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Top Franchise Lawyers: Michael Daigle of Cheng Cohen

1851 Franchise’s annual compilation of great franchise attorneys.

1851 interviewed Cheng Cohen’s Michael Daigle about the state of franchising, what makes a franchise attorney awesome and his advice for growth-minded franchisors.

About Michael Daigle (from firm’s website):

Michael’s unique experience drives his client-centric point of view as a lawyer. Before returning to private practice in 2008, Michael spent 20+ years as chief legal counsel and senior business executive for companies such as Blockbuster, Quiznos, Boston Market and Einstein Bagels, where he was a front-line player in building those companies’ brands both domestically and overseas. Having worn the shoes of a client for most of his career, Michael has faced and made the same critical business and legal decisions that his clients are forced to make as they either begin their journey as a franchisor or take their systems to the next level. This, together with his experience developing and operating his own restaurant and jazz club, have armed him with valuable insight and empathy that is unique among lawyers.

As a lawyer, Michael’s roles have put him on the front line of issues and challenges ranging from aggressive domestic and international growth, management transitions, class actions and other complex litigation, general business matters, and mergers and acquisitions. He has spent years honing his versatile experience in three key roles: law firm partner, chief legal officer for several prominent brands and an executive-level business leader for aggressive growth franchisors. In those roles, Michael was charged with both business and legal responsibilities, including developing and implementing global expansion strategies, negotiating multi-national business deals and documenting transactions around the world ranging from direct operations, joint ventures, licenses, master franchises and area development transactions in over 50 countries in every region of the world.

About Cheng Cohen (from firm’s website):

Cheng Cohen specializes in franchise compliance and growth law and is proud to have the largest legal team dedicated to the franchise industry.

1851 Franchise: What do you love most about franchising? 

Michael Daigle: Two things: The diversity of concepts that we get to work with, and, in many cases, the chance to work with the entrepreneurs who founded them. It’s hard to be bored, and it’s exciting to be able to peak behind the curtain and see the creative and innovative products and services people come up with and ways for delivering them to consumers.

1851: What makes a great franchise attorney, as in, what makes you awesome? 

Daigle: Gut, experience (both legal and business experience), responsiveness, and the ability to problem-solve in a way that gets past “no” while minimizing the client’s risks.

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

Daigle: Are you willing and able to be my business partner? The practice of law has evolved since I started practicing — clients should be embraced, not held at arm’s length, and it’s rare that a legal issue is decided in a vacuum. Franchise attorneys must understand both the business risks that flow from legal decisions and the legal risks that flow from business decisions, and they must be prepared to partner with their clients as they make both kinds of decisions.

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

Daigle: To coin a phrase — expect the unexpected. Things rarely go as planned. Franchisors looking to grow their brands absolutely have to have a plan, but their ability to adapt the plan and to be smartly opportunistic are critical to growth.

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

Daigle: The ability to manage — and help their franchisees manage - through the economic fallout that will inevitably come with the operational restrictions (forced closures, limitations on size of gatherings, travel restrictions, etc.) being placed on people and businesses as the world deals with the Covid-19 pandemic. That fallout will tremendously stress businesses’ contractual and other relationships with vendors, lenders, landlords, and employees and will be felt for years to come.