Akerman’s services are built around efficiency, effectiveness, and predictability.
As a leading U.S. law firm with 25 offices and more than 700 lawyers, Akerman has undoubtedly established itself as a capable partner for thousands of businesses across the Americas. In September of this year, that capability was strengthened by the growth of its Franchising and Licensing Practice, when the three- lawyer Denver- based team of Kevin Hein, Trish MacAskill, and Leilani Argersinger joined the current team led by Warren Lewis out of the D.C. office.
Along with Akerman’s vast network of business experts, the trio provides numerous services to a franchising community in need of guidance during one of the toughest years to date. Hein, for example, has focused his practice on counseling franchise businesses for more than two decades on a wide range of legal issues, including location development, franchising in health and wellness, mergers and acquisitions, and dispute resolution.
“We are predominantly regulatory and compliance lawyers. That’s our core work,” explains Hein. “We spend a lot of our days helping clients to maintain their registrations, and answering questions related to franchise sales, franchise relationship laws, and dispute resolution.”
THREE PILLARS OF SERVICE
At its core, the Akerman philosophy is built on three key pillars that bring the client’s best interests to the forefront: efficiency, effectiveness, and predictability.
To deliver on the first of those pillars, Akerman uses proprietary and non-proprietary technology, highly refined processes, data analytics, and experiential learning to enable the Akerman franchise team to provide fast, efficient, and best-in-class service to franchise management teams and the ecosystem that supports them.
This approach results in quicker and more accurate updates to franchise documents, significantly shorter “dark periods” during the state renewal process, accelerated turnaround times for negotiated addenda and other documents, and the faster resolution of legal challenges faced by franchisors.
“Franchising touches every gamut of business; whether it’s IP, regulatory, real estate, or employment. It’s all-encompassing,” says Trish MacAskill. “At Akerman, the internal resources are wide and deep, and they’re readily available to assist our clients.”
When it comes to effectiveness, the understanding that Akerman’s franchise team has of the inner workings of a franchise network elevates its offering above others within the industry. Rather than simply approach every client from a standardized perspective, the firm is able to ascertain exactly what a client requires from the services on offer and construct a boutique solution that is specific and seamless.
“By using a retainer, clients are encouraged to call us, without paying extra for it, and we can address their minor problems before they become major problems”
“Clients come to us with questions and they want solutions, but they don’t necessarily want legal solutions; they want business solutions,” says MacAskill. “It’s really helpful to know a lot about your client and their business to be able to help them.
“That’s been my approach, in that I really get to know my clients and their idiosyncrasies, and I work with them to help find solutions that fit their business needs. Previously, as in-house counsel, it was very frustrating to have lawyers give me a legal answer and not give me a business solution. So I take that frustration and I turn it into a solution, now that I’m on the other side of the table.”
The third of Akerman’s defining pillars, its predictability, is arguably why it retains clients for the long-term and attracts countless new businesses looking for support.
As enterprises immersed in the franchise industry may unfortunately know, most firms specialize in selling time to clients. Conversely, the Akerman team is in the business of selling solutions to the multifaceted challenges that a franchise client may face. It believes that the cost for those solutions should be predictable and that the firm should share in some of the risks. Therefore, franchise clients are offered a variety of fee arrangements, including monthly retainers, fixed fees, capped fees, success fees, and budgeted fee options.
“We understand the fundamental service that our clients need, and we are focused on understanding and achieving their business objectives,” says Hein. “With our franchise clients, we collaboratively determine the scope of the work that is needed over the coming year and agree on a monthly retainer for our services for the year. What that gives them is predictability and budget ability.
“The COVID environment has encouraged us as lawyers to think more creatively and to find additional opportunities to become strategic business advisors our clients”
“We also understand our franchise clients are facing unprecedented challenges as a result of the economic turmoil caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and we are ready to help them navigate those complexities. Clients require predictability, and we are conscious of that in every step of our client-engagement relationship. We are transparent and reasonable in our fees and forth-coming about our recommendations and how they align to their business needs. By using a retainer, clients are encouraged to call us, without paying extra for it, and we can address their minor problems before they become major problems.”
PRESENCE WHEN IT’S NEEDED MOST
Akerman’s 25 offices operate in key strategic locations across the U.S., which allows the firm to have consistent on-the-ground experience in the markets where many of its clients operate. While other firms may have large numbers of locations, many of these are often located in cities where franchise activity is at a minimum.
“While people are clearly used to using lawyers around the country, there’s always an advantage to having somebody on the ground if you have a large client base in a particular city,” says Hein. “That makes me excited about the ability of Akerman to service the franchise community across the country.”
And in a business landscape rocked by the pandemic, having an acute awareness of how to handle a brand’s expansion, or restructuring, can be invaluable.
“We’ve got a client in the office space market that has been trying to figure out how to pivot and take advantage of lots of empty real estate,” says Hein. “With Trish’s guidance and experience, we assisted the client in developing a program that would allow the franchisor to go to landlords and convert landlords themselves into franchisees. That’s a target market that this client has never conceived of before.
“The COVID environment has encouraged us as lawyers to think more creatively and to find additional opportunities to become strategic business advisors our clients. I think that’s an area that we at Akerman excel in, and I’m really proud of the team that we have here.”
AT A GLANCE
Number of locations: 25
Size: 700+ lawyers