1851 Franchise Magazine Dives into What Makes the Best Attorney Partner in the Franchise Space
As a franchisee or franchisor, choosing the right attorney is an extremely important decision. Bringing one on as early as possible can help in the long run, too. The attorney is there to provide support for the long-term, so it’s important that the partnership is a good fit. 1851 Franchise Magazine connected with Showhomes Chief Operating Officer Matt Kelton and Marcus & Boxerman Attorney Michael Boxerman to hear more about what franchisees or franchisors should look for in selecting their attorney.
Background in Franchise Law
One of the first things to think about is the attorney’s background. Does the attorney have a focus in franchise law? This is is extremely important for the success of the partnership.
“The franchise space is unique and in my experience, when an attorney doesn’t concentrate in franchise law, he or she is unfamiliar with the nature of a franchise relationship,” said Boxerman. “They might go and approach a franchise matter like any normal business transaction like any sort of normal transaction and may not be sensitive to the franchise system. This could really scuttle any deal because they are approaching it differently.”
Kelton echoes this sentiment, noting that experience in franchising is a must.
“I would always make sure they have a solid background in franchise law,” said Kelton. “When we talk to prospects who use a non-franchise lawyer it can cause a lot of headaches as we have to educate them on the basics of franchising.”
Relevant Experience in a Specific Field
Beyond experience in franchising, it is important to look for an attorney partner with experience in the specific sector of the franchisee or franchisor. For example, if the client is in the quick service restaurant (QSR) space, it is helpful to partner with an attorney with QSR-specific experience.
“They not only know how the business works, but they have insight into what could go wrong from experience they have from other clients,” said Boxerman. “If you’ve been practicing in the QSR space for 20 years, you’ve seen a lot and can give that client higher-level advice beyond just the review of the FDD.”
Recognition Within Franchise Space
Within the franchise space, there are different organizations and groups that allow people that work within franchising build a network. In searching for a franchise attorney, it can be helpful to look within this network.
“Being affiliated with the IFA or having a CFE is something we look for,” said Kelton. “Also recognition by a franchise periodical like Franchise Times, 1851Franchise.com or Franchise Update highlight what they have done in the space, and show that they have a solid roster of franchise clients.”
References from Clients
One of the best places to look for an attorney is other clients within the space. Franchisors and franchisees who have been in the franchising space for a long time are a great reference on who would be a good fit, especially when looking within a sector.
“I would get references from other franchisees and then do your due diligence,” said Kelton.
Long-Term Trust and Mutual Respect
Arguably the most important aspect of the relationship between a franchisee or franchisor and their attorney is trust. A franchisee or franchisor has to feel comfortable to be real with the attorney, talking about any issues or concerns. If they don’t feel comfortable, they will withhold information, which will ultimately hurt the relationship.
“Both the attorney and client have to be comfortable with each other. The hope is that you are establishing a long-term relationship, and if the client isn’t comfortable they will second guess the lawyers' advice and won’t tell the lawyer the full story,” said Boxerman. “Sometimes you get a gut feeling that doesn’t feel like the client is comfortable with your advice, and if they second guess every piece of advice, then it may not be a good relationship. You want to partner with someone who you respect.”