Hanson Bridgett Managing Partner: “We Have to Try and Get Organized”

January 19, 2017

The 2016 presidential election and subsequent election of Donald Trump has shaken American politics and the business world. Yet, with so many new variables and issues up in the air, Andrew Giacomini isn’t worried about his business at all.

Giacomini has been managing partner at Hanson Bridgett, one of the Bay Area’s largest law firms, for 10 years. He spoke to the Business Times about what legal areas will get a lot of activity in 2017 and what effect new federal leaders could have on Bay Area law.

How’s business? Business is good. We had a bit a of a down year in 2016, but that’s because 2015 was our record breaking year. We’re just lucky because our business is here in Northern California. That’s the best place in the world to be in business as a lawyer or accountant or any service industry because there’s just so much happening here.

What are some emerging practice areas you have your eye on? An emerging practice area that’s been a big deal for California for a long time is the cannabis industry. We’re involved in that in different ways. We think that’s going to be a long-term economic engine for the state. Our practice is in the agricultural side. It’s unclear how the federal government will deal with legalization in various states, so there will be risks, but long-term it will be significant for the state and for our region.

What other areas do you anticipate more activity for? We’re a significant player in the healthcare industry. Nobody knows what’s going to happen to the Affordable Care Act exactly, but everybody knows something will happen to it. We think there will be a lot of activity around that — senior care facilities, doctors groups, hospitals, everyone will have to adapt. Regardless of what it is, (health care) will be a very active area.

What other ways could the incoming presidential administration affect the legal industry in the Bay Area? Here on the West Coast, we have a lot of economic activity with Pacific Rim countries and China. We have a big China initiative... designed to help businesses connect with Chinese companies because businesses here are interested in selling in China and Chinese companies are interested in moving headquarters here. Depending on what happens at a federal level, if (President-Elect Donald) Trump were to continue on foreign policy to China, we could see some changes where China would shift their attentions more on regional and state government. That would be big for California as a trading partner.

How about real estate activity? There’s a lot of construction here in San Francisco, and lots and lots of building going on for developer clients... but there’s not enough infrastructure activity. That depends on the federal government. Unfortunately, I think we’re going to see more of the same. That’s not a good thing for what we need.

How did your firm start to enter the cannabis arena and what will it be like over the next year? We’ve been cautious about our participation. One of our partners has been very active in establishing the medical marijuana dispensaries in San Francisco. He has specialty in land use and entitlements. He’s has been very successful in getting those operating and entitled. So until now, most of our activity has been around that. We knew that legalization was possible, maybe even likely. We started to think about what that meant. From 2017 to 2018 will be an interim period before it becomes fully legal. Everybody knows there’s going to be a shift. In the long run, cannabis is going to emerge as a very important agricultural resource for the country. Right now there’s a lot of risk, but there’s a bunch of entrepreneurs willing to take that risk.

How closely are you and your firm watching the news about the Trump administration transition? I stopped watching daily news coverage in the middle of the last election because I couldn’t take it anymore. But I get phone calls about it. But we won’t know what’s going to happen ‘til it happens. Everybody knows there’s risk. Then they’re going to react to the risk.

Are you concerned at all? My biggest concerns don’t have to do with my business. For business, a lot of what’s going to happen is going to be good. Deregulation, tax reform, these are the kind of things people that run businesses are going to benefit from. Federal policy is likely to be quite good for business. What worries me is that I don’t think it’s going to be that good for people. What about all those people that are going to be impacted by whatever change is going to happen? Immigration, weed, repealing Obamacare, all these different things will impact people. Already before this election we had this serious economic divide happening in this country. These are the things on my mind. How can we get out in front of whatever immigration policy that’s coming? We have to try and get organized. Those people are scared and they don’t have resources. You need to do more about it. I need to do more about it.

Andrew Giacomini

Title: Managing Partner

Firm: Hanson Bridgett LLP

Education: B.A., San Francisco State University; J.D., UC Hastings

Residence: San Geronimo