The State Bar of California
State Bar of California


The Great Theatre of Epidaurus

Lagarias, Napell & Dillon, LLP regularly counsel franchisees in their legal representation. Below is information to assist in the process of hiring the right lawyer to handle your franchise issues. We include links relevant to franchising that we hope are helpful to you.

How Franchise Cases can Cause Problems for Non-Franchise Attorneys

Franchise cases differ greatly from personal injury and ordinary breach of contract cases. If you or someone you know is in or about to be in a franchise dispute, it is very important that you hire someone experienced with the often complex issues involved in franchise cases. Why? Here are a few reasons:

1. Franchisors Have a Leg up From the Beginning by Drafting one Sided Contracts

Franchise agreements are drafted in legalese by franchisor lawyers to protect the franchisor’s interests at every turn. These provisions include the basic terms of the agreement, disclaimers, and dispute resolution provisions. Courts have dismissed many franchise lawsuits based on these one-sided provisions, disclaimers, and mandatory arbitration clauses. An experienced franchise lawyer will know how and when to attack such one-sided terms, and maximize chances of voiding such provisions.

2. Franchisors Have Their Own in-House Attorneys and Typically Hire Large National Law Firms

Franchisors usually employ very experienced lawyers, often from large law firms, in defending their interests. These lawyers often handle dozens of cases on behalf of franchisors and gain knowledge of what strategies work and do not work with courts. An attorney who is unfamiliar with these firms and their practices will be at a distinct disadvantage.

3. There are Many Laws That can be Applicable to Franchise Disputes

Multiple laws and regulations regulate what franchisors can and cannot do. Any lawyer you hire should already know and understand these laws. A complete and thorough evaluation of your case and consideration cannot occur without this knowledge.

Because franchise disputes may have the potential of having far reaching system-wide implications, franchisors usually will spend substantial amounts of money and effort into fighting your franchise case. Trust your case to a law firm that has litigated with hundreds of franchisors. You may contact us at the California firm of Lagarias, Napell & Dillon, LLP to find out how we can put our experience to work in your franchise case. The California lawyers at Lagarias, Napell & Dillon, LLP handle franchise cases for franchisees throughout California and sometimes in other states. (Cases outside of California may require the association of local counsel licensed in the given state). For information on cases recently taken on by the firm, or if you would like to speak with us, please do not hesitate to contact us by email or by calling us at: 415 460-0100.

How to Hire the Best Franchise Trial Lawyer for Your Case

Before hiring an attorney for your franchise case, you may wish to find out: How long has the attorney been practicing law and how much experience in franchise cases do they have? How many franchise cases has the attorney taken to trial or arbitration hearing?

Franchise cases often involve complex procedural and strategic issues that may be best handled by an attorney with specific franchise experience developed over years of practice. Peter Lagarias has over thirty five years’ experience and is a nationally recognized franchise law specialist who has tried and arbitrated many franchise cases to judgment or award. Bruce Napell has over twenty years, and Bryan Dillon has over nineteen years experience handling cases for franchisees.

1. Are any Attorneys in the Firm Certified in Franchise and Distribution Law?

Lawyers in California can apply to become “certified” specialists in various areas of law, including Franchise and Distribution law. The State Bar of California sets many requirements that must be met before an attorney can become certified in franchise and distribution law. For example, “specialists must generally pass a written examination in their specialty field demonstrate a high level of experience in the specialty field, fulfill ongoing education requirements and be favorably evaluated by other attorneys and judges familiar with their work.”

The standards and requirements for certification can be found at the following sections the State Bar of California’s website. As of January 2019, only 51 of the more than 220,000 lawyers licensed in California were listed as certified in Franchise and Distribution law.

The section of the State Bar that certifies lawyers is called The State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization. More information on Board Certification can be found at the State Bar website. To find out whether an attorney is certified in franchise and distribution law, go to the Legal Specialist Search page of the State Bar of California’ website or the general attorney search page and simply type in their name. The website will tell you whether the attorney is certified in franchise and distribution law.

Of course, there is no requirement to hire an attorney who is certified in franchise and distribution law. But all other things being equal, why wouldn’t you want an attorney with this level of expertise? In a sense, the State Bar of California, which regulates California attorneys, has pre-screened these lawyers for you and deemed them to be specialists in franchise and distribution law. At a minimum, it makes sense to consult with at least one certified franchise law specialist before you make your decision on which attorney or firm to hire.

Peter Lagarias, Bruce Napell and Bryan Dillon are all certified specialists in franchise and distribution law, and some of the first attorneys to obtain that designation. Bruce Napell is a former chair and Bryan Dillon is the current chair of the California State Bar’s Franchise and Distribution Law Advisory Commission which overseas certification of specialists in the field of Franchise and Distribution Law in California.

2. Has the Attorney Tried Franchises Cases and Which Attorneys in the Firm Will Handle the Case?

There is no substitute for experience, and in franchise disputes there is no substitute for franchise attorneys who have tried cases in court and arbitration. Some lawyers call themselves litigators, but they seldom try cases. Mr. Lagarias has regularly taken franchise cases to trial and arbitration hearings throughout his career.

Sometimes attorneys that are hired by a client may refer the case to other attorneys outside the firm or let junior attorneys within the firm handle your case. If this is anticipated, you should meet and speak with the lawyer handling the case. While other attorneys may be responsible for certain activities in the case, supervision and direction of the matter will be handled by Peter Lagarias, Bruce Napell or Bryan Dillon.

3. What Results has the Firm Obtained on Behalf of Franchisees?

Published trial court and/or court of appeal decisions may give you an idea of the experience and competence of the attorneys. All three of our partners have been involved as counsel of record in a number of important cases involving franchisee rights. Several of these recent cases can be found on this website.

4. Has the Firm Represented Franchisees in the Same System?

An experienced franchise lawyer may have handled numerous cases against the same franchisor. There are important reasons why you should consider hiring a lawyer who has represented other franchisees or litigated against the same franchisor before. Such a lawyer will have experience in dealing with the franchisor and its lawyers, which should help your lawyer work more efficiently. Additionally a lawyer with franchise system experience may already have important information about the franchisor that may help you. These and other factors should aide in evaluating and resolving your matter.

5. Have the Attorneys Participated in Activities and/or Published Articles Relevant to Franchising or Otherwise Demonstrated Commitment to Protecting the Rights of Franchisees?

Franchise law involves many subjects including antitrust, commercial contract, unfair competition, trademark and special franchise statutes in many states franchise specialists study these areas on an ongoing basis. Peter Lagarias and Bryan Dillon regularly write and lecture on many areas of franchise law. All three partners have served and/or chaired the State Bar of California Franchise Law Committee and are long standing members of the American Bar Association Forum on Franchising.

6. Does the Firm Maintain Professional Malpractice Liability Insurance?

In California, a rule of professional ethics may require lawyers to disclose whether they have professional liability insurance or not. This type of insurance can protect you if your lawyer makes a mistake on your case. Lagarias, Napell & Dillon, LLP maintains professional liability insurance.

How to Research California Lawyers Using the State Bar of California Website

Here is the link to the State Bar of California website to find out information about the lawyer you are considering. Read below to determine whether the lawyer is a certified specialist in franchise and distribution law.

Here is the link to Legal Specialist Search page of the State Bar of California’ website to find out if the lawyer you are considering is certified as a specialist in Franchise and Distribution Law.

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