Stuart Knight ('16) is an associate in the cannabis law practice group at Denver’s Greenspoon Marder LLP, advising clients on regulatory compliance and updating Colorado’s marijuana codes. When Knight came to Colorado Law, Amendment 64 had recently passed, allowing for adult-use marijuana sales. This legislation not only broadened legal opportunities for Colorado, but also sparked a curiosity in Knight that would drive him to discover and pursue his life's passion.
Where are you from and why did you decide to attend law school?
I was born and raised in South Florida and attended undergrad and business school at the University of Central Florida. However, I decided I wanted to attend law school the summer before I started business school, when I worked as a legal assistant at a personal injury firm with my father to earn some money for school. Although my father was, and still is, an incredible attorney, it wasn’t until I had the opportunity to work in a law office that I realized this is what I really wanted to do.
Tell us a little about your work. What do you do, and what might a "typical" work day look like?
I work in the Denver office of the law firm of Greenspoon Marder, and my practice primarily focuses on cannabis litigation and regulatory compliance. It is difficult to describe a typical day as each day feels like I do something new. This is especially true when it comes to advising clients on regulatory compliance, as the Colorado Department of Revenue Marijuana Enforcement Division, the primary regulatory body for the Colorado cannabis industry, regularly updates and even overhauls Colorado’s marijuana code(s). Additionally, each local jurisdiction will have unique requirements that vary greatly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. I also routinely do litigation research and drafting with the added twist of having limited case law to draw from.
How did you find your job?
How I found my current job is a bit of a longer story. When I started at Colorado Law, Amendment 64 had just passed and Colorado was getting ready to allow for adult-use marijuana sales. I was curious as to how this whole process would work and play out, so I began reaching out to attorneys and other professionals in the Boulder/Denver area who were representing medical marijuana businesses. In a great stroke of luck, I was able to connect with Rachel Gillette, who, at the time, was operating as a solo practitioner with a focus on cannabis regulatory compliance and tax. I quickly realized Ms. Gillette was doing the kind of work I wanted to do. At the time, she was looking for a part-time legal assistant, and I immediately applied. Unfortunately, due to my class schedule, Ms. Gillette was unable to hire me but we kept in contact. The following semester, when I saw a new opening for a legal assistant, I again applied and this time there was no conflict with my course schedule. I continued working for Ms. Gillette until the end of the spring semester of my 2L year, when I was accepted to Colorado Law's Tech Lawyer Accelerator program, and spent the first semester of my 3L year working for Cisco Systems in San Jose, California. When I completed that program, I knew I wanted to return to cannabis law, and I applied for and was accepted into the Denver City Attorney’s Office fellowship program as part of its marijuana prosecution and code enforcement division. This program allowed me to get valuable litigation and regulatory experience. During this time, Ms. Gillette had joined Greenspoon Marder to help build its cannabis practice, and when an opportunity arose for me to join the firm and work with Ms. Gillette again, I jumped at the opportunity. I have been with Greenspoon Marder ever since.
How did Colorado Law help you in your job search?
Colorado Law was extremely helpful in my job search. First, it was Colorado Law who partnered with the Denver City Attorney’s office to offer the fellowship program.
What skills do you utilize on a daily basis and how did your experiences or courses at Colorado Law help you develop these skills?
Colorado Law helped me develop a number of skills that I use on a regular basis. Two of the most important skills to develop are writing and relationship management. The ability to write well is essential and, whether it is for a legal brief, contract, or email/mail, the ability to convey your message clearly and succinctly will always be critical. I was lucky enough to have fantastic legal writing and contract drafting professors at Colorado Law and I would encourage any law student to take as many writing classes as they can.
Please talk a little about "people skills" and relationship building. How have your professional acquaintances (and friends) made a difference in your career?
The ability to manage relationships is just as important and much of my job involves the management of relationships, whether it be directly with a client, with opposing counsel, court clerks, or with a regulatory agency. The importance of developing these people skills cannot be overstated. One of the best ways I found to develop these skills was to be active and engaged with student organizations. Because I was extremely active with the Cannabis Law League, I got a lot of practice working with people directly and quickly learned the importance of building and maintaining relationships. In fact, it was because of these personal and professional relationships that I was able to secure my current position at Greenspoon. Furthermore, even beyond the professional relationships, the personal relationships I developed with my former classmates continue to play an important role in my professional life. The ability to pick up the phone and call friends I made in law school when I run into a problem and need perspective is a huge advantage.
What advice would you give to current students with respect to finding a job?
The best advice I can give to any law student looking ahead toward post-graduate employment is exploring and networking. Being a law student presents a unique opportunity to connect with attorneys in the fields you are interested in but in a much lower pressure environment than a typical interview. I strongly encourage students to reach out to attorneys or other professionals practicing in their field of interest to meet for coffee and discuss hot topics in fields of law that interest you. These connections can pay off big in the future and cost very little (and are generally quite enjoyable). Also, be sure to use Colorado Law’s Career Development Office and sign up for as many interview opportunities as you can (it never hurts to practice). It only takes one good connection or interview to make a huge difference in your career.
If you were to recommend Colorado Law to a potential law student, what would you say?
I would say Colorado Law is a great place to discover and pursue your passions. Everyone from the students to the faculty to the alumni will support you in your professional development in a way you won't really find anywhere else. Law school is hard, there’s no real getting around that fact, but at CU, you can actually enjoy it and have opportunities to find out what kind of attorney you want to be. Not to mention you will be at one of the most beautiful campuses.
Why did you choose Colorado Law?
I knew Colorado Law was going to be my first choice after my first visit to the school. I fell in love with the campus and the atmosphere and I knew Colorado was where I wanted to be. It just felt right.
See more in our Promising Starts series, which highlights recent Colorado Law alumni who have found satisfying, meaningful employment in their first five years after graduation.