Irish Legal 100


SEAN O’Leary is president of O’Leary Law and Policy Group, LLC – also known as the Irish Liquor Lawyer – in Chicago. He has become an authoritative source on the liquor regulatory system.

O’Leary has authored numerous United States Supreme Court amicus briefs supporting expanding wine shipping markets. He is a member of the U.S. Supreme Court bar. He also authored amicus briefs at the federal appellate court and state supreme court level supporting expansion of markets and innovation in the liquor regulatory space.

O’Leary authors the influential blog Irish Liquor Lawyer. The most cited person by the media in the U.S. liquor field, since starting his practice in the spring of 2018 O’Leary has been cited over 65 times by publications such as Forbes and Wine Spectator, and has been interviewed on news programs about liquor issues. He recently started as a guest columnist for Vinepair, the country’s largest digital media company covering the liquor industry.

During the Covid pandemic, O’Leary started a grassroots effort to make cocktails to go legalized in Illinois, which saved many restaurants from going out of business, and he drafted the legislation. He has also been an expert witness in numerous liquor cases involving franchise rules and commerce clause issues.

Before beginning the O’Leary Law and Policy Group, O’Leary held the position of chief legal counsel with the Illinois Liquor Control Commission, where he helped revolutionize the Illinois liquor industry by cracking down on illegal bootlegging, advocating for the expansion of allowable discounting practices and developing standards for contract brewing. O’Leary played an important role in setting the direction and policy of the commission. He acted as the policy liaison for the governor’s office and drafted regulations and statutes, including “of value” (trade practice) regulations and statutes which provided more opportunities for craft distillers.

Previous to his time in liquor law, O’Leary worked in state and local tax at firms including Arthur Andersen and PwC, where he achieved over $50 million in tax savings for his clients. Additionally, during his time at Walgreens, O’Leary brought Walgreens’ Illinois state tax incentives packages up from $0 to $75 million.

O’Leary earned a BA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a JD from Chicago-Kent College of Law.

Married with one son, O’Leary’s father is a native of Killarney, Co. Kerry. His maternal grandparents were from Dundalk, Co. Louth. He holds dual U.S.-Irish citizenship, and is a member of the Ireland Network and Irish Fellowship Club of Chicago.





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