1851 Interviews the Highest Profile Attorneys in Franchising
Name: Carl Zwisler
Firm: Gray Plant Mooty
About Gray Plant Mooty: Gray Plant Mooty (Gray, Plant, Mooty, Mooty & Bennett, P.A.) is the oldest continuing law practice in Minneapolis. Gray Plant Mooty is a full-service law firm with offices in Minneapolis, Minnesota; St. Cloud, Minnesota; Fargo, North Dakota; and Washington, D.C.
1851: How did you fall into franchising?
Zwisler: In 1975 I was coordinating state regulatory issues for the National Association of Home Builders and found that the job involved more administrative work and less legal work than I preferred. I answered a classified ad in the Washington Post for the International Franchise Association, which was seeking a lawyer with a government affairs background to coordinate its legal and legislative programs. At the time NAHB had its own office building and a staff of about 145. I visited IFA headquarters in an office building in Bethesda, Maryland, and was greeted by a staff of six people. I was impressed with the letterhead, which listed the members of the board of directors and well-known brands. Because this interview occurred decades before the internet was available, my research on “franchising” was limited to my dictionary. I knew that a franchise was the right to vote or a right granted by a king, but knew that IFA was about something different. So my first question at the interview was, “What is a franchise?” After attending the 1975 IFA Legal Symposium, I began working at IFA, where I remained for eight and a half years, before I entered private law practice.
During my time at IFA I was involved in the development of the FTC Franchise Rule, the UFOC Guidelines (the predecessor to the FDD), and federal and state franchise regulations. I testified before Congress and 31 state legislatures or regulatory agencies about various franchising issues during my tenure. I also produced the first compilation of franchise laws and regulations, which was essential to IFA members, because there was no single source to which franchisors and their lawyers could turn to access all U.S. franchise laws. Several years later IFA sold the publication to Commerce Clearing House, when it began publishing the Business Franchise Guide.
1851: What do you love most about franchising?
Zwisler: As a lawyer franchising is fascinating because of the breadth of legal issues and challenges that franchisors and franchisees face. Hardly a day passes when I don’t learn something new or acquire a different perspective on some facet of franchising that I thought that I had understood. Aside from the intellectual challenges of franchising, what really set it apart from other endeavors are the people involved and how much creativity and effort they put into creating an enduring and successful business. Having served on the IFA Awards Committee and read the nominations of franchising leaders, I was amazed by the talent, contributions, insights and accomplishments of so many in the franchising community.
1851: What makes a great client?
Zwisler: A great client for us is a growing franchisor or master franchisee whose leaders articulate their goals to its stakeholders, who seek our advice as they are making strategic decisions and mitigate legal risks from the outset. Like everyone else, franchise lawyers like to be considered as a valued member of our clients’ teams, and not as a costly barrier to achieving business goals. I especially like working with clients who take the time to understand the legal issues that they face and the rationale for the advice that we offer.
1851: What makes a great franchise attorney?
Zwisler: A great franchise attorney understands the legal and business implications of language used in agreements, FDDs, advertising and manuals. A great franchise attorney takes the time to understand how and why franchisors and franchisees make the decisions that they make. A great franchise lawyer educates himself about developments in franchise law on an ongoing basis. A great franchise lawyer helps her clients to anticipate the ultimate consequences of any proposed action and communicates clearly with her clients about them. A great franchise attorney invests the time to keep his clients apprised of developments in franchising law and is involved in shaping the regulations that affect franchising. Finally, a great franchise attorney surrounds himself with other franchise lawyers who share their knowledge, insights and experiences with each other for the benefit of their clients.