Most Highly Regarded Firms: Franchise 2012

This year the findings of our research identify the firms and practitioners who stand out worldwide for their franchising expertise in a range of industries. DLA Piper LLP (US) emerges as the firm with the most inclusions, followed by Gray Plant Mooty with 10 lawyers mentioned. The research is dominated by North Amercian firms but most highly regarded individuals, such as Mark Abell from Field Fisher Waterhouse LLP, based in London stand out for their international work and knowledge of the area.

Most Highly Regarded Individuals
Philip Zeidman DLA Piper LLP (US), Washington, DC
Lee Plave Plave Koch PLC, Reston
John Baer Greensfelder Hemker & Gale PC, Chicago
Larry Weinberg Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP, Toronto
Mark Abell Field Fisher Waterhouse LLP, London
Penny Ward Baker & McKenzie, Sydney
Erik Wulff DLA Piper LLP (US), Washington, DC
Ann Hurwitz Baker Botts LLP, Dallas
Frank Zaid Osler Hoskin & Harcourt LLP, Toronto
Rochelle Spandorf Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, Los Angeles

An eight-time recipient of our franchise law firm of the year award, DLA Piper’s dominance of the global franchise law marketplace continues unchallenged according to our research, which recognises 16 lawyers from seven offices throughout the US, Asia and Europe.

Two lawyers appear from the Washington, DC office, both of whom rank among the most highly regarded practitioners internationally. Philip Zeidman is a senior partner in the franchise and distribution practice and a “figurehead for the firm and the industry”, according to peers. Counsel to a number of US and foreign companies as well as several international governmental organisations, Zeidman has been recognised as Who’s Who Legal’s franchise lawyer of the year since the award’s inception in 2005, and, again, earns more votes than any other practitioner in the current research. Erik Wulff brings a broad range of expertise – including corporate and property law – to bear in his national and international brand expansion advice to clients in the consumer products and services sector. A former member of the board of directors of a New York Stock Exchange listed company, Wulff’s commercial acumen is “unimpeachable” according to respondents to our survey.

Almost half of DLA’s total listings are drawn from the Chicago office, including franchise and distribution practice chair Dennis Wieczorek. A transactional “wizard” according to sources, Wieczorek brings an “extensive arsenal” of legal skills in antitrust, trade regulation and governmental affairs to his work for franchise clients. Former IBA franchising committee chair Michael Brennan is another prominent name in Chicago, and is noted as a “font of knowledge” on such matters international licensing, IP and transactional law. Stuart Hershman combines his franchise, general dealership and distribution work with a strong antitrust focus, which marks him out as a “first-rate” practitioner. Richard Morey is recognised for his work in the structuring and planning of start-up franchises as well as advising established franchisors in day-to-day compliance and dispute resolution matters. Particularly noted for his franchise litigation work is Norman Leon, who sources describe as a “tough, intelligent advocate”, having represented clients before state and federal courts and in alternative dispute resolution forums throughout the US. Joseph Sheyka is hailed as a “skilled negotiator” whose regulatory knowledge is “hard to beat”, while of counsel Marc Seidler offers clients “substantial” expertise in franchise disputes and transactions.

Two lawyers apiece rank highly from DLA Piper’s Reston and Atlanta offices. Barry Heller and Bret Lowell are recognised for their work in franchise disputes and licence negotiation respectively, and between them make a “very strong team”. Richard Greenstein heads the franchise team in the South Eastern US from its base in Georgia and is “indispensable” to national and international clients at every stage of their franchise programmes, from establishment and maintenance through agreement drafting and negotiation. Gerald Wells boasts significant commercial expertise having held in-house roles at Hewlett-Packard and US Office Products before joining the firm, and respondents note his “world-class” work for franchisors, licensors and manufacturers across a range of industries. Of counsel Kim Lambert completes the firm’s US listings and represents the San Francisco office, where her work is held in “high regard” by peers.

The “very well-regarded” Richard Wageman chairs DLA Piper’s franchise and advertising group in China out of the Beijing office, where he specialises in foreign direct investment and corporate and commercial transactions on behalf of international franchisors doing business in the country. Moscow-based counsel Michael Malloy heads the regional TMT practice and is a “distinguished practitioner” with expertise in a range of business transactions, including franchising and brand development.


Gray Plant Mooty fields a total of 10 lawyers, representing offices in DC and Minnesota. John Fitzgerald is a co-chair of the firm’s franchise and distribution team in Minneapolis, in which seven of the firm’s representatives are active. He acts for clients of all sizes, from start-ups to national brands, and sources hold him to be a “first-class negotiator” with “seamless” knowledge of corporate transactions, real estate and leasing issues, and employment matters as they relate to franchise work. Fellow co-chair Kirk Reilly is lauded for his litigation work, having acted in such notable matters as Erin Andrews v Marriott International, Inc et al, Dilsa Garcia et al v Radisson Plaza Hotel San Jose Airport, et al and Country Inns & Suites By Carlson, Inc v Harkison Corp, et al in the past two years. The department’s third co-chair, Robert Zisk, is one of three of the firm’s lawyers to be listed in the US capital, where he specialises in franchise litigation and counselling, having argued many cases before the federal and state courts and numerous appellate bodies.

Seven lawyers from Reston, Virginia-based Plave Koch PLC rank highly in this edition, including founding partner Lee Plave: one of the most highly regarded practitioners overall. Plave is “internationally renowned” for his transactional expertise and “deep insight” into the use of technology and e-commerce in franchise and distribution systems, as well as his work representing clients before the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Co-founder David Koch’s practice combines transactional expertise with a “keen appreciation” of the regulatory and antitrust obligations of franchise and distribution models, having previously served as attorney-adviser to the chairman of the FTC.

Greensfelder Hemker & Gale PC sees four of its lawyers honoured in our rankings, among whom Chicago managing partner John Baer “stands pre-eminent”. One of the most highly regarded lawyers in our research overall, Baer brings “extensive” transactional and corporate law experience to his work on behalf of national and international franchise and distribution clients, and, until this year, was chair of the Illinois attorney general’s franchise advisory board. An additional listing in Chicago, alongside a further two in St Louis, justifies the firm’s reputation as a “Midwestern powerhouse”.

One of two lawyers to earn recognition at Baker Botts LLP’s Dallas office, Ann Hurwitz chairs the firm’s franchise and distribution practice and ranks among the best regarded names internationally in this discipline. Sources describe her as “ingenious” in her advice to clients on the structuring and operation of their franchises, noting the “diverse business knowledge” she displays in acting for clients in numerous industry sectors and jurisdictions around the world. Joining her is Will Woods who comes particularly recommended for his work for clients in the hospitality sector.

The sole representative of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP in these pages, the “superb” Rochelle Spandorf emerges as one of the leading practitioners in the world for franchise law work according to respondents to our survey. Based in Los Angeles, Spandorf focuses on transactional and regulatory work for clients at all stages of maturity and in a range of sectors, recently acting as counsel for AAMCO, Ace Duraflo Systems and Glamour Secrets Fashion Corporation.


One of seven lawyers to be recognised at Field Fisher Waterhouse LLP, Mark Abell is a “must for inclusion” according to peers, who recognise his “comprehensive” knowledge of the franchise law market. The foremost of six colleagues from the London office, he places among the most highly regarded individuals internationally in this edition. Other “exceptional” inclusions in London include hospitality sector “expert” Babette Märzheuser-Wood and head of the firm’s retail sector group Chris Wormald, while Paris-based Franck Veisse gives the firm a “valuable” presence in mainland Europe.

Four lawyers rank highly from the Toronto office of Osler Hoskin & Harcourt LLP, including the “redoubtable” Frank Zaid, one of the most highly regarded practitioners in our research overall. He advises Canadian and foreign franchisors on complex, high-level strategy and business relationship matters under the Canadian franchise rules - serving on the boards of many market leaders. Co-chair of the firm’s national franchise and distribution group Andraya Frith is another “great name” who brings strong e-commerce and privacy law expertise to her role and counts Pizza Pizza and Second Cup among her clients.

Also in Toronto, Larry Weinberg of Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP ranks among the most prominent franchise law practitioners in the world. Current chair of the Ontario Bar Association’s franchise law section, Weinberg is hailed as a “superstar” for the “breadth and depth” of his expertise in licensing, trademarks and distribution, with particular reference to the restaurant sector. At the same firm, Geoffrey Shaw specialises in franchise dispute resolution and possesses “impressive knowledge” of tax and regulatory issues.

In addition to listings in Europe and the United States, Baker & McKenzie fields Penny Ward, who heads the firm’s Australian and Asia Pacific franchise groups. Known for her work in the telecommunications and IT sectors, the “exceptional” Ward advises domestic and international clients on the particulars of the Australian franchise regulations and received one of the highest totals of votes from peers in our research this year.

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Nominees have been selected based upon comprehensive, independent survey work with both general counsel and private practice lawyers worldwide. Only specialists who have met independent international research criteria are listed.

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