Releases and Announcements

Duane Morris Partners Named New York Trailblazers

May 20, 2019

photo of David Feldman

David Feldman

photo of Thomas Kowalski

Thomas Kowalski

photo of Cindy Yang

Cindy Yang

Duane Morris partners David N. Feldman, Thomas J. Kowalski and Cindy Yang have been named to the New York Law Journal’s inaugural list of New York Trailblazers.

The list honors professionals “who have made significant marks on the practice, policy and technological advancement of their practice” and highlights “those who are sincerely innovators and thought leaders.”

New York Law Journal writes:

David Feldman, Partner and Team Lead of the Cannabis Industry Group | Duane Morris LLP

PIONEER SPIRIT Corporate and securities lawyer David Feldman didn't go looking for cannabis producers to represent. They came looking for him. In the early 2010s, as the first states relaxed laws on medical and recreational marijuana use, cannabis companies asked Feldman to help them raise operating capital through a method he pioneered called reverse merger. Rather than selling shares through an Initial public offering, companies could merge with existing public firms that could take the same stock to market. “You can go public without regulatory review.” This was crucial, because the industry still was viewed as something of a criminal enterprise. His own firm at the time was reluctant to engage, until he had turned away $1 million in business. “Then they said, ‘OK, let's try one.’”

TRAILS BLAZED Feldman moved to Duane Morris, the first in the Am Law 100 to enter the emerging cannabis-law space. Investment banks balked, though. So Feldman, the author of four books on finance and entrepreneurship, tried other methods, such as the private placement market. Eventually, the investment banks relented, and he represented the first cannabis company to make a public offering on a national exchange.

FUTURE EXPLORATIONS As more states liberalize their marijuana laws, larger players are sure to enter the industry: Big Tobacco, Big Alcohol, Big Pharma. This will expand the need for lawyers. Cannabis may prove to be a recession-proof practice—especially if Congress decriminalizes marijuana use. “It’s just a matter of time,” with polls showing a majority of Americans favoring legalizing marijuana, especially for medical purposes. Changes in federal law will mean more oversight for what started out as a rogue industry. “They will replace the federal prohibition with a federal regulatory scheme with which the companies will have to comply.” When that happens, they will know where to find him.

Thomas J. Kowalski | Partner, Duane Morris LLP

PIONEER SPIRIT The next time you schedule a flu shot, hide a flea pill in your pet's kibble or simply bite into a salad chances are good that Thomas Kowalski had something to do with its patent. The Duane Morris partner studied chemistry at New York University. By his junior year he was analyzing readings from a microwave telescope for the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and synthesizing compounds. Then, he would transport the chemicals packed in dry ice by subway to Columbia University, “literally a bomb sitting on my lap.” After a couple of trips to the emergency room, Kowalski realized he was not cut out for a life in medicine or in research. A fortuitous guest lecturer convinced him to consider patent law instead.

TRAILS BLAZED He began practice in 1986, the infancy or biotech, working on the patent that became the building block of a flu vaccine. From there, a career spanning more than 900 patents was born. Because of his understanding of biochemistry, genetics, immunology, virology and others sciences behind the patents, Kowalski's practice “sort of snowballed.” He has a worked with numerous life science companies on patents impacting people, animals and plants. Among them: the second largest producer of vegetable seeds in world as well as numerous vaccines combatting malaria, pox, rabies and even fleas and ticks.

FUTURE EXPLORATIONS Genome engineering technology is a “beautiful tool that can add years and quality to life. I am hopeful that we will be able to bring technologies further to the table in terms of utilities that help humans, animals, that are more affordable and diseases that were considered death sentences will be more manageable or have a true treatment.”

Cindy Yang, Partner and Team Lead of the FinTech Industry Group, Duane Morris LLP

PIONEER SPIRIT Cindy Yang was representing Asian companies developing new payment methods in 2016 when one word began dominating conversations. “You kept hearing, ‘bitcoin, bitcoin, bitcoin.’” Yang, co-chair of the Fintech Industry Group at Duane Morris, embraced the cryptocurrencies, block chain technologies and other Innovations that have the potential to change every financial market and monetary system around the world. She is helping guide the regulatory framework for an industry in which change outpaces the development of new rules. “This technology is transformative, not only on the financial institutions but in terms of the definition of money itself. I started to realize the regulations and the laws didn't comport with what the technology is doing and where it needs to go.”

TRAILS BLAZED Before she entered the legal profession, Yang was a researcher at a brain tumor institute in California. As a lawyer, she handled patent, trademark and copyright litigation; matters before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office; sports and entertainment cases; and intellectual property issues—just to name a few. Working in the financial technology space, Yang advocates for the new technologies while also working with regulators, helping them grasp the significance of innovations so they do not adopt overly restrictive rules. “It’s basically trying to push the envelope of what regulators perceive ... and getting them on board and further incorporating the technologies into the mainstream.”

FUTURE EXPLORATIONS Regulators, particularly at the Securities and Exchange Commission, are open to industry perspectives as they develop guidelines on digital assets. The agency is expected to release those guidelines later this year. “There is a more collaborative air for the Industry to work with the regulators to find a sound and safe way to grow the fintech industry but at the same time respecting the guard rails the SEC feels are necessary to protect their markets and consumers or investors.” Regardless, time will always be of the essence. “A day makes a dramatic difference in what is new and innovative.”

About Duane Morris LLP

Duane Morris LLP, a law firm with more than 800 attorneys in offices across the United States and internationally, is asked by a broad array of clients to provide innovative solutions to today’s legal and business challenges. The New York office provides a diverse range of services to domestic and international clients ranging from large multinational corporations to closely held entrepreneurial businesses. The firm maintains one of its largest offices in New York to better serve its clients operating within the many global industries (including financial services and insurance) that conduct business in the world’s financial center.

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