INTERVIEW: AARON GLASER ’07, ATTORNEY ADVISOR, ALCOHOL AND TOBACCO TAX AND TRADE BUREAU

The graphic image of Lady Justice, blindfolded and holding the weights of justice.

Aaron Glaser is from New York, where he graduated from high school in 2003. At Johns Hopkins University, he double majored in political science and philosophy, and minored in history. While he enjoyed his classes, double-majoring is a lot of work. He recommends current and future Blue Jays spend their time on Homewood campus focusing on quality over quantity — not going to every available class and event, but figuring out, focusing on, and enjoying what you really like.

After four years of studying and debating philosophy with friends, he graduated in 2007. At Johns Hopkins, he also got involved in politics, working on campaigns and serving as a legislative aide at City Hall. While he always knew he wanted to go to law school, these opportunities led to a job as a non-profit lobbyist in the Maryland State legislature. After two years of lobbying and gaining his masters in government at Johns Hopkins, he moved to Washington, DC and started law school at the Catholic University of America (CUA). At CUA, he served on the staff of the Journal of Contemporary Health, Law, and Policy, a research assistant to Professor Mary Leary, worked as a student attorney in Columbus Community Legal Services, coached the Moot Court’s Constitutional Law team, and interned at the DOJ. Once again, if he could do it again he’d recommend doing a little less and getting more sleep.

After law school, he clerked for the District Court of Maryland for Anne Arundel County. Once admitted to the Maryland Bar, he worked as an attorney at the Social Security Administration and Department of Transportation before joining the Office of Chief Counsel of the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). In his current position, he assists TTB in fulfilling its mission in collecting Federal excise taxes and in assuring compliance with Federal permitting, labeling, and marketing requirements for alcohol and tobacco. In such a capacity he has assisted TTB in enforcing alleged violations of the Federal Alcohol Administration Act, researching alcohol labeling issues and proposed regulations involving beer, wine, and distilled spirits, and analyzing issues regarding the Federal Government’s authority to tax alcohol and tobacco products.

Describe a day in the life of an Attorney Advisor at the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.

What I enjoy most about my job is that no one day is like the other. My days are filled with routine projects, as well as unique research projects arising from requests from the Administration and members of Congress. My office’s bread and butter is enforcing existing laws and regulations regarding alcohol — including the creation of American Viticultural AVAs (AVAs).

An AVA is an official designation for a certain geographic area, showing that within its boundaries it has a specific characteristic, such as a particular climate or type of soil, that makes it a unique place to grow grapes for wine. My most memorable days on the job involve working on proposed AVAs — it’s a task that involves interacting with Americans from all over our country and from all walks of life, but whom all want to produce to great wine.

What initially attracted you to this field?

I was working as a regulatory attorney for the Department of Transportation, ensuring safety requirements for oil and gas pipelines, and wanted a change — I figured it would be nice to work in a field where I could drink the product I regulate (in moderation, of course!). But, in actuality, very few people go to law school wanting to work in the alcohol industry. Most of the attorneys in my office focused on regulatory law, tax law, or international trade, and then migrated to TTB, an office that combines all these fields. Early in my career, I switched from criminal to regulatory law, and when a position opened at TTB, I applied, interviewed, and three years later, I can’t imagine working anywhere else.

What are some of the rewards and downsides of this area of law and the legal profession?

The rewards are great — opportunities to learn new skills, work on new projects, and advance upon showing you work hard and improve your abilities. Enforcing laws related to alcohol labeling and taxation means I get to learn about and be involved with wine, bourbon, and beer, as well as learn about the unique properties of these products — including touring facilities to learn how they’re made! Additionally, my office works on potential legislation, responding to Congressional requests, taxation and customs issues, deregulatory issues, and even the occasional constitutional issue. They’re really aren’t any downsides, especially compared to the problems faced by others in the alcohol industry. Right now vintners in Australia and California have to contend with the effects of forest fires and floods, and those are far worse problems than anything my office faces — I’m just looking to help with issues regarding these fine products once these vintners get up and running again.

Do you have any advice for an undergraduate interested in pursuing this body of law and the legal profession?

Major in something related to how alcohol is made (biology, chemistry), or the business of producing and selling alcohol (accounting, finance, business, economics, international affairs). Also, given the industry’s international roots and increasingly global network, learn an international language (there is a lot of potential for the alcohol industry in developing markets in China and India, and on the African continent). During college and law school intern for alcohol producers or law firms/lobbying shops related to the alcohol industry.

Also, show interest in the industry! It can’t hurt to take time off between college and law school to work in the industry, either for a producer or a law firm/lobbying shop related to alcohol. Maybe get a masters or do advanced coursework at a college with a good viticultural school. Additionally, follow blogs and newspaper articles noting recent developments in the industry, and if you can, find and go to conferences related to the alcohol industry or alcohol law — making connections and networking is always a good thing!

Last, be where alcohol is produced. In the US, most wine is made on the West Coast and the majority of bourbon is produced in Kentucky. Beer is different — there is craft beer all over, but the beer industry is still dominated by larger producers.

Contact Information:

Aaron is happy to answer questions, and you can connect with him at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/aaron-glaser-4166b15/

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