Food and Farm Business Law Clinic

Food and Beverage Law Clinic header
a student

About Us

The Food and Farm Business Law Clinic (formerly the Food and Beverage Law Clinic) provides pro bono transactional legal services to small farm businesses, artisan food manufacturers, craft beverage entrepreneurs, and related nonprofit organizations. Under faculty supervision, law students in the Clinic represent clients in connection with forming and structuring businesses, cooperatives, and nonprofits; drafting and negotiating legal agreements, including leases, operating agreements, and other commercial contracts; advising on regulatory matters, including related to food regulation and land use regulation; and seeking trademark protection, among other areas of practice. By providing pro bono legal representation to its clients, the Clinic seeks to facilitate the development of a more just and sustainable regional food system and economy. At the same time, by teaching fundamental lawyering skills and professionalism through hands-on legal work and client interaction, the Clinic seeks to transform law students into practice-ready professionals.

The Clinic was launched in 2017 with the generous support of the Sands Family Foundation and Constellation Brands. The Clinic is the first in the country entirely dedicated to providing direct, transactional legal services to food, beverage, and agricultural clients. The Clinic is a part of John Jay Legal Services, Inc., a non-profit legal services organization housed at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University.

The Pace Food Law Center

The Pace Food Law Center at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law supports legal services and advocacy, academic scholarship, and student learning.

Legal Services and Advocacy: Our legal services and advocacy projects support the transition to a just and sustainable food system. We focus our work on supporting food sovereignty for historically disadvantaged communities, fostering alternative models of food production and distribution, and promoting regenerative climate-friendly agriculture. We provide direct legal services to farmers and food businesses, offer focused legal training, and advocate for systemic policy changes at the local, state, regional, and federal levels. In service of this mission, the Pace Food Law Center works to provide direct transactional legal services to food revolutionaries, build the capacity of the legal community to work on food system issues, and advance transformative, systemic policy change.

Scholarship: The Pace Food Law Center supports the development of food law scholarship, seeking to advance understanding of the role of law in shaping the food system. The Elisabeth Haub School of Law is home to the largest food law faculty in the country. We produce cutting-edge research on everything from public procurement systems, to the right to food, to the treatment of animals in the food system, to domestic food system governance, and more. Our faculty have published work in leading journals and other academic outlets around the world.

Student Learning: Our students engage in food law through the Clinic, other food law coursework, independent research projects, and externships. The Pace Food Law Center supports student work by supervising research, offering career counseling, and assisting student-led initiatives such as the campus garden.

Information for Prospective Clients

As part of John Jay Legal Services, Inc. (JJLS), a not-for-profit organization located at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University in White Plains, New York, the Food and Farm Business Law Clinic (the “Clinic”), provides free transactional legal services to small farm businesses, artisan food manufacturers, craft beverage entrepreneurs, and related nonprofit organizations. Legal services are provided by law student interns, authorized under New York law to advise and represent clients under the close supervision of experienced, faculty attorneys. Such legal services include:

  • New business formation and legal structure
  • Applications for tax exemption and other nonprofit law matters
  • Review, drafting, and negotiation of contracts, including leases, operating agreements, and other commercial contracts
  • Regulatory advice, including relating to land use and zoning
  • Filing and maintaining trademarks

Please note: the Clinic does not participate in civil litigation or administrative proceedings.

Client Selection Criteria
We choose which clients according to a range of factors that include the diversity of clinical learning objectives, the variety in our caseload, the number of clients we already represent, the complexity of the matter, our practical experience with the matter, and the alignment of the matter with our mission, and the client’s ability to work with law students.

In addition, because we provide free legal services, clients are screened for income criteria.

  • For a for-profit business, the household income of the business owners should not exceed 400% of the Federal Poverty Level. (For example, under the 2022 guidelines, 400% of the Federal Poverty Level equals $54,360 for a household of one, $73,240 for a household of two, $92,120 for a household of three, $111,000 for a household of four, etc.).
  • For a non-profit organization, the organization and project should satisfy the Association of Pro Bono Counsel’s “mission-matter-means” eligibility criteria. 

The Clinic primarily works with clients during the academic year (September - December, and January - May). Although we accept new clients on an ongoing basis, the Clinic aims to start new projects at the beginning of each semester and conclude each semester with a tangible work product.

How to Apply for Legal Assistance
To request legal assistance, please contact the Clinic's Program Coordinator, Camden Smithtro, at csmithtro@law.pace.edu or (914) 422-4059.

What Does It Cost?
There is no charge for legal services provided by the Clinic. However, clients are responsible for any filing fees or other expenses incurred in the course of the representation and approved by the client in advance.

Information for Law Students

Under faculty supervision, law students in the Clinic provide transactional legal services directly to clients, taking primary responsibility for the representation. Students are expected to manage client communications, conduct original research, draft transactional documents, and set the agenda for their weekly supervision. Through their client work, students develop fundamental transactional legal skills including contract drafting, entity and deal structuring, negotiation, legal research and analysis, creative problem solving, and client counseling.

Students must also enroll in the weekly seminar, which teaches the substantive law and legal practice skills that are most useful in support of their client work. In addition, the seminar provides an opportunity to discuss the role of law and lawyers in food systems and the practical, ethical, and policy-based issues that arise in the context of their client work.

PrerequisitesProfessional Responsibility plus one regulatory course (Environmental Skills and PracticeEnvironmental Law SurveyAdministrative Law, or Food Systems & the Environment Law) and one transactional course (Corporations and PartnershipsDrafting Legal DocumentsSustainable Business and the EnvironmentEnvironmental Law in Commercial Transactions, or Real Estate Transactions and Finance). The regulatory or transactional course requirement may be waived or taken concurrently in exceptional circumstances. The clinic is open to students in their second, third, or fourth year of law school, and they must apply through John Jay Legal Services, Inc.

Course Information
Student Applications

FACULTY AND STAFF

Faculty

Jonathan Brown

Professor of Law for Designated Project or Service

Faculty

Margot J. Pollans

Professor of Law

Staff

Jack Hornickel

Staff Attorney, Food and Farm Business Law Clinic

Staff

Camden Smithtro

Program Coordinator