The founder of the Law Office of James G. Richert, James G. Richert (’89) developed a passion for craft beer in college. Two decades later, he used his John Marshall education to co-found Banging Gavel Brews, a craft brewery in Tinley Park, Illinois. With Banging Gavel’s first brewpub set to open soon in downtown Tinley Park, we caught up with Jim to reflect on his experience at John Marshall and how the brewery came to be. To “judge” the beer for yourself, visit https://bangingavel.com, a White Sox game, or craft beer festivals throughout the Chicagoland area.
JMLS: When and how did you know you wanted to be a lawyer? What was your path to law school?
Richert: I first knew I wanted to practice law when I attended a field trip to the Daley Center in the fifth grade. At the time, I really did not have an understanding of what a lawyer was, nor what they did. I recall sitting in a courtroom with my classmates while a gentleman in a suit was being reprimanded by the judge for not being ready for trial. The situation struck me and stuck with me, because I found it puzzling that this man was being reprimanded in front of a group of fifth graders. I assumed his job must be important. When we exited the courtroom, I asked my teacher who the man was that was being reprimanded, and she told me that he was a lawyer. It was at that time that I told her that that was what I wanted to be. When she asked me why, I said because I would always make sure I was prepared for work.
JMLS: How did you get into the practice areas of construction, contract, and insurance litigation?
Richert: While in law school, I thought I would become a securities lawyer. I worked as a clerk for a securities law firm while I attended classes. I found it incredibly boring. To be honest, I am not exactly sure how I came to practice in those areas. It’s just something that evolved over the years.
JMLS: How did your interest in craft beer become a profession? What is the origin of Banging Gavel Brews?
Richert: I have been a fan of craft beer ever since I graduated from college. My first craft beer of choice was Anchor Steam from Anchor Brewing Co., which is out of San Francisco. Over the years, I always sought out new craft beers. In fall 2013, I asked my brother if he would like to take a beer-making class just for something to do. We brewed a small, five-gallon batch and caught the bug. By the beginning of 2015, we had our first beer in distribution. We are still contract brewing while working on opening our brewpub in downtown Tinley Park, Illinois. The name, “Banging Gavel Brews,” obviously comes from my legal background.
JMLS: Do you have a favorite memory of law school?
Richert: I have many fond memories of my time at John Marshall. My class had a great comradery. I would have to say that my Contracts professor, John J. O’Connor, stands out the most. We had heard stories that he was a difficult—a no-nonsense type of professor. One day we approached him and asked if he would like to go to a Cubs game with a bunch of us from his class. To our surprise, he not only accepted, but he was awesome to talk with outside of the classroom. I remember him hanging out with us even after the game at a local pub and sharing incredible stories about his time serving our country in the Korean War. We also learned that he had a private pilot’s license.
JMLS: Can you tell us one thing that your John Marshall classmates might be surprised to learn about you?
Richert: I suppose that I co-founded a brewery might come as a surprise to them.
JMLS: How does your legal experience serve in your capacity as president of a craft brewery? What are some things about the beer business that people would be surprised to know?
Richert: My legal background plays a huge part in my role as president of the brewery. The liquor industry, and especially the brewing industry, is extremely regulated. That, coupled with the day-to-day issues that can surface in the running of any business. I deal with licensing on multiple levels of government, trademark and other intellectual property matters, distribution laws, local construction ordinances, contracts, contracts, and more contracts. It’s endless.
When people learn that I am involved in the brewing industry, most typically respond by saying: “That must be fun!” And it is fun, but it’s also a business. And like any business, it comes with its share of headaches. Some people are surprised to hear that.
Something I find attractive about the industry, however, is the support that breweries show each other. That was one of the first things that really struck me about the brewing industry. It’s truly amazing to be a part of.
JMLS: Will you share with us some of your hobbies or leisure activities?
Richert: My schedule now does not allow for as much leisure time as I would like, but I always make time for my daily, early-morning workouts. It helps me control stress and focus on the day ahead. I also enjoy playing ice hockey with the guys on Friday evenings. During the warmer months, I can usually be found sitting on my back patio enjoying a glass of wine by the fire pit and listening to classic rock.