There are as many, varied law practices and specialties as there are lawyers, so why shouldn’t an enterprising lawyer turn her love of wine into a specialist practice, too? Durham (NC) lawyer Laura Collier always wanted a wine, cheese and carcuterie shop and has combined her love of wine into a practice called The Spirited Lawyer in Raleigh, providing legal services for food and beverage business owners.
“I really like to feel like I’m a part of all these businesses in the Triangle and North Carolina,” Collier said. “For someone who wanted to own their own business, it’s incredibly satisfying.”
A lawyer working with small-business owners isn’t anything new; lawyers have been helping restaurant and bar owners navigate alcohol laws for as long as the government has regulated these beverages. Often large firms will have a lawyer or two whose main practice is helping large restaurant chains and other business owners deal with the N.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission. In Raleigh, regional law firm Nexsen Pruet has two lawyers dedicated to this task.
The fact that Collier can open such a niche law practice is proof of how robust the Triangle food scene has become. Every week, news seems to break about another food truck getting on the road, a new brewery or bottle shop in the works or a restaurant on the horizon. All these small-business owners need help navigating the world of state and federal regulations, permits and contracts.
Collier brings her own experiences as a hopeful small-business owner to the task. Plus, she’s plugged in to the local food scene by marriage: her husband, Matt Fern, is beverage director of Raleigh chef Ashley Christensen’s restaurant group and a partner at Poole’s Downtown Diner.
“She’s seen a lot of questions that people have through her personal experience – that’s absolutely invaluable,” said Phillip Zucchino, co-owner of The Wine Feed, a downtown Raleigh wine shop and online store.
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