Franchise lawyers shouldn't lose sight of the little guy: Adler

By Staff

Achieving balance is the key to a successful practice, says Toronto franchise lawyer Joseph Adler.

Adler, a partner with Hoffer Adler LLP, tries to ensure that his client list contains both franchisees and franchisors to give him a more rounded view of the complicated relationship at the heart of every franchise agreement.

“I try to be balanced in my approach, and the way to do that is not to lose sight of the little guy,” Adler tells “If you can understand the business model from the perspective of existing and prospective franchisees, then it adds value to your understanding of what a franchise lawyer should do.”

He says his work for master franchisees, who control a number of sub-franchisees in a particular region on behalf of the master franchisee, present the perfect opportunity.

“They’re a little bit of a hybrid because they act both as franchisee and franchisor,” Adler says.

The entrepreneurial spirit present in franchising was one of the things that first attracted him to that area of the law, he says.

“There are many small and emerging businesses in the field, and I really enjoy working with them,” Adler says.

He considered going into business himself at one point following his undergraduate training, running the idea of pursuing an MBA past his parents:

“They were European immigrants, so they said: ‘What’s an MBA?’ They told me I had a choice: lawyer, doctor, accountant or dentist. I chose the law,” Adler explains.

Following his call to the Ontario bar in 1990, Adler spent almost a decade doing a variety of high-level international work for a boutique firm, but wanted to concentrate on an area where he could make a name for himself.

“I found the resume of a leading franchise lawyer and used it as a checklist for the things I had to do to become successful in the field. I joined associations and started speaking at various events and trade shows,” he says.

Adler's switch happened a couple of years prior to the passage of the Arthur Wishart Act, which transformed the practice of franchise law when it came into force in 2000.

“In Ontario, the Arthur Wishart Act changed the whole regime dramatically, but since then we have had other provinces adopt their own franchise legislation, like Manitoba, PEI, New Brunswick and most recently B.C.,” he says. “Every time a new province introduces their own franchise law, it’s slightly different from the rest, so you have to know the differences in how the laws will be interpreted in various jurisdictions.”

Now franchise law accounts for the bulk of Adler’s practice, which also takes in some intellectual property law and cross-border trade work. He recently completed an eight-year stint on the board of directors for the Canadian Franchise Association (CFA), stepping down at the end of his two-term limit in 2015. During his tenure, Adler chaired the CFA’s legal and legislative affairs committee and also served as the association’s general counsel.

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