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Franchise law is bar’s newest legal specialty

For the first time in 12 years, the State Bar has added to its list of bar-certified legal specialties, this time in Franchise and Distribution Law. The inaugural Franchise and Distribution Law exam, which marks the first step toward achieving certification, will be given Aug. 12.

“Given the complexity of law in this area and the importance of franchise and distribution law to consumers in this state, we thought it was important to establish this specialty,” said Stafford Matthews, chairman of the Franchise Law Consulting Group for the State Bar.

Matthews noted that besides being a complicated and expanding area of law, more than 50 percent of “normal, everyday transactions have some franchise component.” The definition of franchise, he added, “is very broad and can apply to normal commercial relationships where both parties aren’t even aware that they’re franchises under the statutes.”

“We believe this is a service for California consumers because of the number of franchises,” said Phyllis Culp, director of the State Bar’s Office of Special Admissions and Specialization. With the addition of Franchise and Distribution Law, the State Bar offers certification in nine areas: appellate; bankruptcy; criminal; estate planning, trust and probate; family; franchise and distribution; immigration and nationality; taxation; and workers’ compensation law.

To be certified as a specialist, California attorneys must pass a written examination, demonstrate a high level of experience in the specialty field, fulfill ongoing education requirements and be favorably evaluated by other attorneys and judges familiar with their work.

With the exam in August, the first franchise law specialty could be certified in 2008, Culp said.

Certification, said Matthews, “provides a certain benchmark for expertise . . . As part of the Franchise Law Consulting Group, we encourage anyone with an active practice in franchise or distribution law to consider qualifying for the specialty.”

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