1851 Interviews the Highest Profile Attorneys in Franchising
Name: Fredric Cohen
Firm: Cheng Cohen
About Cheng Cohen: Cheng Cohen LLC is the franchise industry’s full service boutique law firm. We provide uncompromising client service and sound, practical legal advice to franchise and distribution clients for a fair and reasonable fee to help clients grow and maintain their brands.
1851: How did you fall into franchising?
Cohen: I was on my way to becoming an antitrust lawyer and got lost en route. In 1989 I joined Rudnick & Wolfe, a predecessor to what eventually became DLA Piper. The marquis practice at the firm was franchising. It was an attractive practice for two reasons. First, at the time the group was populated by tremendous people like Lewis Rudnick and Dennis Wieczorek. I was fortunate to know and work with them, and to be mentored by Lewis. Second, franchising offers young litigators (as well as now “older” litigators) the opportunity to actually try cases because franchise disputes are relatively discrete and, certainly where the relationship has broken down, there is often no alternative to trial or arbitration. As it turned out, I got incredible experience for a young lawyer, and wound up co-chairing the franchise litigation group before leaving in 2007 to form Cheng Cohen with my partner Amy Cheng.
1851: What do you love most about franchising?
Cohen: Easy answer: the creative, entrepreneurial people who populate the industry. I hate lawyers as much as the next guy. As a franchise lawyer I get to spend my day working hand in hand with top people in a given industry, including marketing gurus, restaurant operations folks, financial officers, and so on. The excellence and commitment these people embody serves to motivate and challenge me every single day.
1851: What makes a great client?
Cohen: When I think of the great clients I have been privileged to work with I can identify clear commonalities: good, smart people who are solution-oriented and who are looking for a partner in achieving a solution to whatever problem is presented or anticipated. A great (and most effective) team is one in which every member brings a skillset to bear and appreciates the skills the other team members possess. Simply put, the best lawyer-client relationships are partnerships.
1851: What makes a great franchise attorney?
Cohen: Well-refined legal skills, substantive mastery, and the realization—that seems so elusive to so many lawyers—that we lawyers are in a service industry. We’re servants. Very few lawyers went to law school in order to be a servant. Most went to become a big shot. The best lawyers—whether in franchising or any other area of law—are those who possess highly developed skills and substantive knowledge and experience, and who have figured out that understatement and humility are among the most lethal and disarming weapons a lawyer can possess.