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Top Franchise Lawyers: Charles Modell of Larkin Hoffman

1851 Franchise’s annual compilation of great franchise attorneys.

1851 interviewed Larkin Hoffman’s Charles “Chuck” Modell about the state of franchising, what makes a franchise attorney awesome and his advice for growth-minded franchisors.

About Chuck Modell (from firm’s website): 

Chuck Modell is one of the leading franchise attorneys in the country with over 40 years in the industry. He is highly skilled in all matters related to franchising, including structuring franchise relationships, drafting franchise documents, negotiating with franchisees, preparing financial performance representations, and handling termination and non-renewals. He also has a strong background in M&A transactions, particularly those involving franchise companies and multi-unit franchisees.

Chuck is an experienced attorney with a demonstrated history of successfully navigating sophisticated agreements and negotiations. When he is not advocating for his clients, he has served as a neutral arbitrator and mediator, and as an expert witness in franchise matters. Chuck’s extensive expertise in the franchise area was recognized in 2014, 2018, and again in 2019 when he was named Franchise Lawyer of the Year in Minneapolis by Best Lawyers in America. He has also been named a “Legal Eagle” by Franchise Times Magazine every year since the inception of that list in 2005. He has received the American Bar Association Franchise Forum’s highest award for excellence in franchising, one of only four currently practicing lawyers to receive that award.

Chuck Modell’s legal and business expertise has helped make Larkin Hoffman one of the most successful franchising firms in the country. Visit to see how their team of legal professionals can help you franchise your existing business.

About Larkin Hoffman (from firm’s website): 

Attorneys on Larkin Hoffman’s franchise and distribution team use their deep industry experience to help clients gain an edge over their competitors. Charles ("Chuck") Modell built that team over the course of 40 years. The team represents clients from a wide variety of industries, including restaurant and hospitality, service businesses, retail, fitness and internet-based businesses. They get to know those industries and provide very specific advice on the franchising issues involved, from structuring and registering franchise offerings, to developing growth strategies and supplier relationships, to resolving disputes through mediation, arbitration and litigation, and ultimately to selling the business. The team’s success is based on their dedication to truly responsive service. Their clients frequently comment on how refreshing it is to work with attorneys who respond quickly to questions and requests and have the experience to answer many inquiries without extensive research.  

1851 Franchise: What do you love most about franchising?

Chuck Modell: I can answer this best by personalizing it as to what I like best about what I do because I was asked this question last month by one of my former college classmates, who was thinking about retiring, and looking back at his career in another area of the law.  I enjoy working in franchising because I am helping people create companies that, in turn, allow people to own their own business, and provide jobs to others.  Over the course of my more than 40 years as a franchise attorney, I have helped more than 100 franchise companies, in many industries, which in turn have established thousands of small, and not so small, franchisee-owned businesses, which have collectively employed several hundred thousand people.  There are not many people who can say they have helped create that many jobs and opportunities in their careers.

1851: What makes a great franchise attorney?

Modell: There is no single attribute of a great franchise attorney, but there are two key places to start. First, a great franchise attorney needs to have an interest in and aptitude for business, and particularly how businesses operate, how they expand, and how they fail, as most franchise clients need the benefit of this experience. A great franchise attorney also needs to be available to his or her clients, and responsive, because when problems arise in a business, they often cannot wait even hours, let alone days, to be addressed.  

1851: What is the most important question to ask a franchise attorney when looking to make a change in representation?

Modell: Who else does the attorney currently represent, and how long has he or she represented that system?  If you’re looking to expand, you want to know not only that your attorney represents others of your size, but that the attorney represents companies of the size you want to become, and has represented those people in growing to that size. The best franchise attorney not only knows the law, but has “seen it all,” and worked through the issues that arose.  A secondary question to ask is how active that attorney is in the franchise law community. Do they regularly attend the American Bar Association Annual Forum on Franchising, and the International Franchise Association’s Annual Conference and Legal Symposium? Do they speak at these programs, and publish articles on franchise topics?  Have they been on panels with state regulators? When looking for a franchise attorney, and particularly when looking for a replacement to your existing counsel, you want to know that the attorney knows and is respected by others with whom they will deal, including the lawyers who will sit on the other side of the table, and the franchise regulators who will be reviewing your filings  - and complaints they may receive from your franchisees.  

1851: What is the number-one piece of advice you would give franchisors as to how to grow their brand?

Modell: Seek advice from as many people as possible who have grown franchised businesses, or helped those businesses grow, and then learn to walk before you run.  Too many would-be franchisors want to start franchising, and sell franchises, before they even understand what it means to be a franchisor, let alone have in place training programs, operating procedures, and supply chains necessary to assure the success of franchisees who follow the system.  

1851: What do you see as the top legal worry for franchisors in the next year?

Modell: Having a political climate that is conducive to franchising.  It is a short answer, but it covers a myriad of issues. If minimum wage laws are enacted that impose undue burdens on small franchisees, those franchisees will not be successful and the system will fail. If franchisors are held liable for the employment practices of their franchisees, then franchisees will not have the leeway to hire and fire the people they feel are best qualified to work with them. If franchise relationship laws make it impossible for franchisors to weed out franchisees who are harming the brand, then franchisors, other franchisees in the system, and the public, are harmed. These challenges have been present for decades, but never to the extent we are seeing today.