Franchise law is a very specialized practice area. Most lawyers do not have the background and experience to provide competent advice on franchise law issues. Most franchise development companies do not have the legal background or experience to prepare adequate legal documents. Regardless of whether you are considering starting a franchise system as a new franchisor or buying a franchise as a franchisee, you will be devoting substantial time, money and effort to your new business. You really owe it to yourself to get an experienced franchise lawyer on your team early in the process. By rough estimate, there are more that 1,600 lawyer members of the American Bar Association's Forum of Franchising. This includes:
• lawyers who handle only litigation and other dispute resolution • lawyers who work in house for franchisors or large franchisees • lawyers who only occasionally dabble in franchise law • lawyers who work for only franchisees • lawyers who work in huge law firms
After excluding these types of lawyers, there are probably less than 100 other franchise lawyers at small firms or solo practices in the U.S. who do what we do -- provide personalized, superior-quality franchise transactional law services on an exclusive basis.
It is easy to find us online -- although it will take some sifting. A Google search for "franchise attorney" or "franchise lawyer" will yield hundreds of results -- for all kinds of lawyers. But a quick review of web sites will show which lawyers are bona fide franchise lawyers, and which are not.
Criteria For Selecting a Franchise Lawyer
Of course, we hope you will hire Vinson Franchise Law Firm to assist with franchise legal needs. But, if you decide to keep looking, here are some important criteria to consider when selecting a franchise lawyer:
1. Franchise Law Expertise
Your franchise lawyer should specialize in franchise law. A good indication of this is the lawyer’s listings on various web sites, such as www.martindale.com or www.lawyers.com. Beware of lawyers who seem to "specialize" in everything. At Vinson Franchise Law Firm, all we do is franchise law, so we have to do it well!
2. ABA Forum on Franchising Membership Your franchise lawyer should be a member of the American Bar Association’s Forum on Franchising (and regularly participate in or attend the Forum’s annual meeting). A lawyer's membership in the Forum on Franchising is NOT a guarantee that the lawyer specializes in franchise law, that the lawyer practices franchise law exclusively, or even that the lawyer has experience in franchise law. But, if a lawyer is not a member of the Forum on Franchising, then this raises questions about whether the lawyer is a bona fide franchise lawyer. Rob Vinson has been a member of the ABA Forum on Franchising since 1996, and has attended most annual meetings since then.
3. AV Rated Your franchise lawyer should be rated "AV" in Martindale-Hubbell. This is the highest rating for professional excellence awarded, and signifies "very high to preeminent legal ability and very high ethical standards" as reported by peers in response to confidential questionnaires by the directory’s publishers. This rating cannot be purchased, and can only be earned by years of providing high quality and ethical legal services. Rob Vinson of Vinson Franchise Law Firm has been AV Rated since 2002. Click here for an explanation of the ratings and the ratings systems.
4. Speaks Plain English
Your franchise lawyer should be able to discuss with you complex legal issues in language you understand and relate to. At Vinson Franchise Law Firm, we speak plain English -- not legalese (and we are friendly and easy to talk with).
5. Provide Client References
Your franchise lawyer should be able to provide you with a list of recent client references for similar projects. We have posted a long list of clients we have worked with (and many client testimonials) on the What Clients Say page. We will gladly provide contact information and additional client references upon request.
6. Explanation of Project Staffing
Your franchise lawyer should be able to tell you exactly who will be working on your project. This is especially important if you use a big law firm -- where much of the legal work is actually done by junior associates and legal assistants. At Vinson Franchise Law Firm, Rob Vinson performs all of the legal services -- so you know you are getting high-quality legal services from an experienced, and highly-rated franchise lawyer.
7. Fixed Fee or Narrow Range for Total Cost Estimate Your franchise lawyer should be able to give you an exact fixed-fee or a fairly narrow range estimate for most types of projects, and should completely explain any additional costs likely to be incurred. Some lawyers charge extra for long distance telephone charges, copies, postage, conference room usage, etc. -- even for coffee and juice. At Vinson Franchise Law Firm, we explain exectly what is included in our fixed-fee packages. Generally, the only expense items not included are state registration filing fees and Federal Express delivery costs.
Your franchise lawyer should be accessible. At Vinson Franchise Law Firm, we work from a home office, and are available on reasonable notice at just about any hour -- day or night. Even during holidays and vacations, we are generally available by email or cell phone.
9. Not Controlling
Your franchise lawyer should be empowering rather than controlling. Some lawyers try to keep client's captive by controlling the franchise documents and state registrations. At Vinson Franchise Law Firm, we recognize that your franchise documents and your state registrations belong to you. If you want to modify your franchise documents on your own, you can (although we do not recommend this). If you want to handle your own state franchise registrations, you can. We provide our clients with Word and pdf versions of their franchise documents as a matter of course, and we are glad for clients to handle their own state registrations if they want to.
10. Friendly and Easy to Talk To
Your franchise lawyer should be friendly and easy to talk to. The law business is a service industry. At Vinson Franchise Law Firm, we value each of our clients -- no matter how big or how small. You will never be just another client number to us. And, if you are looking for a fabulous getaway (that could include gambling, skiing, golfing, hiking, fishing, etc.), then come see us at Lake Tahoe! (You may even be able to deduct the trip as a business expense.) Lake Tahoe is about a 45-minute drive from Reno, about 2 hours from Sacramento, and about 4 hours from the San Francisco Bay area. And, it is one of the most beautiful places in the world.
Ready to Hire Us Yet?
Prospective clients usually take advantage of our offer of free initial consultation before hiring us. So, please call or email us to discuss your situation.
There are several important benefits to our free consultation:
1. You have an opportunity to get to know us a little before hiring us.
2. We can determine if we have a conflict of interest that would prevent our representation of you.
3. We can determine whether we handle the type of legal work you need.
4. You can determine whether we would be a good match for you.
5. We can give you a quote for a fixed-fee or a range of hourly fees (depending on the specific project).
Normally, we handle major projects and state franchise registrations on a fixed-fee basis that is agreed-upon at the start of the representation. This arrangement has 2 main benefits for you:
You will not be surprised when you receive our fee statements, because you will already know exactly how much your legal fees will be for the fixed-fee services.
During the particular project, you will be able to call or e-mail us to discuss all of your questions or concerns without worrying about being charged by the minute.
To become a client of ours, you will need to sign and return our standard engagement letter. The engagement letter will spell out in detail the terms and conditions of our relationship with you.
An initial payment will also be required when you return the signed engagement letter. We accept payment by check, wire transfer or inter-bank transfer.
Licensed in California, Nevada and Texas. Not certified as to any specialty by any state bars.
This web site provides general information only. Laws differ from state to state, and they change over time. Nothing included in this web site should be construed as creating an attorney-client relationship, or as the provision of legal advice.
Links to other web sites are provided for your convenience and information. They are not intended to be endorsements. Third-party trademarks and service marks used in this web site belong to their respective owners.
All contents copyright 2002-2017 Robert E. Vinson, Jr. All rights reserved. The information contained in this web site may not be reproduced, downloaded, disseminated, published or transferred in any form or by any means, other than downloading for personal use, except with prior written consent of Robert E. Vinson, Jr.