Harvard graduate. Legal expert of franchising. World traveler. Family man. All of these describe the achievements of Phil Zeidman, who served as General Counsel for the International Franchise Association for decades. What they don't describe is the Alabama native's path to becoming one of the most influential attorneys in franchise law, and how Zeidman's legacy will impact the franchise community for decades to come.
Most of the people in the franchising community have heard of Phil Zeidman--his name and reputation are well-known as someone who directly helped the founders of the franchise business model in the U.S. He may even belong on the "Mount Rushmore of franchising" himself. What many do not know is about his achievements in the legal professional and outside of franchising.
DLA Piper's Bret Lowell, who has worked with Zeidman for years, describes him as the "Father of Franchise Law. No other person has had more influence on what laws got passed, what those laws said, and how they have been interpreted." Basically, Lowell continued, "franchise law is what it is today largely because of Phil's wisdom, insights, and influence."
Zeidman's path to franchising traces back to his days at Harvard Law School, when he was writing a paper on how to start a new business. When doing research for the paper, he came across the trade publication at the time for the lodging industry called the Tourist Court Journal. Inside there was something about franchising.
"I later found out that I was exactly at the moment of the beginning of franchising," he recalls. "Ray Kroc had just bought McDonald's, Kemmons Wilson had just gotten the idea [for Holiday Inn], Col. Sanders was just starting Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Henry Bloch had just started H&R Block."
After serving two years in the U.S. Air Force, Zeidman returned to Washington, getting his first job at the Federal Trade Commission. He started learning more about franchising and eventually took a role as assistant to the head of the Small Business Administration. At the time, "they had this crazy notion that you couldn't loan money to a franchisee because he had a contract, called a franchise agreement, with the franchisor, who was assumed to be a big business," Zeidman explained. So, he put together three days of public hearings on franchising, and afterward fixed the rules to "make them more sensible." During the meetings, he met the then-general counsel from IFA, who asked Zeidman...