Vicki Hogue-Davies 2014-07-03 00:31:56
Taking Businesses from Concept to Franchise A shared interest in fitness and health brought together Dan Warshawsky and Bret Seltzer, partners at Warshawsky Seltzer, a boutique firm specializing in franchise law. The two attorneys met at Scottsdale’s AmenZone Fitness, a franchise client, where they both advised the business and worked out, as they continue to do today. Introduced to each other by Amen Iseghohi, the founder of AmenZone Fitness, the partners discovered that their backgrounds complemented each other. Warshawsky had strong expertise in franchise law and Seltzer had a broader business law background that included real estate and corporate law, as well as franchise law. Warshawsky had long dreamed of starting his own franchise-focused practice. “That was the idea before I met Bret; that’s what I always wanted to do,” he says. “After we met, I started working with Bret on a contract basis at my previous firm, Weiss Brown. We discussed the possibility of starting a firm and we did a trial run working together. It worked out great. Bret’s background and expertise was a perfect complement for what I do and what my clients needed, so at a certain point we decided to pull the trigger.” The firm of Warshawsky Seltzer opened its doors in November 2013. In addition to the partners, the responsive yet relaxed “suit free” firm employs one paralegal, Christin Meyer, who had previously worked with Warshawsky. It will also soon add an associate or another paralegal. “We are extremely fortunate to have Christin as part of the firm,” Seltzer says. “She is a huge asset.” The firm currently represents approximately 50 franchise systems in various capacities and the partners hope to double that number a year from now. Clients are based throughout the country as well as internationally. The firm also represents numerous product distribution systems that operate through nonfranchise models, such as licensing or distributorships. “We’ve got a whole assortment of companies in every industry and service you can imagine and at every level of growth, from brand new startup franchise systems to established globally recognized brands,” Seltzer says. “We have everything from restaurants to gyms and more.” Warshawsky Seltzer represents a variety of international, national and local brands, such as Realty Executives International, Hard Rock (including cafes, hotels and casinos), AntiGravity Fitness, Best In Class Education Center, Rebounderz Indoor Trampoline Arena, iTAN, CarePatrol, Gateway Newsstands, Kalologie and Native Grill and Wings (formerly Native New Yorker) and numerous others. Franchising can even spill over into the legal industry. For example, they represent Law Tigers, which is a franchise geared toward the marketing and development of a specialized motorcycle injury law practice. “We are very fortunate to be able to represent brands from so many different areas and in so many industries,” Warshawsky adds. “It’s always fresh and exciting.” Practice Philosophy A major reason the attorneys decided to go out on their own was to get out of the old-fashioned law firm environment. “I didn’t like the traditional billable hour model,” Warshawsky says. “I hated that my clients had to engage in a cost-benefit analysis each time they considered picking up the phone to call me. It wasn’t beneficial for me or my clients. We like being involved with our clients and want to be part of the discussion, not just when legal issues arise but also as business advisors. We prefer to be proactive rather than reactive. As a philosophy, we try to encourage our clients to talk to us as much as possible.” To encourage continuous client communication, the firm offers package plans with a monthly flat fee rather than hourly rates. There are a variety of plans to cover different client needs at the 100-percent transactional firm. Most of the firm’s clients are on specialized package plans. “They are charged a monthly fee and it is the same fee each month, so they are much more likely to pick up the phone and seek our advice before making critical decisions,” Warshawsky says. “There are a number of clients who I speak with every single day.” “Our client’s success is our success,” Seltzer adds. “Our unique alternative billing structure provides our clients with quality work product at an affordable alternative to the traditional legal structure.” The firm keeps its fees lower by keeping overhead low. “Even though we have an office, we’ve really created a virtual law firm,” Warshawsky says. “Our cloud-based environment gives us the ability to access our files from just about anywhere in the world. We are not a strict face-time kind of place. We telecommute fairly regularly because each one us is self-motivated and the work is always completed in a timely manner. As we grow, we can seamlessly plug people into our firm who live in other markets without the need for additional brick and mortar office locations. It all goes back to keeping our overhead low and passing those savings on to our clients.” Like any business, starting a law firm has its successes as well as its challenges. In addition to being new and small and getting their name out, the partners point to the administrative side of running a firm while also handling client needs. “Clients come first, but there is a lot of administrative work that goes into running a business and that can be a bit of a challenge to take care of,” Warshawsky says. “It’s like the old adage of the cobbler’s son who has no shoes,” Seltzer adds. “We are better at taking care of the business needs of our clients rather than taking care of our own administrative issues.” Building Expertise Why did Warshawsky and Seltzer choose franchise law as a focus? Warshawsky began his law career at Greenberg Traurig, where he spent eight years. His first year there he worked in business finance law. “It didn’t really float my boat, so to speak,” he says. “The business finance group was also somewhat of a catch-all group. If an attorney had a practice area that wasn’t large enough for its own group, that person was placed in the business finance group. One of the people who fell into that category was Jim Ullman, my franchise mentor at Greenberg. Around my second year at Greenberg, I helped him with a franchise project, and instantly was hooked and decided that was what I wanted to do. I trained a replacement to do what I had done previously and shifted all my efforts into franchising. Frankly, I didn’t even know franchise was a practice area until I did that project.” Along the way he decided that the big firm environment was not compatible with his target clientele and decided to go out on his own. He went to speak with attorneys at Weiss Brown, who were also former Greenberg attorneys, about starting his own firm and ended up joining that firm, where he spent a couple of years. While Warshawsky was working his way toward opening his own firm through a traditional legal route, Seltzer took a less traditional path, he notes. “I began my legal career as corporate counsel for a few local companies, and then worked at a boutique real estate law firm for almost six years, before becoming general counsel at a restaurant development company,” he says. “When I met Dan, I was transitioning back to private practice and he and I thought the combination of my business experiences with our legal expertise would be a benefit to many of our clients.” With many of the firm’s clients just starting out and going through various business issues, Seltzer’s business background allows the firm to offer a more streamlined process for clients, Warshawsky says. “Every business and real estate issue that comes up, such as staffing, procurement, employment agreements, corporate formation, leases, financing and all that stuff, Bret has had experience with,” he continues. “Bret can provide that insight rather than clients having to figure it out on their own. Also, for franchise clients in Arizona, Bret has an almost encyclopedic memory of most commercial space in the valley, because in some way, shape or form, he has been involved with these spaces. It is just unbelievable the knowledge that he has.” The attorneys enjoy bringing all of their combined knowledge to bear to help clients reach their goals and achieve their dreams. “That is exactly what our practice area is about,” Seltzer says. “Our clients have a business concept they started, which is their baby and then they trust us to help them develop it into a dominant brand.” “Oftentimes, when a potential client has a unique business concept that is doing well financially and generating interest from others looking to replicate the concept, you can help them reach their goal and become a household name,” Warshawsky says. “For me, it is very exciting to be part of the growth process from a corner shop location to a household name. There are truly some amazing stories out there of clients who have really hit the American dream.”
Published by Target Market Media . View All Articles.