What Does an Alcohol Beverage Attorney Do? | BCGSearch.com

What Does an Alcohol Beverage Attorney Do?


Print/Download PDF

Font Size

Rate this article

26 Reviews Average: 4.6 out of 5

Alcohol beverage attorneys are involved in all phases of crimes, torts, and administrative actions of alcohol sale and use. The quantity of alcohol consumption in the United States means many jobs are available in this practice area.

Nearly 90 percent of Americans have consumed alcohol, and 70 percent drank alcohol in the past year. Almost 55 percent drink monthly, with over 25 percent binge drinking every month.

The results of alcohol use or abuse are staggering. Almost 20 percent of emergency room visits are due to alcohol consumption and over 20 percent of substance use overdoses are from alcohol. Over 10,000 deaths annually, accounting for 29 percent of all fatalities, occur while driving.
Alcohol misuse accounts for approximately $250 billion annually in costs, with 75 percent of the total cost from binge drinking.
There is a wide variety of career opportunities for alcohol beverage lawyers at the federal and local levels and in criminal and civil proceedings with all these consequences. Before discussing those, it is essential to understand the law areas that alcohol beverage attorneys get involved in.

Laws Governing Alcoholic Beverages

There are federal laws, state laws, torts, and administrative actions that require the services of an alcohol beverage lawyer.

Federal Criminal Law

It is legal for Americans to make and consume beer and wine for personal use. The federal government regulates all other production and sales. Primary crimes are the operation of an illegal still and evading federal excise taxes. Both are punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) is the primary law enforcement agency charged with investigating these crimes.

State and Local Laws

The states have similar crimes for illegal still operation and evasion of state taxes. They also have laws against drunk driving and prosecute those driving while intoxicated (DUI). They regulate the sale of alcoholic beverages.
There is also an entirely different field—torts and administrative law. Common torts include business liability (for selling alcohol to an intoxicated person) and automobile accidents where the defendant was DUI.
Administrative law encompasses granting and revoking a license to sell alcohol both in stores and bars or restaurants.

Careers as an Alcohol Beverage Attorney

There is a wide variety of career opportunities for alcohol beverage lawyers at the federal and local levels and in criminal and civil areas of law.
First, though, a person needs to be qualified. This includes earning a Juris Doctor degree from an accredited law school and then passing the bar.

ATF Attorney

A career as a lawyer at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) is an option. While prosecution of alcohol-related crimes is left to the United States Attorneys' Offices, the agency still has approximately 80 lawyers. They provide legal advice to the agency in support of its programs and operations. ATF attorneys are also involved in field office investigations.

Criminal Defense Attorney

A criminal defense attorney specializing in alcoholic beverage cases can be a busy person. There are always a plethora of clients running afoul of federal and state alcohol laws. For example, today's sophisticated bootleggers evading the federal excise tax need representation when they are apprehended.
Another area with consistent work is DUI. In 2018 alone, over one million people in the country were arrested for the crime. Many people get significant injuries or die from drunk drivers. Those charged with DUI need to be defended in court.

Personal Injury

This is another promising field – personal injury with a specialization in alcohol beverage law. There are many torts associated with alcohol. For example, a bar or restaurant that sells alcohol to an intoxicated person could be liable for damages due to the intoxicated person's subsequent actions.
DUI accidents also bring in steady work for alcohol beverage personal injury lawyers. Many potential clients suffered injuries from a drunk driver or had a family member killed in a DUI accident.

Civil Defense Attorney

There are a lot of rules and regulations related to alcohol that people can run into. Store clerks can accidentally sell alcohol to a minor or intentionally sell liquor outside legal sales hours. They need to be defended.
You can sue bars and restaurants for selling alcohol to a person who then commits a tort. Or they can lose their liquor license for an assortment of violations. They both need the services of an alcohol beverage defense lawyer.

Daily Practice


Case Assessment and Investigation

When clients first come to them, alcohol beverage attorneys will conduct an initial investigation or perform legal research to determine the case's merits. The investigation can entail locating witnesses, taking witness statements, talking to any relevant government agencies, and further interviewing the client to understand the facts better.

Negotiation, Pleas, and Alternative Dispute Resolution

Today, most lawyers will next look to settling the case out of court. An alcohol beverage defense attorney will look to the prosecutor to drop the charges or negotiate a plea if the facts warrant.
Alcohol beverage attorneys in civil practice will look to settle pre-trial. If informal discussions break down, then formal alternative dispute resolution is common today. This includes mediation or arbitration—anything to avoid the protracted length of a civil trial, which can take over five years to move through the courts.

Litigation, Pre-Trial, and Trial

If dispute resolution is not possible, then it's time for the trial or administrative hearing.

Draft Pleadings and Initial Motions

Alcohol beverage criminal defense attorneys will review the criminal complaint or indictment against their client and prepare a motion to dismiss the charges.
Personal injury lawyers will draft their complaints about a civil lawsuit. Civil defense attorneys will review these complaints and prepare motions to dismiss the allegations.

Pre-Trial Hearings

Criminal defense attorneys will represent their clients in arraignment and preliminary hearings. Alcohol beverage lawyers in civil practice will attend pre-trial status conferences.

Discovery Process

Discovery is the exchange of relevant information between the parties. Lawyers usually start with drafting interrogatories, consisting of a series of written questions the opposing party must respond to under penalty of perjury Lawyers hold depositions next. These are formal meetings between the parties where one side's lawyer asks the opposing side's party questions and the opposing party is obliged to respond under oath.
Attorneys prepare requests for the production of documents and send them to the opposing party separately or as part of interrogatories or the deposition.
Alcohol beverage attorneys also may engage the services of experts. For example, in criminal cases, experts from both sides may examine the evidence. In a DUI car accident personal injury case, medical experts are often needed to understand the injury and estimate damages.
All these discovery mechanisms help the lawyer gather the evidence needed for trial.

Pre-Trial Motions

Concurrently with discovery, alcohol beverage lawyers are busy with filing motions with the court. Criminal defense attorneys may file motions to dismiss the charges, suppress evidence, or even change the venue (place of trial).
Plaintiff and defense attorneys will likely file motions for summary judgment. This motion asks the court to issue a ruling based on undisputed facts of the case. This is appropriate when there appears to be a lack of issues to be decided by the jury.


Then it's time for the trial. Alcohol beverage lawyers will select the jury members, make preliminary arguments, call witnesses and experts, and present closing arguments.


If a client feels the case has gone badly, the lawyer can look for reasons to appeal. Valid grounds for appeal include mistakes by the court, jury misconduct, improper admittance, or suppression of evidence.
If the appeal is granted, alcohol beverage lawyers will prepare briefs to outline their arguments and present them at oral argument.

Role of an Alcoholic Beverage Attorney

An Alcohol Beverage Attorney advises domestic and international manufacturers, distributors, and retailers on a full spectrum of legal issues related to alcohol law, including:
  • Regulatory compliance and licensing
  • Governmental relations and representation
  • Trade practices and customs matters
  • Defense against administrative or enforcement actions
  • E-commerce and Internet marketing
  • Protection of intellectual property rights
  • Interstate and international trade and shipping
  • Bankruptcy and creditors' rights concerns
  • Marketing and advertising compliance
  • Dispute resolution, including litigation and appellate representation
  • Alcohol legislation and advocacy
  • Tax compliance and planning
  • Environment, land use, and water laws  


With the prevalence of alcohol and the havoc it can wreak in society, there are plenty of opportunities for the alcohol beverage lawyer.
Read these articles for more information:
About Harrison Barnes

Harrison Barnes is a prominent figure in the legal placement industry, known for his expertise in attorney placements and his extensive knowledge of the legal profession.

With over 25 years of experience, he has established himself as a leading voice in the field and has helped thousands of lawyers and law students find their ideal career paths.

Barnes is a former federal law clerk and associate at Quinn Emanuel and a graduate of the University of Chicago College and the University of Virginia Law School. He was a Rhodes Scholar Finalist at the University of Chicago and a member of the University of Virginia Law Review. Early in his legal career, he enrolled in Stanford Business School but dropped out because he missed legal recruiting too much.

Barnes' approach to the legal industry is rooted in his commitment to helping lawyers achieve their full potential. He believes that the key to success in the legal profession is to be proactive, persistent, and disciplined in one's approach to work and life. He encourages lawyers to take ownership of their careers and to focus on developing their skills and expertise in a way that aligns with their passions and interests.

One of how Barnes provides support to lawyers is through his writing. On his blog, HarrisonBarnes.com, and BCGSearch.com, he regularly shares his insights and advice on a range of topics related to the legal profession. Through his writing, he aims to empower lawyers to control their careers and make informed decisions about their professional development.

One of Barnes's fundamental philosophies in his writing is the importance of networking. He believes that networking is a critical component of career success and that it is essential for lawyers to establish relationships with others in their field. He encourages lawyers to attend events, join organizations, and connect with others in the legal community to build their professional networks.

Another central theme in Barnes' writing is the importance of personal and professional development. He believes that lawyers should continuously strive to improve themselves and develop their skills to succeed in their careers. He encourages lawyers to pursue ongoing education and training actively, read widely, and seek new opportunities for growth and development.

In addition to his work in the legal industry, Barnes is also a fitness and lifestyle enthusiast. He sees fitness and wellness as integral to his personal and professional development and encourages others to adopt a similar mindset. He starts his day at 4:00 am and dedicates several daily hours to running, weightlifting, and pursuing spiritual disciplines.

Finally, Barnes is a strong advocate for community service and giving back. He volunteers for the University of Chicago, where he is the former area chair of Los Angeles for the University of Chicago Admissions Office. He also serves as the President of the Young Presidents Organization's Century City Los Angeles Chapter, where he works to support and connect young business leaders.

In conclusion, Harrison Barnes is a visionary legal industry leader committed to helping lawyers achieve their full potential. Through his work at BCG Attorney Search, writing, and community involvement, he empowers lawyers to take control of their careers, develop their skills continuously, and lead fulfilling and successful lives. His philosophy of being proactive, persistent, and disciplined, combined with his focus on personal and professional development, makes him a valuable resource for anyone looking to succeed in the legal profession.

About BCG Attorney Search

BCG Attorney Search matches attorneys and law firms with unparalleled expertise and drive, while achieving results. Known globally for its success in locating and placing attorneys in law firms of all sizes, BCG Attorney Search has placed thousands of attorneys in law firms in thousands of different law firms around the country. Unlike other legal placement firms, BCG Attorney Search brings massive resources of over 150 employees to its placement efforts locating positions and opportunities its competitors simply cannot. Every legal recruiter at BCG Attorney Search is a former successful attorney who attended a top law school, worked in top law firms and brought massive drive and commitment to their work. BCG Attorney Search legal recruiters take your legal career seriously and understand attorneys. For more information, please visit www.BCGSearch.com.

Harrison Barnes does a weekly free webinar with live Q&A for attorneys and law students each Wednesday at 10:00 am PST. You can attend anonymously and ask questions about your career, this article, or any other legal career-related topics. You can sign up for the weekly webinar here: Register on Zoom

Harrison also does a weekly free webinar with live Q&A for law firms, companies, and others who hire attorneys each Wednesday at 10:00 am PST. You can sign up for the weekly webinar here: Register on Zoom

You can browse a list of past webinars here: Webinar Replays

You can also listen to Harrison Barnes Podcasts here: Attorney Career Advice Podcasts

You can also read Harrison Barnes' articles and books here: Harrison's Perspectives

Harrison Barnes is the legal profession's mentor and may be the only person in your legal career who will tell you why you are not reaching your full potential and what you really need to do to grow as an attorney--regardless of how much it hurts. If you prefer truth to stagnation, growth to comfort, and actionable ideas instead of fluffy concepts, you and Harrison will get along just fine. If, however, you want to stay where you are, talk about your past successes, and feel comfortable, Harrison is not for you.

Truly great mentors are like parents, doctors, therapists, spiritual figures, and others because in order to help you they need to expose you to pain and expose your weaknesses. But suppose you act on the advice and pain created by a mentor. In that case, you will become better: a better attorney, better employees, a better boss, know where you are going, and appreciate where you have been--you will hopefully also become a happier and better person. As you learn from Harrison, he hopes he will become your mentor.

To read more career and life advice articles visit Harrison's personal blog.

Article Categories

AGREE/DISAGREE? SHARE COMMENTS ANONYMOUSLY! We Want to Hear Your Thoughts! Tell Us What You Think!!

Related Articles

We've changed thousands of lives over the past 20 years, and yours could be next.

When you use BCG Attorney Search you will get an unfair advantage because you will use the best legal placement company in the world for finding permanent law firm positions.