Tracy K. Genesen, Class of 1988

The primary go-to litigator for the American wine industry on constitutional issues

Tracy K. GenesenTracy Genesen is a partner in the San Francisco office of Reed Smith LLP, directing a variety of complex multi-district federal court litigation focusing primarily on constitutional law matters, with particular focus on challenges to state alcohol regulatory statutes. She also manages high-volume complex civil litigation cases in the health care, software and professional liability areas and is an experienced regulatory attorney who has represented numerous clients before the California Department of Alcohol Beverage Control, the Tax and Trade Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission.  Earlier in her career, Genesen served as primary legal and policy advisor to the Office of the Chief Trial Counsel for the State Bar of California with particular emphasis on high profile attorney ethics cases.

Genesen was recently selected as a “Top Women Litigator” by the Daily Journal, which called her the “primary go-to litigator for American wine industry trade associations on constitutional issues.” She served as the American Wine Industry’s litigation strategist for the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case of Granholm v. Heald and recently won the Family Winemakers v. Jenkins case in the First Circuit Court of Appeals.

What did you think you were going to be when you grew up?

I thought that I would definitely do something involved in international relations, but I also wanted to do something that made a contribution. I wanted to do something that advocated for people who couldn’t advocate well for themselves. What I do now, in terms of trying to help the small businessperson get their goods to market, is kind of in line for that. I tend to represent the underdog.

What is your greatest professional achievement?

I would have to say it was being the lead litigation strategist for the wine industry’s groundbreaking case of Granholm v. Heald in the United States Supreme Court.

How would you say Chicago-Kent prepared you for your present success?

I think primarily I really felt like Chicago-Kent struck the right balance between the academics of learning how to think like a lawyer, including the analytical framework and presence of mind that’s necessary to be a good lawyer, with the practical realities of the practice. Those include the enthusiasm Kent had for externships, the trial advocacy program, and making sure we connected with alumni so we had mentors as we transitioned from the classroom to the courtroom.

What advice would you give to young attorneys just starting their careers today?

Give some thought to what you really found to be the most satisfying part of law school, and also take inventory of who they are as people. What do they like to do and what do you feel good about doing? Really tailor your first steps into the profession toward what you really love to do, not what everyone else says is important. They need to take inventory of who they are, their passion, and what’s going to make them get up in the morning. That will carry them through the ups and downs, of which there will be inevitably, of practicing law.

Who is your favorite Supreme Court Justice, living or deceased?

I would have to say Sandra Day O’Connor, because not only was she the first female Supreme Court Justice, but having heard her speak and reading her decisions; she’s someone who’s not lost who she is with all that comes along with being a Justice. She knows the challenges of the real world- she’s somebody who faced gender discrimination on her way up. She’s a combination of tenacity, willpower and balance. She never lost her feminine attributes while at the same time being a strong intellect.