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Gravel & Shea Attorneys Present on Probate and Food Law at VBA Mid-Year Meeting

Three Gravel & Shea attorneys gave presentations last week at the Vermont Bar Association Mid-Year Meeting in Lake Morey.

Shareholder Navah Spero and Associate Livia DeMarchis presented Probate 101. The session, intended to provide a broad overview of the Vermont probate court, was geared toward attorneys new to practicing in Vermont and attorneys who are starting or interested in starting their own probate practice.

“The participants were very engaged and asked good questions,” said Spero. “It’s a smart practice area to be getting into right now as the Baby Boomer generation ages, bringing more and more cases before the probate court.”

Spero is a member of Gravel & Shea’s litigation practice group and specializes in probate litigation. DeMarchis’s practice focuses on tax and estate planning as well as trust and probate administration.

Special Counsel Cassandra LaRae-Perez presented a detailed overview of food and beverage law at the state and federal levels. She also provided the attending attorneys with information on current litigation trends and recent developments in both case law and regulatory regimes, like class actions suits based on similar claims across the country and the changing nature of regulations related to CBD products, particularly dietary supplements.

“It’s a dynamic area of the law consistently challenged by an active plaintiffs’ bar and recent sweeping changes in regulation,” said LaRae-Perez. “Even companies doing their best to do the right thing can find themselves at the business end of a daunting lawsuit, and it’s hard for new companies to navigate all the regulations and myriad agencies involved. But that’s also what makes it interesting.”

LaRae-Perez is the only Vermont attorney with a dedicated food and beverage practice.


Gravel & Shea PC April 2, 2019

Attorney Keith Roberts Joins Gravel & Shea Corporate Team

Gravel & Shea is happy to welcome Keith Roberts to the firm. As Special Counsel on the corporate team, Keith’s practice will focus on a wide range of corporate transactional and governance issues, including purchase and sale transactions, financing on both the borrower and lender sides, and representation of boards.

“Joining the team at Gravel & Shea was an opportunity that I couldn’t ignore,” says Keith. “The firm offers me the perfect opportunity to do more of the types of legal work that I really enjoy, and I’m looking forward to growing the firm’s representation of non-profits and participating in public finance transactions.”

Prior to joining Gravel & Shea, Keith was a shareholder at another prominent Vermont law firm for nearly 15 years. He began his law career clerking for the Honorable Nathaniel M. Gorton, United States District Judge, District of Massachusetts and then worked at Ropes & Gray in Boston before returning to Vermont in 2004.

“We are pleased to welcome Keith Roberts,” said Gravel & Shea Shareholder William Mason. “Keith brings significant experience working with municipalities and businesses on their governance, transactions and day-to-day legal affairs.”



Gravel & Shea PC March 11, 2019

ABA Journal Features Vermont Blockchain Laws and Gravel & Shea Special Counsel

In a recent article, the ABA Journal highlighted actions states like Wyoming and Vermont are taking to improve the legal landscape for blockchain companies.

While Wyoming has opted for a deregulation model, Gravel & Shea attorneys have been active in Vermont’s efforts to create a useful legal structure based on the needs of blockchain companies.

Oliver Goodenough, Gravel & Shea Special Counsel and a law professor at Vermont Law School, told the ABA Journal that the purpose of recently passed blockchain legislation was to “provide the ability to opt into a structure rather than wait for the courts to impose something on top of you.”

To that end, the 2018 law created blockchain-based limited liability companies (BBLLCs) and personal information protection companies (PIPCs).

To read the full article, click here.

Gravel & Shea PC March 6, 2019

Gravel & Shea Sponsors Vermont Women’s Fund Breakfast of Champions: Men Moving Forward

On February 5, 2019, Gravel & Shea proudly continued its decade-long support of the Vermont Women’s Fund by sponsoring the “Breakfast of Champions: Men Moving Vermont Forward,” the Vermont Women’s Fund’s most recent event at the sold-out UVM Davis Center.  Ten attorneys from Gravel & Shea attended the Breakfast of Champions, which focused on gender, respectful workplace culture, and how we raise the next generation of men.  Leading the discussion was Ted Bunch, co-founder of A CALL TO MEN, an organization that is devoted to creating “a world where all men and boys are loving and respectful and all women and girls are valued and safe.”

The Vermont Women’s Fund’s mission is to support “the advancement, self-sufficiency, and economic and social equality of Vermont women and girls.”  For more than ten years, Gravel & Shea has promoted this important mission by supporting the Vermont Women’s Fund in a number of its endeavors.  This year, we are proud to be one of the organization’s two 25th Anniversary Sponsors, and we look forward to furthering Vermont Women’s Fund’s vital work well into future.

Gravel & Shea PC February 6, 2019

Gravel & Shea Partner Working to Help Pass Equal Rights Amendment


Gravel & Shea Partner Michelle Farkas joined Vermont Senator Ginny Lyons and other panelists at a conference held last weekend to provide information about an upcoming action to amend the Vermont Constitution.

The Champlain Valley League of Women Voters presented the event: Building Equality – Discussing an Inclusive Equal Rights Amendment for Vermont.  The panel also included Cary Brown, Executive Director of the Vermont Commission on Women, and Ella Spottswood, Deputy Attorney General in the Vermont Attorney General’s Office.

Farkas served on the initial committee that developed an Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) resolution in 2018 (S.R. 11), which was passed by the Vermont Senate that same year. The resolution called for a constitutional amendment to be offered in 2019 that would provide that “equal protection under the law shall not be denied or abridged because of race, sex, age, religion, creed, color, familial status, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or national origin.”

Under the Vermont Constitution, amendments can only be introduced every four years. If they’re passed by both chambers in the year they’re offered, they must go up for vote and pass again in the next legislative session, and then be approved by a public referendum. 2019 is the appropriate year for introduction of a new amendment, and the earliest it could become effective is 2022.

Passage of a similar amendment was attempted in the 1980s but failed the public referendum. That amendment, says Farkas, was less inclusive. “That was just addressing gender. This is addressing many protected classes.”

Speaking to a reporter after the event, Farkas explained why an amendment is important. “Once it’s there, it’s also very hard to unravel. [I]t…ensures and guarantees these equal protections going forward.”

Gravel & Shea PC January 30, 2019

Gravel & Shea Completes Vermont’s First 100% Cryptocurrency Real Estate Transaction on the Blockchain


A 12-foot strip of land in the City of Burlington provided the opportunity to close an innovative real estate transaction this month. Dozens of homes in Burlington’s South End, including one along Lyman Avenue, back up to a 12-foot strip of land that was historically owned by a public utility but is no longer used in that capacity. The strip of land is now owned by an individual who resides in North Carolina.

Several of the homeowners had done boundary adjustments to purchase the strip of land behind their homes, but the cost of the process can be prohibitive to some landowners. With support from Propy and using their online platform, one of the Lyman Avenue homeowners worked with Michelle Farkas, real estate partner at Gravel & Shea, to purchase the strip of land directly behind their home.

Farkas reached out to the existing owner of the strip of land, who agreed to put the strip up for sale on the Propy platform. Both the seller and the purchaser created Coinbase accounts. The purchaser (the Lyman Avenue homeowner) then accepted the offer on the platform.

Using the blockchain platform, they went through the purchase and sale process, transferring the cryptocurrency with Gravel & Shea acting as escrow agents to hold the funds, performing a title search and due diligence, and completing the transaction with the creation of the deed. The deal closed and was solidified with a deed that was recorded in the City of Burlington Land Records, and includes a hash and QR code recorded on the blockchain.

This transaction represents the first transaction in Vermont completed from offer through closing on the blockchain and demonstrates the potential ease of property transactions in the future (especially for remote buyers and sellers).

Gravel & Shea’s Blockchain Technology group specializes in analyzing and resolving legal issues related to blockchain technology.

Gravel & Shea PC January 28, 2019

Gravel & Shea Attorney Presents on Environmental Liability for Tenants

Last month, Gravel & Shea associate Jeff Polubinski presented a session on environmental due diligence at the White & Burke Development Conference. Attended by lenders, developers, environmental consultants, and attorneys, the session provided an overview of environmental protections for owners and operators — with a specific emphasis on recent legislation that impacts tenants.

Since 1986, a variety of legislative actions have been taken to encourage property developers to purchase and rehabilitate potentially contaminated properties. These laws have provided safe harbors for purchasers who take certain actions, such as completing a Phase I Environmental Assessment.

But the legal landscape for tenant operators has been murky, especially since strict liability prevails at both the state and federal level — meaning operators can be held liable for contamination regardless of their culpability.

Tenants often enter into decades-long leases and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars outfitting a space to meet their needs, says Polubinski. “Many think the liability protections under state and federal law just pertain to owners, but there are protections available to tenants. Just like owners, tenants can take a number of steps to mitigate the risks. But they have to know about them in order to take them.”

Polubinski highlighted recent Vermont legislation known as the BUILD Act, which provides clarity about the steps tenants can take to qualify for environmental protections. Tenants who want to take advantage of the law must sure certain actions have been taken at the time of the contract signing.

Polubinski acknowledges that fully understanding the hazardous waste provisions in a contract can be tedious and boring for a potential tenant, but he says, “tenants have to be very careful about the lease they’re signing and potential liability exposure.”

Polubinski joined Gravel & Shea in 2013 after almost a decade working as a geologist at an environmental consulting firm and co-authoring over 100 Phase I Environmental Site Assessments.



Gravel & Shea PC December 21, 2018

New Vermont Association to Support Blockchain Technology Initiatives

Burlington, Vermont (December 10, 2018): On the heels of the Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan’s announcement of the interagency working group to study the opportunities and challenges presented by blockchain technology in Vermont, the leaders of the newly-formed Vermont Distributed Ledger Governance Association (DLGA) are excited to announce the founding of the DLGA. The DLGA will serve as a landing area for companies and other stakeholders looking to drive commercialization of their blockchain applications while working with the State agencies to pilot those applications and develop best practices for the industry.

The four agencies comprising the State working group will be the Attorney General’s Office; the Department of Financial Regulation (DFR); the Secretary of State; and the Department of Economic Development, Agency of Commerce and Community Development (ACCD). The Vermont DLGA looks forward to working closely with this State working group.

DLGA Executive Director Jeremy Friesen remarked, “Blockchain [DLT] technology is developing at a rapid pace. Over the past several years, Vermont has taken real steps to reinforce its position as a leading state to encourage responsible technology innovation that has the potential to enhance consumer protection while spurring economic development, including jobs, across Vermont and beyond.”

DLGA Board Chair and South Burlington resident John Burton adds “The global DLT industry welcomes the opportunity to pilot and demonstrate the potential benefits of blockchain-enabled technology in Vermont and to collaborate with State agencies where appropriate to help prove the technology. We founded DLGA to help this effort succeed.”

Friesen concludes “We look forward to participating in the planned Interagency Working Group meeting in January, and welcome additional companies, academic institutions and other stakeholders in and outside Vermont to join this very important effort.”

Members of the DLGA will hold a press conference at 1:00 pm on Tuesday, December 11, 2018 at One Lawson Lane, Suite 340 in Burlington, VT.

For more information, contact:

Jeremy Friesen – Executive Director  802-735-2271  (

John Burton – Board Chair  802-448-3530  (

David Thelander – Board Member  415-608-7418  (


VT Blockchain Law blog

Gravel & Shea’s Blockchain Technology group specializes in analyzing and resolving legal issues related to blockchain technology.

Gravel & Shea PC December 11, 2018

Gravel & Shea Ranked Tier 1 by Best Lawyers in America© for 2019

The prestigious legal ranking organization and publication recognized Gravel & Shea as a Tier 1 firm in Burlington for thirteen practice areas in 2019, including:

  • Appellate Practice
  • Commercial Litigation
  • Corporate Law
  • Criminal Defense: General Practice
  • Criminal Defense: White-Collar
  • First Amendment Law
  • Litigation – Labor & Employment
  • Litigation – Real Estate
  • Medical Malpractice Law – Plaintiffs
  • Mergers & Acquisitions Law
  • Personal Injury Litigation – Plaintiffs
  • Real Estate Law
  • Securities/Capital Markets Law

Practice area tiers are based on the number and quality of attorneys within the firm ranked in each practice area.

Best Lawyers® uses a peer review system to create its annual guide, attempting to capture the professional reputation and abilities of listed attorneys and firms as viewed by leading colleagues in the same geographical and legal practice area.

Ten Gravel & Shea attorneys were also recognized individually in the 2019 edition of The Best Lawyers in America©.

Gravel & Shea PC November 1, 2018

Gravel & Shea Participates in Blockchain Panel

Gravel & Shea Partner Ethan McLaughlin participated in a recent panel held by the Vermont Technology Council as part of Vermont Innovation Week 2018. The lunch and learn panel discussion focused on blockchain technology and opportunities in Vermont. Ethan was joined on the panel by Chris Day, business advisor to RapidQube; Michael Ly, founder and CEO of Reconciled; and Josh Decatur, co-founder and CEO of Gravel & Shea client Trace LLC.

As a member of the Gravel & Shea Blockchain Technology Practice Group, Ethan has expertise in legal issues faced by blockchain companies and has been active in legislative efforts in Vermont to enhance opportunities for blockchain companies.

While many in the assembled crowd were well-versed in blockchain, the technology and its implications were new to some. “Blockchain,” Ethan told the audience, “is the digital equivalent of being able to write something in stone. It’s unalterable and secure.”

Ethan also provided an overview of blockchain law and Vermont legislative activities, like the recent passage of S.269, that have created advantages for blockchain companies doing business in the state. “Vermont is leading the country in creating laws recognizing and enabling blockchain technology companies,” Ethan said, mentioning Vermont’s evidentiary rule that allows information recorded in blockchain to be self-authenticating as well as the creation of blockchain-based limited liability companies (BBLLCs) and personal information protection companies (PIPCs). He also shared that Vermont’s receptiveness to the technology is encouraging more blockchain companies to do business in the state.

Gravel & Shea’s Blockchain Technology group specializes in analyzing and resolving legal issues related to blockchain technology.

Gravel & Shea PC October 30, 2018