If you are a businessperson, sooner or later you will have to deal with a lawyer. In the franchise world, it helps – tremendously – to deal with attorneys who understand franchising and franchise law. It doesn’t matter whether you are a franchisor or a franchisee; no matter which side of the transaction you happen to be on, you will want an experienced franchise attorney to be on the other side.
Surprisingly, the level of franchise law knowledge among attorneys who actually get involved in franchise transactions varies considerably. The majority of the time, lawyers who are knowledgeable in franchise law are on both sides of the transaction. But that is not always the case. Sometimes, the attorney on the other side is inexperienced, and “dabbling,” in franchise law.
This is the second of a two-part piece on why attorneys who are inexperienced in franchise law can hinder a transaction, or worse, do harm to their clients. To read part one, discussing the problems that inexperienced franchisee counsel can cause for their clients, please click here.
This article explores the problem of inexperienced counsel from the point of view of the franchisor, which is using an attorney that has little or no familiarity with franchise law (or, even worse, the company is using a consultant who is not a lawyer).
Why Franchisors sometimes use Inexperienced Legal Counsel
If a company is considering franchising its business (a “start-up” franchisor), one of the first things the company does is look for legal counsel. Finding an experienced franchise attorney is not a simple task; there are only a few hundred attorneys in the country that specialize in franchise law. A start-up franchisor may look to its local business attorney to help the company draft its franchise agreement and franchise disclosure document (“FDD”), and otherwise help the company comply with its legal obligations.
The business attorney may be tempted to do the work, instead of referring it to another lawyer. After all, form FDDs and franchise agreements are relatively easy to find, and many of them look similar to one another. But the problem is that franchise contracts and FDDs aren’t “one size fits all” legal documents, and the franchise relationship isn’t a typical business relationship. It is critical for attorneys who work in franchising to understand the documents they draft, the legal requirements for disclosure (both federal and state), and how the pieces of the documents need to fit together.