Lucky chance


 Attorney entered niche of gaming law in state

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News 

Lady Luck played a role in Andrea Hansen’s career as a gaming lawyer. 

A litigation attorney with Honigman in Lansing, she is one of only a few women in this field. Practicing in the area of election law, in 1996 Hansen was involved with the ballot initiative to legalize casino gaming in Michigan. 

At that time there were no gaming lawyers in Michigan as it was a brand new industry for the Great Lakes State. 

“I learned gaming law as it was enacted in Michigan, along with several other people who were involved in the very beginning, out of necessity for our clients,” she explained. “There are very few women in the gaming industry, including lawyers, but I’ve never minded being in the minority in that regard and in fact it has really been a non-issue from my perspective.”

A member of the Steering Committee for Global Gaming Women, a division of the American Gaming Association, and named among Michigan Super Lawyers 2013 and 2014, and one of 30 “Women in the Law” this year, Hansen prefers regulatory practice over traditional litigation because it tends to be somewhat more predictable and less adversarial. 

“I prefer to find solutions for my clients within the regulatory framework than be constantly at odds with whoever is on the other side of a case,” she said. “It’s a better fit for my personality and skill set and, in my view, less stressful.”

Because casinos are highly regulated, there are few actual cases or litigation, particularly when an attorney represents the casinos, she notes. 

She enjoys helping a client through the licensure process and to understand and comply with the myriad of complex regulations that apply to those involved with this industry. 

“I always try to work with the regulators to find solutions that balance their interests with those of my clients,” Hansen said. “It’s always more enjoyable when everyone feels good about an outcome, given the nature of this business and the ongoing relationship between those who are regulated with those who are being regulated.”

Hansen also handles election and campaign finance law, an area she got involved in very early in her career with her mentor, John Pirich, one of Michigan’s top election lawyers. 

“I was fascinated by this area from the outset, in particular ballot issues,” she said.

According to Hansen, these types of cases often involve constitutional interpretation and analysis, allowing her the opportunity to brief interesting and often complex issues in an expedited manner, due to the timing considerations inherent with election cases. 

She has been involved in many of the significant election and campaign finance cases in Michigan during the last 20 years, including constitutional challenges and defenses to various state statutes, ballot issues, recalls, recounts, and more.

Two recent interesting cases include the Conyers litigation, and the challenge to the petition seeking to amend the minimum wage laws. 

“Being able to represent Congressman (John) Conyers was such a privilege and to secure his place on the ballot after a successful constitutional challenge was extremely rewarding,” she said. “It was also an opportunity to work with the ACLU, who was representing co-plaintiffs in that case, which was a nice experience for me professionally.”

The minimum wage challenge involved both constitutional and election law issues. 

“It was ultimately successful simply because the petitioners failed to secure adequate signatures, which we were able to establish by providing uncontroverted evidence of duplicate signatures, not an easy feat when you are dealing with hundreds of thousands of signatures,” Hansen said.

Hansen especially enjoys appellate practice and in particular anything of a constitutional nature. 

“I’m fortunate in that I’ve been involved in many of these types of cases, particularly in the election realm, that have been briefed and argued before the state and federal appellate courts,” she said. “Those cases always make me feel like I’m back in law school, arguing complex interesting issues that can have far reaching implications beyond the facts of the particular case. If I could do that type of work every single day I would gladly do so.”

Despite her distinguished career as a lawyer, Hansen mulled other options in her youth. The daughter of two psychologists, she earned her undergrad degree in psychology — a skill set she felt would serve her well in a multitude of professions — from Michigan State University. 

Her emphasis/minor was in in criminal justice.

Undecided about her next step — and mulling law school, medical school, or a dual degree with a Ph.D. in psychology and a J.D. — she took a year off after college and spent a year at a prosecutor’s office in Boston assisting victims of crimes navigate through the criminal justice process. 

The experience helped her realize that while the law was her choice of career, criminal law was not her calling.

Returning to her roots in Ann Arbor, Hansen earned her juris doctor, cum laude, from the University of Michigan, following in the footsteps of all her family from multiple generations who earned undergrad and graduate degrees from U-M. 

“I was the rebel and refused to even consider it for my undergraduate degree,” she said with a smile. “Going to Michigan Law was like coming home and I know it was important to my family.”

A native of New York City, Hansen moved to Ann Arbor at the age of 8, and her parents still live there. 

This made attendance at Michigan Law very special for her. 

“I also appreciated how hard I — and my peers — had worked to get there. Just entering the law quad you feel you are somewhere special,” Hansen said. ‘I most enjoyed the camaraderie with the friends I met at law school as we all struggled to do well and figure out our futures. Law school can be very scary and intimidating, especially at a top school like Michigan. I loved going through that experience with so many smart and ambitious but genuinely nice people.”

Hansen now lives in Okemos, close to her Lansing office, and in her limited free time enjoys exercise, finding running a great stress reliever.  

She also enjoys spending time with her children. 

“I have two really terrific daughters. Although they’re teenagers, they are still pretty nice to me and seem to enjoy spending time with me and for that I’m extremely grateful,” she said. “They have both made it very clear, however, that they do not intend to be lawyers and do what they perceive to be ‘homework’ every day for their job.”

Most of Hansen’s volunteer work has involved her daughters, as a Girl Scout Leader, soccer coach/manager, and other roles. She has also spent several years on the board for Elder Law of Michigan. 

“Elder Law is an amazing organization that provides legal services to those that most need it on all sorts of issues that impact the senior community, including housing, food and Medicare issues and elder abuse,” she said. “The staff is extremely dedicated and performs a much-needed service for our state. I feel very lucky to be part of such a fine organization.”