Beyond the Bar: The Dynamics of Representing Business Owners in New York and Mexico City

In this episode, Gabriel travels across the country and speaks with Argilio Rodriguez, a law firm founder with a stellar record representing businesses in high-stakes employment defense, commercial litigation, and liquor licensing in New York City. The two Syracuse alumni discuss asset protection, cannabis licensing, partnership disputes, and Argilio’s new Mexico City office.

It never hurts for lawyers to supplement their legal education with additional knowledge outside the law. For Argilio, that meant taking classes at Syracuse Business School’s Whitman School of Management while he completed his legal degree at Syracuse Law.

Argilio talks about how he took finance classes and was deeply involved in the investment club, going with the group all the way to Omaha, Nebraska to meet Warren Buffet.

Most Common Types of Partnership Disputes

Argilio has a tenured career handling partnership disputes. He’s found out over the years that in many cases, partners aren’t arguing over numbers or money. When clients come looking for help with a partnership dispute, it’s often less about the agreements and contracts in place and more about a recent failure in the personal relationship between partners.

From the initial consult onward, you have to dive deeply into the personal relationship at the heart of a partnership. Ultimately, you’re not just repairing a business – you’re repairing a personal relationship. Entering into a business partnership with anyone requires a tremendous amount of trust. So when that partnership disintegrates so much that litigation is on the table, it often means trust between partners has fundamentally broken down.

Sometimes, that personal relationship is beyond repair. While that may sound like defeat, in some cases, only when clients come to this realization is a real settlement possible – because they can start to quantify their stake in the business with the potential for a buyout.

Liquor vs. Cannabis Licensing Process

In many places including New York City, the legal framework, licensing levels, and government agency structure behind cannabis licensing are modeled after the liquor licensing process.

However, the cannabis industry is much more complex because New York City is still ironing out issues like equity and taxes. Plus, there are currently bottlenecks on the licensing side, where some types of licenses don’t even have an application process yet.

Meanwhile, the most common legal issue in the cannabis industry involves legal problems from unlicensed activities or products. Because of the licensing bottlenecks, many businesses remain unlicensed, resulting in problems with a rising black market. Businesses also face federal roadblocks such as difficulty opening bank accounts. Very few banks currently allow for the operation of cannabis businesses because of federal laws.

A New Chapter in Mexico City

Argilio was actually in Mexico when the pandemic hit in 2020 and stayed there throughout the lockdown instead of returning to New York City. During his time there, he grew his network of local tech entrepreneurs who wanted to branch out into U.S. markets. Now, he splits his time between New York City and Mexico City, where he’s opened a new office.

Click here to listen to the full conversation between Gabriel and Argilio.