Pro Bono Legal Services for Farmers and Food Businesses: Pace Food and Beverage Law Clinic

by Deirdre Appel

Name: Pace Food and Beverage Law Clinic

What They Do: The Pace Food and Beverage Law Clinic is the flagship program of the Pace-NRDC Food Law Initiative, a collaboration between the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). With faculty supervision, Pace law students in the Clinic provide legal representation to small farms, food and beverage entrepreneurs, and nonprofit organizations.  The Clinic’s legal services help clients expand access to local, healthy food in underserved communities, start or expand mission-driven business ventures, steward the preservation and transitioning of farmland for future generations of farmers, and implement innovative and sustainable production, processing, and distribution practices. Areas of legal services include new business formation and legal structure; tax exemption for nonprofit organizations; reviewing, drafting, and negotiating contracts including leases, financing agreements, and other documents; regulatory advice, including that relating to food safety, labeling and marketing, and land use; and other transactional legal matters.

How They Do It: The Food and Beverage Law Clinic is part of John Jay Legal Services, Inc., a nonprofit legal services organization within Pace University. Services are provided to clients free of charge, primarily by Pace law students under faculty supervision. Clients are selected based on factors including variety in caseload, number of clients currently being represented, complexity of a client’s case, and fit with the clinic’s mission. For a for-profit business, the business leaders’ household income may not exceed 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. For a non-profit organization, the organization and project must satisfy the Association of Pro Bono Counsel’s “mission, matter, means” eligibility criteria.  Clients are accepted on a rolling basis, but new projects typically start at the beginning of the Pace school semester. 

Mission: The Clinic supports transitions to a just and sustainable food system. It addresses the unmet legal needs of farmers, food and beverage entrepreneurs, and nonprofit organizations in order to strengthen the right to healthy and culturally appropriate foods in disadvantaged communities, foster the growth of alternative economic models of food production and distribution, and promote the emergence of a climate-friendly food system.

Latest project/campaign: “Continuing Legal Education” training programs for lawyers and other professionals on important food-system-related legal topics, including recent programs on the intersection of agriculture and renewable energy, farm conservation law, and more.

Major Funding: Sands Family Foundation, New York State Health Foundation, American Farmland Trust, Ida and Robert Gordon Family Foundation

Profit/nonprofit: Nonprofit

Annual Revenue: N/A

Interesting fact about how they are working to positively affect the food system: In its first three years of operation, the Clinic has provided direct legal representation to 37 clients (in addition to many others who have participated in their training workshops or brief consultation programs), and has trained 47 law students.


Location: White Plains, NY

Core Programs: Pro bono direct legal services for small farms, food and beverage businesses, and related nonprofit organizations

Number of staff: 2

Number of volunteers: 6-12 student interns

Number of coworking members: N/A

Areas served: Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Staten Island, Queens, New York State

Year Started: 2017

Director: Jonathan Brown

Contact Information: Jonathan Brown:, (914) 422-4401; 


Related Articles

Subscribe To Weekly NYC Food Policy Watch Newsletter
Subscribe to our weekly email newsletter today to receive updates on the latest news, reports and event information
No Thanks
Thanks for signing up. You must confirm your email address before we can send you. Please check your email and follow the instructions.
We respect your privacy. Your information is safe and will never be shared.
Don't miss out. Subscribe today.