Sonoma and Napa have long been considered the wine mecca of the nation, and Bon Appetit has recently named San Francisco the best food city in the country.
Embracing the proximity to the long-standing California wine hub and food scene, 2Ls Sherry Truong and Brandi Robinson recently founded Hastings Food & Wine Law Society to create a forum where interested students can discuss and learn more about the interdisciplinary aspects of the food and beverage industry from a local context. “We’re not just talking about stuff that’s happening on the other side of the world; we really want people to be aware of complex legal issues that are affecting local businesses,” Truong said. Along with discussing the intricacies of the trade, the organization will host a few outings at local wineries, bars and restaurants — because what’s a food and wine club without the libations?
Robinson and Truong’s interest in wine law emerged from their long time interest in wine. Now in law school, they are learning more by developing their networks, reading wine law blogs, and staying up to date on the latest industry news. “I remember stumbling across Lewis and Clark Law School’s website. They have an amazing wine and food organization and I thought, ‘Why don’t we have one?’” Robinson said. The organization is one of very few at Bay Area law schools and sheds some light on an increasingly popular practice area.
Since there are few organizations like it, Truong and Robinson hope that the group will put UC Hastings on the map for food and beverage law. The short drive to wine country and strong alumni ties to the wine industry makes UC Hastings the perfect place to delve into the trade. At their future meetings, the group plans on discussing other pertinent topics in this area, such as water law.
“What’s interesting about wine law is that it isn’t specific from a substantive practice area standpoint,” Robinson explained. She added that lawyers in the field could focus on issues ranging from compliance and environmental regulations to labor and employment concerns. “You have to understand the needs of a particular industry and be able to anticipate the vast array of problems that companies will face,” Robinson said.
Professor Dave Owen, who specializes in water resource management, noted the significance of students learning about laws pertaining to water and land use when looking at the food and beverage industry. “You can’t operate a winery or farm without water, and because water in California’s food and wine growing regions is in heavy demand, finding that water is almost always legally complicated,” Owen said. He added that the laws had wide-ranging implications for wineries and food businesses not only in California, but around the world. “It’s a great subject area for lawyers to learn about.”
In addition to providing educational opportunities for fellow students to learn about food and wine law, Hastings Food & Wine Law Society strives to create possibilities for professional development and community engagement. Truong and Robinson encourage students to take on leadership roles within the organization by acting as class representatives and participating at forums and networking events. “We’re hoping to connect the student community with practicing attorneys to foster strong professional relationships,” Truong said. “Our goal is to have a long-standing organization that will continue long after we’re gone.” During the spring semester, they also plan on hosting a panel in which attorneys will discuss their experiences in food and beverage law and the intersection of their practice with other areas of the law.
On October 1, the club will co-sponsor a Beer on the Beach with PALS – the Pilipino American Law Society — and Ms. JD — a student organization that seeks to support and improve the experiences of women law students. In November, they will also be co-sponsoring a Ms. JD speed networking event.
For more information about Hastings Food & Wine Law Society, visit their website.