Pickett, Michelle Lee

Michelle Pickett is an experienced transactional attorney and a trusted advisor to corporations, partnerships and nonprofits. Michelle counsels her clients on matters related to mergers and acquisitions, private equity, and corporate, business and tax law.    

Ranging from individual investors to start-up and established companies, Michelle’s clients operate in various industries, including water, beverage, agriculture, technology, gaming and entertainment. She combines her business, accounting and legal acumen to structure and implement strategies that maximize her clients’ business objectives, and provides guidance as her clients address operational and governance matters.

In the water sector, Michelle adds her corporate knowledge and transactional experience to the firm’s representation of mutual water companies, public-private partnerships and developers as they navigate the complex and ever-changing landscape of water use and management.

Michelle also works closely with for-profit gaming companies and tribal entities on transactional matters. Her experience focuses on negotiating consulting, pre-development, development and management agreements, and ongoing operational and contractual matters.

Actively engaged in providing legal services to the philanthropic sector, Michelle counsels a wide spectrum of nonprofits including large international organizations, as well as high net worth individuals and celebrities in structuring, forming and operating public charities and private foundations. She leverages her business experience to provide these organizations with best practices for continued governance and operational efficiency.

Practices & Industries
Mergers & Acquisitions

Michelle has an active mergers and acquisitions practice representing wide-ranging industries in debt and equity financings, and routinely assists her partners with California-specific matters. Recent transactions include the sale of a media-based company to an international entertainment conglomerate, the sale of various professional service companies with a complex earn-out structure, an acquisition of resort assets, and structuring various financing rounds for a technology company.

Public Charities/Private Foundations

With her knowledge of both federal and California rules and regulations governing nonprofit and tax-exempt entities, Michelle actively counsels public charities, professional fundraisers, private foundations and other exempt or nonprofit organizations. She serves as general counsel to numerous public charities, including an internationally-renowned nonprofit dedicated to improving the health of people in need, and a public charity that strives to bring food education to schools, youth groups, businesses and communities. Michelle also serves as a legal advisor to various private foundations of entertainment personalities, assisting with governance, compliance and operational issues as they arise.  


Water Transactions

Like many attorneys in Brownstein’s California offices, Michelle has significant legal experience as it relates to water use, with a specialty in corporate and contract law and the formation and operation of mutual water companies. She has negotiated agreements for the joint use of water resources by two public agencies, advised a mutual water company in transferring its water rights, and structured the tax-free transfer of water-related facilities and assets from a private mutual water company to a public agency/improvement district, among other transactions.

Representative Matters
  • Counsel to Cadiz, Inc. in establishing a joint venture with Glass House Farms. The joint venture, doing business as SoCal Hemp Co, has the potential to be the largest vertically integrated, commercial hemp operation in the state of California. SoCal Hemp cultivates organic, sun-grown hemp and hemp-derived products, including CBD, on up to 9,600 acres at the Cadiz Ranch in San Bernardino County.

News & Events

Director, The Foundation for Santa Barbara City College, 2018–present

Board of Directors, The Children’s Project, 2012–2014

Board of Directors, Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation, 2006–2014

Former Chair of the Board, Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation, 2009–2012

Chair Emeritus Board, Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation, 2012–present

Board of Trustees, Santa Barbara Foundation, 2008–2016

Katherine Harvey Fellow, Santa Barbara Foundation, 2004–2005

Publications & Presentations
  • J.D., 1994, The George Washington University Law School
  • B.A., 1991, cum laude, George Washington University, with academic honors
  • California, 1998
  • U.S. Tax Court
  • Who's Who in Professional Services, Pacific Coast Business Times, 2015
  • Santa Barbara Women Making Waves, Santa Barbara Life & Style Magazine, July 2015
  • Who’s Who in Professional Services, Pacific Coast Business Times, 2014
  • Top 50 Women in Business, Editor's Choice, Pacific Coast Business Times, 2010

American Bar Association

Santa Barbara County Bar Association

Santa Barbara Women Lawyers