacturing, production and retail processes of marijuana, from seed to sale.  Prior to joining Stem, she was General Counsel for Medically Correct, LLC, d/b/a Incredibles, one of Colorado’s largest and most-awarded marijuana-infused product manufacturers.  During her time at Incredibles, she helped expand the brand into seven new markets nationally and one international market.  

How the RPD LL.M. Helps Feingold Daily in Her Work

Feingold uses much of what she learned in the RPD LL.M. in her daily work whether practicing in Florida or Colorado, two of the states where she is licensed. The underlying real estate concepts are the same regardless of the state. “There are important nuances, but the practice of real estate is fundamentally the same. The RPD LL.M gave me the tools I needed to be successful in the practice of real estate and is the reason why I do what I do today,” Feingold said.  

Thinking about her time at UM, it was hard for her to name a favorite professor, explaining how “all of them are subject matter experts; their expertise translated into their teachings, which I found to be inspiring and interesting.” It can be an intensive year, but Feingold advises students to dedicate as much time and energy as necessary to learn as much as possible. “What you learn is so helpful,” she said. Feingold recalls specific situations where a professor shared a practical experience that she later confronted in her own practice and was prepared to handle as a result of what she had learned in the classroom. 

While cannabis law was not a part of the RPD curriculum when Feingold was a student, the RPD Program gave her a strong, substantive real estate foundation that she could use to develop expertise in a new area.  “Even so many years later, I am still recognizing the benefit from all the knowledge I gained from the RPD Program.”

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