Spotlight on up-and-comers
Brandi Brown leads a guest into her office at One
Montgomery Tower in San Francisco on a recent
morning, apologizing for the mess. There are stacks
of papers and files on her desk, behind her desk and
on the floor, sharing space with rain boots.
Her 3-year-old son’s colorful drawings line the
walls, while his face beams from photos on her
desk. Tombstones from successful deals are scattered about, including a bottle of wine—Endless
Sonoma—a thank-you for a referral. She has been
happily ensconced since 2007 at Coblentz Patch
Duffy & Bass, where she is a partner and head of
the firm’s wine industry group. She also serves as
outside general counsel to about a dozen midsize
companies spanning the advertising, creative
services, and food and beverage industries.
She’s also lived in Paris and practiced law in Tokyo.
“I like to keep it interesting,” she says. Brown
She’d never been to Japan, didn’t speak Japanese,
developed an appreciation for variety in life at an
early age. “We lived in military surroundings,” she
explains. “I was surrounded by diversity.”
A pre-law and government course in college
convinced her that a law degree could lead to a ca-
reer that would keep her interest. After graduating
from UCLA School of Law in 2003, Brown joined
Kirkland & Ellis in Los Angeles, handling mergers
and acquisitions. In 2006, the fourth-year associ-
ate volunteered for the firm’s exchange program
with the Japanese firm now called Atsumi & Sakai.
but she wanted to become an expert in cross-border
transactions, and Asia was the hot growth sector.
Living abroad wasn’t foreign to her. As an under-
graduate, she’d lived in Paris during a summer pro-
gram and studied French, culture and government.
During her year as an exchange attorney, Brown
worked for Kirkland and also for the Tokyo firm
DUFFY & BASS
Brandi Brown thrives on fielding whatever life throws her way BY NINA SCHUYLER
on transactions involving mostly Western-based
clients, such as Lehman Brothers.
“I fell in love with Tokyo,” she says. “You’d see
a businessman walking down the street at the
same cadence as a Harajuku girl. Every time I
walked to work, I’d see some new innovation, a
new gadget. When the Japanese do something,
they do it 150 percent.”
On Fridays, she and her colleagues would head
to an izakaya, where her Japanese colleagues would
play “scare the gaijin.” They wouldn’t disclose exact-
ly what they were ordering; then they would watch
as Brown ate whale, raw chicken and fish sperm.
“It was fun!” she recalls. “It was an experience.”
In 2007, back in San Francisco, she got a call
from a headhunter, saying Coblentz was looking for
someone like her. She was intrigued by the firm’s
entrepreneurial model, which she believed would
let her diversify her practice. At first, her focus was
private equity and mergers and acquisitions. When
a client sold off its wine brands, Brown made friends
in the industry. One thing led to another, and she
landed E. & J. Gallo Winery as a client. Soon, she
added Numi Organic Tea. Then she stepped into the
world of advertising, advising clients such as global
design agency Manual Creative, whose client list
includes Nike, Gap and Google.
“I play shortstop,” she says. “I never know, when
When her boy is old enough, she wants to take
I come to work, what will be the issue of the day for
these companies, and I love that. You have to be
able to give a legal solution that’s not a business
killer, because as mid-size companies, they need
to take risks to grow.”
In 2016, Coblentz opened up an office in Napa to
service wine and hospitality-industry clients. “We’d
been serving clients in the valley for years and de-
cided it was time to become a full-fledged resident,”
says Brown. She spends two to three days a week in
Napa, where she lives with her husband and their
son, and the rest in San Francisco.
him to Marrakesh, Morocco, a location she’s visited
on vacation that embodies her love of diversity.
“It’s a rare country, predominantly Muslim, but
they’ve managed to merge traditional Muslim
ideals with Western ideals. It’s not unusual to see a
woman walking down the street in a full hijab, and
beside her, a friend in jean shorts.
“That the two can coexist peacefully, it’s educa-
tional. I want my son to see that.”
“I never know, when I come to work,
what will be the issue of the day for
these companies, and I love that.”