By Meredeth Barzen
When we asked the franchise legal community for its recommendations on the top attorneys in the field, we got nominations. Boy, did we get nominations. We received more than 800 this year, almost double the number of nominations we received last year, in 2009, which was double the 2008 number. At this rate of growth, we expect next year we’ll set up a cot and a two-month supply of Ramen noodles in the office and work around
So it goes without saying that it was a painful process indeed to cut so many talented, qualified franchise lawyers from the list. But without that process, this issue would have weighed more than even the most verbose legal briefs.
And, in keeping with Franchise Times Legal Eagles tradition, we’ve included a select few Canadian attorneys in their own section, much as their home country is included in its own section of the North American continent.
So what make s a Legal Eagle? “Knowledgeable” was perhaps the most common adjective on our nomination forms. And during this lackluster economy, the ability to provide that knowledge at a competitive cost was key. “Went out of his way to help me, even when he knew I had very limited funds,” said one client nominating his or her attorney.
It was important this year—as it is every year—that our Legal Eagles be smart, articulate and professional. “Highly literate” was a phrase applied to one lawyer. We also saw praise such as “Rare grasp of business and psychological context of franchise relationships,” “frighteningly smart,” “Knows franchising like the back of his hand” and “Not only an aggressive litigator, but, in a practice where expediency is sometimes a temptation, he maintains the highest standards of ethical behavior.” We saw franchise lawyers referred to as “guru,” “the Godfather,” “a lawyer’s lawyer,” “a fantastic role model for young lawyers” and “straight shooter.”
Trust was key for franchisees and franchisors when nominating their favorite attorneys: “I am always very confident that he will expertly navigate through any legal process, and will dot every ‘i’ and cross every ‘t’ for me and my business,” said one nominator. “He asked a lot of questions to make sure that there would be no mistakes in setting up my legal documents. He always took his time and was very specific about explaining things to me. I felt very comfortable with him and trusted his judgment,” said another.
And Legal Eagles take time out for their clients—sometimes too much time: “Even while he was on vacation, he reviewed a situation to help us come to a quick resolution,” said a nomination. “I have received e-mails from her at 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. about agreements we were working on,” said another. “Was clear and concise, answering any questions that we had ... and we had many. Was timely, never leaving us to wait for a response,” said a third. Said a particularly gushy nomination, “I have yet to find an attorney as busy as (he) is to find the time to return calls and e-mails within seconds, work late nights, weekends, holidays, etc … I could go on and on, but you would think I was getting paid for this nomination.”
But when five-dollar-words and complex phrases fail, some clients appreciate the simpler qualities in their franchise lawyers: “A no nonsense guy who tells it like it is.” And one attorney possessed a quality that everyone—lawyer, layman, businessperson or concerned citizen of the world—can appreciate: “Speaks English, not Legalese.”
And that’s just what the clients said about the lawyers. You should hear what their peers—the majority of the nominations—had to say about each other.