Franchise law involves elements of several fundamental areas of law. One component of a franchise is a trademark license. The relationship between a business that offers franchises, known as a franchisor, and each independent business that is part of the franchise chain, known as a franchisee, involves business law and contract law. Depending on the industry, franchising may involve other areas such as real estate, food or health. A look at the latest Franchise 500 ranking, a process in which many franchisors participate, will give you an idea of the types of business that are commonly franchised.
One way to think of franchise law is to categorize it as dealing with contracts and compliance. It involves preparation of the documents necessary to initiate, amend and terminate contracts between a franchisor and its franchisees, and it involves compliance by the franchisor with federal and state laws and regulations as well as compliance by the franchisor and its franchisees with the contracts that are in place between the parties.
Dealing with franchisors and franchisees on the other side of the transaction requires excellent customer service and negotiating skills; if you work for a franchisor, franchisees are not your clients but they are in some respects a customer of your client. It is a careful balancing act. The same is true of dealing with a franchise department, if you are an in-house paralegal. Your ultimate client is the franchisor, not just the franchise department, and every once in a while those two entities can have conflicting purposes.
Paralegals, whatever their field, often act as project managers. In franchising, paralegals are frequently process and program managers as well. A franchise paralegal can operate very independently once they have become familiar with the federal and state laws and regulations that govern the franchise field. Franchising is a business structure that is here to stay and in some industries is growing fast. International franchising is a part of that growth and brings its own challenges. For anyone interested in how businesses work, franchising offers a smorgasbord of experiences and business operations knowledge.