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A Female Cannabis Lawyer Specializing in M&As Would Like You To Heed This Advice

A Q&A with Julie Herzog of Fortis Law Partners.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

During Women's History Month, we celebrate those women in our lives who do so much that they make you pause, scratch your head, and wonder, "Seriously, how does she do it all?" If you haven't encountered at least one powerhouse female in your life who fits this criterion, allow me to introduce you to Julie Herzog.

Now head of the corporate/securities practice at Fortis Law Partners, Herzog began her career as an entrepreneur in junior high selling candy in the hallways, and she claims the same motivation driving her then still drives her now as a Partner for a law firm with $3.9 million in annual revenues. Herzog focuses on mergers and acquisitions and in the past six years, she's negotiated and closed 100+ transactions valued at over $1.5 billion on behalf of her clients. Her clients represent a variety of industry sectors, including energy, health care, technology, manufacturing, real estate, food and beverage, business consulting, and last but not least, cannabis.

Herzog has made a name for herself in a space that is severely underrepresented by women. As a female dealmaker, she's a part of a wave of trailblazing women working to change the imbalance.

Even as Julie was busy maneuvering big, complex business deals, she launched, grew and sold her own companies and in 2020, she co-founded a sister company to Fortis: Full Velocity Consulting where she counsels companies from inception through initial public offerings or successful sales. She's also a dedicated mother of triplets: one son and two daughters, one of whom has special needs. Julie loves going on adventures with the family and being active. In fact, Julie and her kids earned a black belt in taekwondo together when they were just 10-years-old.

Image Credit: Julie Herzog

That being said, if you've ever wondered what it would be like to meet a lawyer and serial entrepreneur with a black belt, look no further as we dive into an in-depth Q&A with superwoman Julie Herzog.

What brought you into the cannabis industry?

Chris Lamb, my Fortis Law Partners co-founder, kicked things off by representing ebbu, a cutting-edge cannabis company, and industry leader. From there, we expanded our practice organically and it has become quite successful. Cannabis is a really interesting and enjoyable practice area because the laws are so complex and change so frequently—it keeps us on our toes!

Today, our attorneys serve as outside general counsel for more than a dozen cannabis businesses and individuals at every level of the supply chain and we've developed a deep understanding of the ever-evolving cannabis regulatory requirements.

What was your most successful professional accomplishment before cannabis?

While working as a full-time practicing attorney, I started my own clothing business, grew it for three years and successfully sold it in 2007. I'm also proud of the many M&A transactions I've negotiated and closed over the course of my career, specifically one year where I closed 13 different transactions for the same client, with a total deal value in excess of $700 million dollars—a huge feat!

What obstacles and challenges have you experienced in operating within this industry?

Occasionally it can feel like an old boys' club or I'll notice some of the more common cultural gender barriers that men may not even be aware of. But, I also frequently get calls from male clients looking to proactively address a lack of gender diversity in their industry by hiring a female attorney. I'm always heartened by that level of awareness and glad to see clients making a proactive effort to work with women.

How have you overcome these obstacles?

Often, the only thing we can control in our life is our attitude. A garage attendant in an office building said that to me about 15 years ago as I was leaving a very emotional and difficult shareholders meeting of a company in turmoil. He asked me how my day was and I told him I had just left a very difficult meeting and wasn't feeling well due to a recent car accident. What he said opened my eyes to the fact that so many things happen in our lives that we have little to no control over; however, we have total control over how we think about and respond to those situations. As I encounter obstacles, I think back to this day and use it to carry me through.

As a woman in cannabis, do you feel that you are at an advantage or a disadvantage (or both) and why? What about as a woman in M&A?
For cannabis, I'd say a little bit of both. For example, I've spoken on many panels where I was the only woman. That can help you stand out, while at the same time make you feel a little excluded.

And when it comes to M&A, the general culture of dealmaking has long been dominated by men. This could be due to a variety of factors, such as uneven support for professionals raising children or an overarching gender bias of executives already in the space. Women are making their way, slowly but surely.

What is an accomplishment you have achieved in this industry that you are most proud of?

In cannabis specifically, I'm proud to have personally assisted CBD companies in structuring, negotiating, and closing multi-million debt, equity, and SAFE financings. I've also advised CBD businesses on a number of significant transactions, including supply arrangements, CBD processing contracts, and distributor agreements.

What was your greatest lesson learned?

Nothing is black and white. Everything is a mixture of multiple colors on the spectrum. I view part of my role as being able to see as many aspects of the key points in any deal negotiation as possible to enable me to structure and negotiate win/win deals for all parties.

Another lesson I've learned is that all meaning is assigned. Facts are just facts. Every story is built on our unique perspective. I have had clients who get in disputes with business partners and come in with long stories about what happened, ascribing lots of meaning and significance to who did what and why. I boil it down to the pure facts and offer multiple perspectives, which then can open your mind up to lots of possibilities and oftentimes a win/win situation for everyone.

What trait do you rely on most when making business decisions and why is this useful for you?

Values alignment—ensuring that the decision is aligned with my integrity, values, and goals—and that I'm doing the right, ethical thing. It's also important to me to help my clients make business decisions that are in line with their values and goals.