Q&A with David Paris, Vik Patel and Tim Cloe
Illustration by Jonathan Hankin
David Paris of Paris Ackerman & Schmierer is in this year’s newest Legal Eagles Hall of Fame class, those who have been so named for 10 years. The franchisee attorney sees issues from the other side of the FDD, especially where mergers and acquisitions are concerned. Paris and two of his clients, Vik Patel and Tim Cloe—both large operators in the Dunkin’ Donuts system—discuss the importance of having an attorney with a business mindset.
How did you two choose to work with David?
Vik Patel: David has been my attorney for almost 4 years now, actually referred to me by my accountant. At the time I was looking for a new attorney to work on a partner buyout for me, and we’ve worked with Dave exclusively ever since. After that transaction, it was clear that we were cut from the same cloth.
Tim Cloe: I first met David and his firm when I was doing what at the time was my largest transaction. I was impressed with the fact that David and his partner both think like business people. They’re not doing a “lawyerly” act just to do something. There are a lot of times that I look at the work of the attorney on the other side of a transaction, and I say, “My lord, it doesn’t have to be this difficult.”
David can get the parties to a deal in a simplified way by thinking like a businessperson as well as an attorney.
And David, you now have a body of clients, how do you vet prospective clients and then keep them happy?
David Paris: It’s my firm’s policy where we don’t want to represent someone who isn’t going to get the deal done. You’ll probably roll your eyes, but we don’t relish taking people’s money if we can’t perform.
I think the like-mindedness and communication is huge. One of the best things we do at my firm is getting back to people immediately, within three or four hours rather than letting two days go by. I fit in there really smooth because we have the same mindset. There are a lot of people in the industry that I’d call an impediment to progress.
So far in working with each of these guys, we’ve been able to avoid that because we’re on the same page.
What did David do to become your exclusive outside counsel?
Vik Patel: Dave truly does put a premium on the fact that if I need or Tim needs something done, he really cares. You don’t see that very often where you have somebody that is business-minded that is an excellent communicator.
He understands what my long-term plans are. If your attorney has an understanding of what you’re planning to do and isn’t trying to gouge you to get there and wants to be a part of that growth, that to me is a big thing. He’s just in tune with what we’re trying to do. He’s been one of the key contributors to helping me grow. He genuinely seems to care. A lot of guys I speak to don’t have anywhere near that kind of relationship with their attorneys.
Tim Cloe: I’d add that franchise finance is a particularly specialized field, so the accumulated knowledge in the field is important. David will spot things in a transaction or in a document because he’s run across that issue before. And not only does that make for a better document and better deal, but it’s also nice that I’m not paying to train someone on the job.
That doesn’t sound like a typical arrangement. Why do you do that, David, and how do you keep up?
David Paris: I find that people that have clients on the clock all the time, those are not long-lasting relationships. When you get to participate in someone’s growth, it’s fun to see.
What worries you about the legal climate going forward?
Vik Patel: Things are just ever-changing. There’s usually something like if it rains, you don’t have to come to work and still get paid. I think there’s some very unfriendly business owning laws out there; luckily in the Southeast they usually come here last. But you never know how something will affect your business from calorie counters to regulation or minimum wage or just being part of brands that continue to evolve.
The nice part is there’s always a solution to everything, and having a group of Dave and other franchisees is important to stay ahead of the curve and spot those trends.
David Paris: I see geographic areas where it’s going to be harder and harder for my clients. Especially the more metropolitan cities where minimum wage is coming up—the costs of operating are going to be prohibitive.
Then obviously credit and interest rates. It’s death by a thousand cuts. People keep chugging along until people wake up and say, “Oh wow, I’m paying 8 percent.”
What do you think will keep your relationship going?
Vik Patel: I’d like to continue to grow and be happy, and it certainly helps that we have a good law firm to help us think through this stuff. Whether we’re working together or just talking on the phone.
David Paris: There’s a mutual respect. But we have a very special relationship, and they let us know they’re appreciative of it all the time. You don’t want to feel like a pawn.
Tim Cloe: I’m not going to say anything more. David has gotten far too many compliments today.