James H. Niven's Profile Image

James H. Niven

Phone: 415-981-5451

James H. Niven has more than fifty years of experience as an attorney in California. He is the founder of Niven & Smith, LLP, a small law firm that handles real estate and commercial litigation, business transactional matters, and mediation. Mr. Niven’s practice covers all aspects of trial and appellate practice. He handles a variety of real estate disputes and represents numerous real estate brokerage firms. He represents oil and gas development companies throughout California, as well as vineyards, wineries, and suppliers in California Wine Country.

A California native, Mr. Niven obtained his law degree from the University of California, Hastings College of Law in San Francisco. He had previously earned a Bachelor of Science from San Jose State University, known at the time as San Jose State College.

Mr. Niven was admitted to the State Bar of California in 1971. He worked as a Deputy District Attorney for San Mateo County for several years before entering private practice. He founded Niven & Smith, LLP in San Francisco in 1977.

Litigation at both the trial and appellate levels has made up the bulk of Mr. Niven’s practice over the past five decades. He has represented clients in a wide range of real estate disputes, tax-free exchanges, and other matters. His real estate litigation work has included partnership disputes, landlord-tenant matters, representation of homeowner’s associations, and real estate broker malpractice. His commercial litigation and transactional work has included complex business transactions, contract disputes, and disputes among business partners.

Mr. Niven has worked extensively in California Wine Country on both the legal and business side. He has represented both buyers and sellers of wine businesses, which sales included the vineyards, brands, branded inventory, and other significant assets. He has represented businesses in matters involving contracts with grape growers, equipment leases, sales of brands, and other issues. He has represented vineyard owners facing contract disputes because of smoke damage caused by wildfires. He served as the Chairman of the Wine Institute, an advocacy organization for the California wine industry, in 2005 after having served on its board. He has consulted on numerous vineyard projects around the world, including one that developed several vineyards and wineries in the People’s Republic of China. He has also worked with his family’s wine business in San Luis Obispo County.

Areas of Practice
  • Real Estate Litigation
  • Commercial Litigation
  • Vineyards and Wineries
Admissions to Practice
  • California, 1971
  • San Jose State College, Bachelor of Science
  • University of California, Hastings College of Law, Juris Doctor
Professional Associations and Memberships
  • Co-Chair of the Real Estate Sales & Brokerage Subsection of the State Bar of California, 1987-88, 1989
  • State Bar of California, 1971-present
  • San Mateo County Bar Association
  • Wine Institute, former member for 20 years