I get that I am a franchise lawyer and I am about to give advice on “ finding the right franchise lawyer…” But the topic comes up often and let me start off with the point that there are some amazing, hard working and extremely competent franchise lawyers out there – true professionals who not only lookout for and do the right thing for their clients but, also, for their colleagues and for the franchise industry.
Before getting into the detail let me throw out there some helpful resources or suggestions for starting a search or at least validating an attorney that you may or may not be selecting:
- Franchise Lawyer Directories – Directories from credible organizations like the American Bar Association attorney directory (look for members of the ABA Forum on Franchising) are always a good starting point or at least a good tool for validation;
- Attorney Rating Services – Attorney rating websites like AVVO and SuperLawyers also serve as a good source of attorney validation and information
Now lets get to some important stuff…
Look, in addition to being a franchise lawyer I am also a franchisor and since acquiring a franchise company three years ago my perspective on franchise lawyers has changed…you see in addition to experience and credentials I believe that one of the 3 most important criteria that you should be looking and evaluating in a franchise lawyer are:
- Industry Know-How; and
1- The Right “Fit” – Like many other things in life, finding the right franchise lawyer for your system is not a one size fits all endeavor. Some franchise lawyers are better equipped to represent start-up and emerging franchisors while other are better equipped to represent mature franchise systems. Likewise, some franchise lawyers can add value for franchisees when reviewing a FDD or franchise investment and others are not so good. So knowing that an attorney is an experienced franchise lawyer is not enough. You must find a franchise lawyer that is a right fit for your franchise system or the franchise opportunity that you are about to embark on.
2 – Industry know-How – Knowing or understanding franchise law is not enough. When you hire a franchise attorney the real value that you should be acquiring or purchasing relates to tapping into that franchise lawyers industry know-how and real world experiences. That is, you want to leverage the attorneys real world experiences and tap into his or her know-how to avoid the mistakes that others have made and to copy or duplicate franchise success factors and strategies that others have relied upon. Legal advice as to what the franchise laws may or may not be is not enough – you need real world application.
3 – Infrastructure – When I say infrastructure I am talking about the lawyer and law firm. Have they built their business and infrastructure (staff, representation programs, and franchise education programs) around clients like you? If not then you need to look elsewhere because I can tell you that within the franchise industry, there are absolutely the right professionals that can provide your franchise system with a perfect fit.
So what prompted this article? Well, two things: first, this topic and question is something that comes up often at conferences and seminars; and second, both as a franchise lawyer and as a franchise lawyer I am involved in franchise transactions or deals that, fail to get done – not because a bad deal but because, sometimes, the attorney on the other side of the deal doesn’t have the right perspective or experience.
The good news though is that with a little effort, you can find some great franchise lawyers out there.