1851 Interviews the Highest Profile Attorneys in Franchising for the 2018 Franchise Legal Player Awards
Name: Alexander Tuneski
Firm: DLA Piper LLP
About Your Firm: With lawyers located in more than 30 countries and 76 offices throughout the Americas, Asia Pacific, Europe and the Middle East, DLA Piper is a global law firm positioned to help companies with their legal needs throughout the world. We have practiced franchising, distribution and related areas of law for more than 40 years. The 20 partners and senior lawyers in our franchising and distribution law group average in excess of 25 years of experience in those fields.
Our clients operate in most of the business sectors that have adopted franchising as a method of distribution. They represent a broad spectrum of size and experience, from entrepreneurs and startup companies to large franchisors, manufacturers and distributors, with networks ranging from dozens to thousands of outlets. We have worked for clients in more than 100 countries and are respected around the world for our experience. Chambers and Partners calls us “The most distinguished player in the franchising area” and “the world’s most recognizable force in franchising,” commenting that DLA Piper “stands in a class of its own.” The International Who’s Who of Franchise Lawyers singles out 17 of the group’s lawyers for recognition, more than double the number from any other practice. Franchise Times names 17 of our lawyers among its “Legal Eagles” (more than any other firm)—the top franchise lawyers in the US. The publication calls them “super lawyers, the go-to guys and problem solvers who have earned the respect of their peers, clients and advisors.”
Additionally, we serve as General Counsel to the International Franchise Association. We practice franchise and distribution law from offices in Chicago (312-368-4000), Washington, DC(202-799-4000), Northern Virginia (703-773-4000), Atlanta (404-736-7800), San Francisco (415-836-2500), Houston (713-425-8400), and Palo Alto (650-833-2000).
What makes your firm stand out as a resource for the franchise industry?
The depth and breadth of experience of the attorneys in our franchise group is unparalleled. On a daily basis, we have the opportunity to work with our clients on some of the largest and most complicated transactions, some of the most interesting and complex issues facing franchise systems, and some of the most challenging and significant cases in our industry. Whether the issue is a day-to-day concern or a bet-the-company threat, in most cases, someone on our team has already advised another client on the same issue. Moreover, with attorneys with significant franchise experience in over 15 countries, we are able to provide this level of expertise both domestically and internationally.
What is the No. 1 thing a franchisor/franchisee should look for when identifying the right franchise attorney?
The reality is that there is not just one thing to consider. Everything is important, ranging from their credentials to their experience to their personality and attentiveness. There are a lot of attorneys that hold themselves out to be franchise attorneys who actually have limited experience in the field. As you look for attorneys, I would ask them what clients they serve and what exactly they do for them. If they only represent a limited number of smaller franchisors, I would look elsewhere, as you need someone who represents both start-ups and the established brands that you aspire to become. Once you find one of the many qualified franchise attorneys out there, it is a matter of personality. If you’re going to have a long-term relationship, you certainly want it to be with someone you actually enjoy getting to know!
When it comes to your work, what makes you happiest?
Seeing a client’s dreams come to fruition. It is very rewarding to watch a franchise system that I have worked with grow from a few bullet points in an e-mail to a leading brand in their industry. It can be a crazy ride with lots of bumps along the way, but it’s great to know that you are helping to build a business, which can have such a significant impact on so many people.
What are your top concerns for the franchise industry in the next year?
Concerns related to the implementation of the new revenue recognition standards, followed closely by continuing concerns over the joint employer issue. The Financial Accounting Standards Board’s new revenue recognition standards are going to have a major impact on every brand. There is a lot of confusion as to how to implement the new rules, which will significantly change the financial performance reported by many franchisors. Many franchisors are going to be shocked to learn how much work it may take to comply with the standards.
As for the joint employer issue, while the Trump administration has certainly taken steps to attempt to relieve some of the immediate threats, there is still significant uncertainty. Unfortunately, as long as this remains a partisan issue (which it should not be), the level of the threat will continue to change from administration to administration. For now, it is important for franchisors to continue to take steps to mitigate potential joint employer risks, as we continue to closely monitor developments.
What are you most optimistic about in the franchise industry in the next year?
As the economy continues to grow, the franchise industry continues to prosper. Many of our clients are knocking it out of the park. As multi-unit operators grow, so does the opportunity for franchise systems to expand even faster with sophisticated, well-capitalized operators. In addition, we are still seeing a lot of interest from private equity firms in franchise companies and a very active market. All in all, I expect it will be a great year, as long as the economy continues on its current course.