Since the end of Prohibition in 1933, the alcohol beverage industry has been and continues to be one of the most heavily regulated sectors in the U.S.
Despite this, it is very much a niche practice for a lawyer as there are relatively few law firms that specialize in this area.
Adena Santiago ’05 is one of those lawyers and is passionate about the industry. She has spent more than a decade counseling clients on liquor licensing and compliance, representing hotels, restaurants, distillers, brewers, wineries, and distributors that need licenses to launch or expand their businesses.
While at California Western, Santiago became interested in IP, trademark, and copyright law in response to a mentor’s challenge.
“When I was a 1L, the Dean of Career Services at the time gave a talk where he challenged us to pick a hobby and see if we could turn it into a career in law,” recalls Santiago. “As a natural progression to my enjoyment of the arts, I started to learn about IP law.”
After graduation and a year of law clerking for the Superior Court of New Jersey, Santiago began looking for jobs in IP. Buchman Law Firm in New Jersey picked up her resume. Buchman specializes in advising businesses in the alcohol beverage field on matters ranging from industry compliance to various contractual relationships.
“I was lucky enough to be hired by Buchman and learn about alcohol beverage law, and I’ve been in it ever since,” says Santiago. “I always say I fell into it by way of IP. They are interrelated, and it was a natural progression for me,” she continues.
Santiago says her time at Buchman laid a solid foundation for her in this law sector, and she subsequently grew to love the industry.
“I enjoy working at the intersection of government and business, which this industry provides,” says Santiago. “I had wonderful mentors at Buchman and learned so much, but as time went on, I wanted more room to grow, so I took my practice and knowledge to Husch Blackwell in Washington, D.C.”
Husch Blackwell is a 2021 Am Law 100 ranked law firm with 23 offices throughout the U.S. It is a multi-disciplinary firm, and Santiago joined as a key member of their alcohol beverage group.
Twenty months after joining Husch, Santiago got the opportunity to join Treasury Wine Estates (TWE), the world’s largest premium wine company. As TWE’s Senior Regulatory Counsel for the U.S., Santiago looked after some of the world’s most famous wine brands, including Penfolds, 19 Crimes, Beringer, and Sterling Vintners Collection.
“I loved working in-house at Treasury, getting to visit the wineries and having a more in-depth knowledge of wine and the wine business,” says Santiago. “I also enjoyed seeing where the projects I worked on ended up, which I don’t always get to do as outside counsel.”
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic brought Santiago’s tenure at TWE to somewhat of an abrupt end, and Husch took the opportunity to invite her back as Partner.
“I was happy to rejoin Husch and bring my wide industry experience with state, local, and federal regulatory agencies, including the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, for the benefit of my clients,” says Santiago.
Santiago feels that California Western faculty set her on her career path, and she cites Professors Art Campbell and Mark Weinstein as particularly influential.
“Professor Campbell gave me a great base in problem-solving and IP law which allowed me to morph that into the alcohol beverage field that I concentrate in now,” she says. “Professor Weinstein was my civil procedure professor, and he helped me fall in love with the law and push on to develop my career.”
As Santiago continues to unravel the regulatory hurdles that come with the alcohol beverage industry, she advises current law students to find their passion and use that as a foundation to build their career in law.
“I found my niche in an unexpected area of the law,” says Santiago. “It’s ever-changing, and I love it.”