As part of its annual Franchise Legal Players issue, 1851 profiled the top franchise attorneys in the field to shine a spotlight on the work they do for the franchise industry.
1851: Tell us about your background and your firm.
Jonathan Barber, Esq., Managing Attorney at FRANCHISE.LAW: I got into franchise law while working as an associate for Jason Power, who is now my law partner. We left another firm and started our own practice on May 5th, 2016. In just under three years, we've grown our primary client base to over 75 franchisors. We also work with around 100 franchisees each year in transactions. All we do is franchise law, and we love offering high-quality legal services in this niche area.
1851: What are some must-ask questions when franchisors and franchisees are vetting potential franchise attorneys?
Barber: Do you come up with solutions, or do you just tell us what we can't do? Franchise attorneys need to think outside the box to come up with solutions to their clients' needs. I like to think I have a really big box that I operate within. I also have a healthy disregard for the impossible.
1851: In broad terms, do you have a particular case that stands out to you as an industry learning experience
Barber: I am fortunate to be local counsel for a very large franchisor (2,500-plus franchisees). They have several very experienced in-house counsel that I work with on litigation matters. They've been managing franchise issues for longer than I've been alive, so it's an invaluable experience to work with and learn from them!
1851: What is the most rewarding aspect of your work?
Barber: My relationships with my clients are the reason I go to work every day. Most of our franchisors are rock stars. They're really taking their brands to the next level and it's exciting to partner with them. It's very rewarding every time we close a big deal or prevent a catastrophe.
1851: What are your top concerns for the franchise industry in the next year?
Barber: Many franchisors are selling units like there's no tomorrow. With a hot concept, a franchisor can sell 100, 200 or even 300-plus units in a year., and while this massive growth is awesome, these franchisors need to work closely with their attorneys to make sure they're protected while growing. Otherwise, they can find themselves in a world of trouble.
1851: What are you most optimistic about in the franchise industry in the next year?
Barber: I love fresh, new franchise concepts. The economy seems to still be moving in a great direction, and more businesses are franchising. I think we're going to see some new franchises out there that are really challenging the norm and doing things differently. Those are the kind of people I love to work with.