Three offer a look behind the scenes
FT: Congratulations on making the Legal Eagles Hall of Fame.
Nina Greene, Genovese, Joblove & Battista: Does that mean we’re old?
FT: It means you’re at least 10 years old, and you’ve been on the Franchise Times Legal Eagles ranking 10 years in a row. So first question: What’s your claim to fame as a franchise attorney?
Stuart Hershman, DLA Piper: I believe with all due respect to all of my friendly competition, the most important thing to me is client service. I work many hours a day, seven days a week. And I tell clients and potential clients, that no one will out-service me.
Left to right: Stuart Hershman, DLA Piper; Nina Greene, Genovese, Joblove & Battista; and Quentin Wittrock, Gray Plant Mooty, discussed the attorney’s life with Franchise Times.
Nina Greene: I, too, am a bit like Stuart, and maybe that’s why we are friends. I am always there for my clients.
Quentin Wittrock, Gray Plant Mooty: What distinguishes my practice and my practice group is our teamwork approach. We are very collaborative with each other.
And I have a particular specialty which is the intersection of franchise law, representing franchisors, and disputes, and I have a narrower specialty than that, involving antitrust and pricing. I can specialize in complex cases. I have close personal relationships with clients. We focus on a client’s holistic needs.
FT: What was your worst day ever as a franchise attorney?
Quentin Wittrock: I’ve taken many cases to a jury trial or arbitration. And when you lose a case, that’s as hard as it gets. When the decision goes against your client, it hurts, because you know what the client is going through.
Stuart Hershman: The most stressful thing is the standards I impose on myself are exceedingly higher than anybody could impose on me. And over the years there have been several high-profile projects, and there have been some in which every issue is an issue of first impressions—there’s no guidance. I’m a person that’s insatiable for information. It’s not unusual for me to come up with a new angle at 2 in the morning. The desire in all cases is to reach what is the exemplary decision.
It’s like—I’m never at peace.
Nina Greene: The worst day ever I had as an attorney, is the day I went to the office and found out that a partner of mine had passed away. We’re a smaller firm than these two I’m sitting with. Our firm is much more of a family, so it was a trying time.
If you win and a case is reversed on appeal, that’s hard. That happened once and I remember it clearly.
FT: What about your best day as an attorney?
“It’s not a hobby, it’s a sickness,” Stuart Hershman says about his vintage poster collection. He has “hundreds and hundreds” of them, including in his office.
Nina Greene: I love my job, so going to the office every day is a great day. The flip side of what I said before—winning a really hard argument in front of a judge, and particularly an oral argument, is a really good feeling.
Stuart Hershman: I wouldn’t say I had a best day. I am a self-admitted workaholic, and I’ve been that way since high school. I revel in it. I do it every day, at the end of the day when I reflect or am doing my time sheet, I say, Wow, how fortunate am I to work with the clients I did today.
FT: Who’s your favorite Supreme Court justice, past or present?
Stuart Hershman: Earl Warren, because when I was in high school I was fascinated with the Kennedy assassination, and I read the entire Warren commission report.
FT: And do you believe there was a conspiracy?
Stuart Hershman: There’s no question in my mind that there was a conspiracy.
Nina Greene: I’d be hard-pressed to choose between the four female Supreme Court justices. I believe they are all trailblazers. However, if pressed, I would ultimately say that Ruth Bader Ginsburg would be my choice given her role as a lifelong advocate for women’s rights and equality.
FT: What’s the best advice you give to your clients?
Quentin Wittrock: You can’t win the case in your own deposition. Clients want to argue their case in the deposition, but it’s not the day to trot out all your arguments.
Nina Greene: Begin with the end in mind.
Stuart Hershman: If something is important to you state it clearly and unequivocally in the contract. It’s surprising how many clients want to muddy the waters.
FT: What’s your workday uniform?
Nina Greene: Suit, white shirt. I never know if I’m going into court.
Quentin Wittrock: I wear a suit and tie two days a week.
FT: Who would play you in your film biography?
Stuart Hershman: That’s easy. People always say I look like Anthony Edwards, who was on ER.
FT: Nina, what about you?
Stuart Hershman: That’s easy, too. Jennifer Grey from Dirty Dancing.
Quentin Wittrock: People tell me I look like George on Seinfeld.
Stuart Hershman: Jason Alexander!
Quentin Wittrock: Or the bald guy on Shark Tank.
FT: What are you reading/listening to/following?
Stuart Hershman: My musical tastes have not left the ‘80s. I’m a classic rock guy.
Nina Greene: I have a son with Down Syndrome who is in college, so I’ve been reading a lot on transitions for people with developmental disabilities to living independently. He is at the U of Northern Florida. They take two classes with the general public, and then work on things that other people take for granted, like being social or taking public transportation. He’s in his second year. It’s going great—most days.
Quentin Wittrock: I follow sports and politics. For sports it’s the Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Wild, and the Iowa Hawkeyes.
Stuart Hershman: Do you have a Hawkeyes tattoo?
Quentin Wittrock: No [laughs, and Stuart Hershman shows his Michigan tattoo, on his ankle.] I read the Wall Street Journal and the Economist. I like the newspaper, print edition. In the election, I want to see them focus on the issues, not who is the most “honest,” and please put that in sarcastic quotes. Where does “telling it like it is,” which means making up whatever you want, turn into “honesty.”
FT: What are the biggest legal issues or cases you’re watching in franchising.
Nina Greene: We’re all watching the joint employer issue. It’s still something to see how it will work out. The decision that has come out has muddied the waters.
Being able to say specifically yes or no—you can’t really do that.
Quentin Wittrock: For me it’s antitrust. I look every day to see if there has been an antitrust case in franchising, because the absence of antitrust cases is a wonderful development.
FT: If you weren’t a franchise attorney, you’d be…
Stuart Hershman: I’d be a vintage poster dealer. But I would be a dealer who would quickly go out of business because I love my posters so much I would never sell them.
Nina Greene: A wedding gown designer. I like fashion and women in wedding gowns look phenomenal.
Quentin Wittrock: A journalist. I went to journalism school and I was a journalist for a time. Being a trial lawyer is like being a journalist, because you’re gathering information and presenting it to an audience.
FT: Maybe you should have been sitting in my chair for this conversation.