Michelle Mabugat is an experienced business attorney whose powerful combination of intellect and charm has quickly earned her a reputation for being one of the brightest legal minds in California's cannabis industry. Known as a caring yet tenacious advocate and strategic out-of-box thinker, Michelle has handled a wide variety of cannabis and hemp-related matters, ranging from closing large, complex and innovative commercial transactions to criminal defense at both the state and federal level. Backed by nearly 8 years of dedicated cannabis experience, Michelle regularly advises licensed operators, brands, ancillary businesses, landlords and investors on a variety of business and legal issues, including corporate formation and governance, licensing and compliance, commercial contracts, IP protection, capital raising, joint ventures, asset purchases, M&A and IP-related due diligence, best business practices and defense. With a trained and sensitive eye for keeping clients out of litigation and a penchant for deal-making, Michelle uses her unique depth of knowledge to find creative solutions to complex problems in this quickly-developing industry.
Michelle graduated with honors from UCLA in 2007, before obtaining her law degree from the USC Gould School of Law in 2011. Drawn to the world of criminal law from an early stage of her education, Michelle clerked with one of L.A's most premier trial attorneys, Philip Kent Cohen, while in law school. Notably, she also received an externship at the California Court of Appeal, an internship at one of L.A.'s first cannabis business law firms, and a clerkship at the Los Angeles Public Defender's Office. Her clerkship at the Public Defender's Office was highlighted by her successful overturning of a prison inmate's life sentence - a rare achievement accomplished by very few.
Immediately after law school, Michelle focused her practice and her passion exclusively in the area of criminal defense. Unlike many criminal attorneys who began their careers learning how to cop plea deals, Michelle set out to learn her trade by studying the lost art of trial litigation. She did so by starting with a foundation built on legal analysis and writing skills. As a young associate at a national criminal defense practice, Michelle had tremendous success in preparing, arguing, and winning, numerous suppression issues, motions to dismiss, trial motions and requests for post-conviction relief for both cannabis and non-cannabis defendants.
After practicing cannabis defense litigation for 5 years, Michelle began advising her high-growth business clients in a strategic capacity. Using her stellar research, writing, and advocacy skills, Michelle has mastered the areas of cannabis and hemp start-up law, regulatory compliance, and business contracts. As a result, she is frequently sought after by industry leaders and investors to advise on issues related to compliance, risk assessment and mitigation, corporate formation and structuring, complex commercial and IP transactions, capital raising and due diligence.
Today, Michelle regularly speaks at events and on panels about cannabis law, hemp law and best business practices. Along with Meital and Alexa, she co-authored “Legal Weed: A Comprehensive Guide to California Cannabis Law & Regulation,” one of the first authoritative books on California's regulatory landscape. With her early background in criminal defense, Michelle remains deeply rooted and committed to social justice and policy reform issues.
In 2018, Michelle was honored to be nominated as “Lawyer of the Year” for the California Cannabis Awards. Also, in 2018, Michelle was shortlisted to be on DataBird's list of “250 Cannabis Law Leaders in the United States.”
Before proudly joining the Manzuri Law team in 2016, Michelle worked closely with its Managing Partner, Meital Manzuri, for over five years.
- National Cannabis Bar Association (NCBA), Member
- National LGBT Bar Association, Member
- Los Angeles County Bar Association (LACBA), Member
- National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), Member
- California Attorneys for Criminal Justice (CACJ), Member
- Asian Pacific American Bar Association (APABA), Member
- Philippine American Bar Association (PABA), Member
- Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles (WLALA), Member
- Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), Member