Faculty Profiles

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James Seff

Title: Lecturer
Email Address: james.seff@pillsburylaw.com

Mr. Seff is leader of the firm’s Wine, Beer & Spirits practice. He spent 13 years as a lawyer with Wine Institute, the trade association of the California Wine Industry and, during the last seven, served as the Institute’s Chief Counsel.

Mr. Seff is a Chambers ranked practitioner with over three decades of experience advising clients in the area of licensed beverage law and regulation. He represents wineries, distilleries, breweries, importers and retailers (and wholesalers on a limited basis) in a wide variety of areas including regulatory practice before the Federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau and state alcoholic beverage control boards and commissions, international trade, e-commerce, licensing, trademarks, beverage tax, land use, and transactional (including mergers and acquisitions) and contractual issues and internal investigations associated with the licensed beverage industries. He is a former chair of the American Bar Association Committee on Alcoholic Beverage Practice (Section of Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice).and serves as pro bono counsel to a number of non-profits including the San Francisco Symphony (for alcohol issues), WineDoctors and the Society of Medical Friends of Wine.

Mr. Seff has written and taught widely in the area of wine law. He lectures at Berkeley Berkeley Law, UC Davis to international wine marketing students, in CEB wine law courses, and co-chairs an annual CLE International seminar on Wine, Beer and Spirits Law. He has lectured to viticulture and enology classes at UC Davis, to students at the University of San Francisco Wine Marketing Center, the California Sommelier Academy and Stanford Law, and to members of the American Society of Enologists , National Council of State Liquor Administrators, International Federation of Wine and Spirits, Wine Industry Technical Seminar and the Society of Medical Friends of Wine, the Australian Parliament Wine Lobby, and to industry groups in Australia and New Zealand. He served as a member of the Advisory Committee to the Columbia University Legislative Drafting Research Fund project on uniform state alcoholic beverage law. He is a Professional Member of American Society of Enology & Viticulture and a founding member of the Association Internationale des Juristes pour le Droit de la Vigne et du Vin (the International Wine Law Association). He is a contributing author to the University of California/Sotheby Book of California Wine in which he co-authored an article on "The Legal and Political History of California Wine" and to Wine in America: Law and Policy, in which he co-authored a chapter on “Wine Industry Trade Practices”. He is a retired Captain in the US Navy Reserve.

Honors & Awards

  • 2012 Chambers USA, Food & Beverages: Alcohol-National (2007-2012)


American Bar Foundation (Life Fellow)

Former Chair, ABA Alcoholic Beverage Practice Committee

Former Vice President and Governor, State Bar of California

Former President, Bar Association of San Francisco (Award of Merit), the San Francisco Bar Foundation and the Barristers Club of San Francisco

Former President, Lawyers Friends of Wine

Former Vice President, Jewish Family and Children's Services of San Francisco (Distinguished Community Service Award)

Former Vice Chair, State Bar Conference of Delegates

Former Director, Lasallian Education Foundation

Director, Carmel Bach Festival

Director, Legal Community Against Violence


U.S. Supreme Court; Federal Courts of Hawaii; Central and Northern Districts of California

Representative Articles

“Trade Practices,” Wine in America: Law and Policy, Wolters Kluwer, 2011 (co-author)

“Wine, Beer, and Spirits Law,” Inside the Minds: Food, Beverage, and Drug Law Client Strategies, Aspatore Books, 2008

"California Trade Practices: Tied-House and Free Goods Laws," California Wine Law Forum 2007, CEB Program Handbook, September 2007; revised and reprinted in Alcoholic Beverage Licensing in California; ABC Practice and Policy, CEB Program Handbook, April, 2010

“Alcoholic Beverage Distribution Agreements,” Wine Law in California: A Growing Industry, CEB Program Handbook, September 2006 (co-author)

"Elements of a Wine Distribution Agreement," Successful Wine Marketing, Aspen Publishers, 2001, published in a slightly different form in 5 Flinders Journal of Law Reform, September 2000

"Wine Trademarks Ripe for Confusion: The interplay of US trademark law, international law and administrative regulations on the use of geographic terms as appellations of origin for wines" (co-author), Trademark World, September 1997

"The 21st Amendment: Background, Enactment and the Early Supreme Court Cases" (co-author), The Bar, Spring 1994, a publication of the Alcoholic Beverage Practice Committee of the ABA Section of Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice

"Lead Litigation: United States Legislative and Regulatory Update," Association Internationale des Juristes du Droit de la Vigne et du Vin, April, 1992

"Legal Challenges Facing the Wine Industry in the 1990s," Bulletin of The Society of Medical Friends of Wine, Vol. 32, No. 2, September 1990

"Appellations of Origin in the United States" (co-author), published in the Proceedings of the International Symposium on Vineyard and Wine Law, 1985; reprinted in Bolletino del CIDEAO, No. l, p. 39, August 1985

"The Legal and Political History of California Wine" (co-author), The University of California/Sotheby Book of California Wine, University of California Press, 1984

"The Minefield of Wine Law," Wines & Vines, September and October 1982; reprinted in "The Society of Wine Educators Chronicle," Spring 1983

"Taylor Wine vs. BATF: A Case of Regulation to Excess?" Marketing Communications, July 1979

"Inside the New BATF Labeling Regulations," Wines & Vines, November and December 1978

"An Outline of the Major Federal Laws and Regulations Regarding Wine," Proceedings of the Fifth Annual Wine Industry Technical Seminar, November 1978; reprinted in The Vinifera Wine Growers Journal, Summer 1979

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