A Path-Breaking Law Clinic for Farmers, Food Revolutionaries

Mark Izeman

Today the Haub School of Law at Pace University in New York (formerly known as Pace Law School) announced the creation of a two-year pilot of a new law clinic that will provide much-needed legal services to farmers, community and grassroots groups, and mission-oriented food and beverage entrepreneurs. This new clinic is part of a larger partnership between Pace and NRDC to strengthen the fast-growing field of food law.

This establishment of a new Pace Clinic is a significant step forward for the food movement—serving as the first, full-time transactional clinic in the country dedicated to providing direct legal services to food-related clients. Providing this on-the-ground legal help is critical because in order to implement innovative practices and make change in the food system, farmers, food entrepreneurs, micro brewers and distillers, and other activists must navigate a complicated legal landscape governing everything from labelling to estate planning. This clinic can also create a national food law model that other states and regions can replicate across the country.

In the official press release, the Dean of the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University, David Yassky, said: “Many businesses in the growing ‘farm to table’ economy start out in someone’s kitchen, backyard or even roof garden. When these business grow, new legal issues emerge and often these entrepreneurs can’t afford the legal help they need.” 

In addition to this new Clinic, formally named the Haub Food and Beverage Law Clinic, and which will be operated by Pace, there are three other key components of the Pace-NRDC Food Law Initiative.

First, each semester a Pace law student will work at NRDC on regional food. We hosted our first extern in the spring of 2016. 

Second, the initiative will also host an annual lecture focusing on critical food law topics. The first annual lecture took place on January 2016 at the NRDC offices in New York City. You can read more about the event in Edible.

And third, there will be a Workshop Series for law students and lawyers to build the capacity of the legal community to deal with food and agriculture issues. We hosted a small preview of one of these panels at the 2016 Food and Enterprise Conference in Brooklyn, NY. In partnership with Shearman & Sterling, LLP, the Food Law Initiative put on an interactive panel covering three core areas critical to food entrepreneurs operating on the farm, in the factory, or at the office. We look forward to doing more workshops with Pace and Shearman & Sterling over the next year.

NRDC is excited to partner with Pace and Shearman & Sterling on expanding food law work throughout the New York region—including training a new generation of lawyers that will help rebuild our broken food systems, and cultivate stronger sustainable farming economies. 

About the Authors

Margaret Brown

Staff Attorney, New York program

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