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It’s a rough life at Hinman & Carmichael. Client development trips to Verona, Italy, for an international wine exhibition. Making the rounds at wine tastings for business. These are just some of the perks at this boutique law firm in San Francisco specializing in legal services for the alcoholic beverage and hospitality industry. The former chief legal officer for Sonoma Vineyards in the 1970s, John Hinman hung out his own shingle in 1986. Lynne Carmichael, a former partner at Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison, became a partner in the firm in 1991 and it became Hinman & Carmichael. The firm has flourished along with the American wine industry. With over 3,500 wineries in the U.S., Hinman & Carmichael has carved out its own niche. The emphasis of the firm’s work is legal advice in the marketing, regulation and distribution of alcohol. Today the firm has four partners and represents almost 100 wineries with a list of clients that includes Rabbit Ridge Vineyards and Winery, Sutter Home, Laurel Glen Vineyards, and Kendall-Jackson Winery. At the end of May, the Supreme Court accepted certiorari on a group of cases to resolve whether out-of-state vineyards should be able to ship wine directly to consumers. Although the firm is not involved with these cases, Hinman and Carmichael would like for vintners to be able to send their wares directly to wine aficionados. Exciting legal developments are not the only perks. Once a year, the firm hosts its “Big Bottle Party,” inviting 700 of its closest friends to celebrate and taste the firm’s collection of six-liter bottles of wine accumulated over the prior year from industry trade functions. The firm’s practice has had a personal impact on the palate of its partners. “I have a much better understanding of the taste of wine,” says Carmichael, who freely admits that she is not the wine connoisseur among her partners. As for Hinman’s tastes: “White German wines are always good, along with Pinot Grigios.” For summer sipping, he says that Ros�s are perfect, with those from Provence and Spain topping his list. While the lifestyle, the tastings and the travel all make this a unique and satisfying practice, in the end it is all about the law. Hinman doesn’t hesitate when asked what his favorite part of the practice is. “Winning cases,” he says. That would be legal cases, not wine. After all, he is a lawyer. Melanie Burkes is an attorney and freelance writer based in Washington, D.C. She can be reached at [email protected]

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