1851 Interviews the Highest Profile Attorneys in Franchising
Name: Michael Daigle
Firm: Cheng Cohen
About Cheng Cohen: We established Cheng Cohen in 2007 with a simple credo that is anything but common: we will provide uncompromising client service and sound, practical legal advice to franchise and distribution clients for a fair and reasonable fee. And we set a single, simple goal: to be the franchise industry’s full service boutique law firm.
Nine years later, in the age of “the selfie,” we thought it an appropriate time for a little self-examination and to see just how are we measuring up.
The US News and World Report’s 2016 listing of the Best Law Firms again ranks Cheng Cohen in Tier 1 Nationwide for Franchising. Cheng Cohen has also been recognized by Chambers & Partners USA as a leader in the Franchising category and the 2012 edition specifically recommended Cheng Cohen for both Client Service (one of only six firms) and Commercial Awareness (one of only four firms). We were one of only two firms recommended in both categories and the only boutique firm so honored in either category. Our attorneys have earned Lawyer of the Year and have been invited to serve in thought-leadership positions on various industry committees and associations. And every one of our partners has been recognized as a Legal Eagle by Franchise Times.
1851: How did you fall into franchising?
Daigle: It was all due to the 1984 New Orleans World’s Fair and women’s shoes. I was practicing law in New Orleans (where I’m from) at that time. The firm received a call from a woman who had a booth in the World’s Fair expo where she made custom women’s shoes on the spot. She said that people kept asking her if she franchised, so she wanted to talk to a lawyer familiar with franchising. Since no one in the firm (including me) had any franchise experience, and since I happened to be free, she and I met, hit it off, and learned franchising together. I’ve been a franchise lawyer ever since. I’m not sure what the IFA’s membership roster looked like in 1984, but I’m pretty sure I was the first franchise lawyer in the south – at least the first I am aware of.
1851: What do you love most about franchising?
Daigle: I love working with entrepreneurs. I spent most of my career in house with aggressive-growth franchisors while the brands were in their early stages and the companies were still run by the founders. There’s nothing more exciting than helping a brand grow domestically and internationally and, from a legal perspective, to position it to evolve as needed to stay relevant and competitive for the long term. I also love that while all franchisors work under the same regulatory umbrella, the concepts are as varied and diverse as can be imagined. I’m really a general business lawyer whose clients happen to be franchisors.
1851: What makes a great client?
Daigle: A great relationship. What I loved about being in house was being a part of the team – being able to find creative ways to avoid problems before they became problems, and helping to find ways to get to the desired result with as little risk as possible. That required true collaboration between the business and legal teams, and, in my book, that sort of collaboration is what makes a great relationship, and a great relationship makes a great client.
1851: What makes a great franchise attorney?
Daigle: Lots of things. The ability to forge a great, trusting relationship with the client that can last the entire lifecycle of the franchise system. An unwavering commitment to client service with the ability to deliver substantive knowledge quickly and efficiently. Each piece of paper sitting on my desk is a piece of the client’s business that isn’t getting done. The ability to think proactively to help the client understand and anticipate issues in order to make informed business decisions. The ability to stay abreast of what can be a rapidly changing regulatory and legal landscape. And something that isn’t legal-related -- a true passion for being a part of the client’s success.