Connecticut Firm Opens Philadelphia Office With Franchise Focus

November 1, 2001
Reprinted with permission from The Legal Intelligencer, November 1, 2001. By Jeff Blumenthal

Almost four years after choosing boutique life over the big firm world, franchise attorney Joseph Shumacher has joined 150-attorney, Connecticut-based Wiggin & Dana to open its first Philadelphia office.

Schumacher, who will be joined by two associates, was a partner in Fisher, Schumacher & Zucker, an offshoot of the now-defunct franchise boutique Abraham, Pressman & Bauer.

The trio of lawyers have been in temporary quarters in Berwyn since opening the office on Oct. 1, but they are scouting for space in Philadelphia.

Schumacher met up with Wiggin & Dana franchise practice chairman Jack Dunham at a professional conference and discovered that his philosophy about how to operate that practice area was similar to that of the New Haven-based attorney’s.

"We both think that it’s more cost-effective transporting an attorney to a case rather than searching for a lawyer where the case is," Schumacher said. "The lawyer (from the same firm) knows the best way to represent the client’s interests."

Dunham said he has known Schumacher for more than five years through the American Bar Association functions and always thought highly of him personally and professionally.

"When I saw him it clicked," Dunham said. "I just didn’t think we were being sufficiently imaginative about building our practice. We didn’t have an office outside of Connecticut, and to build on an already good thing, I felt we needed to do that – with the right person who was a good fit in terms of practice, culture and personality."

Schumacher said he decided against joining partner Arthur Pressman and four other partners in migrating to Buchanan Ingersoll in January 1998 because he was not ready to join a large firm atmosphere. So he signed up with Lane Fisher and Jeff Zucker, two associates at the Abraham Pressman firm who left two years before to start their own firm.

By joining Wiggin & Dana, Schumacher leaves behind boutiques and becomes part of a larger, multipractice firm for the first time in his career.

"I liked the idea of having the platform and resources of a large firm but still being able to maintain a small-firm atmosphere in Philadelphia," Schumacher said.

Schumacher was in sales and management training at Maaco for nearly a decade before graduating in 1986 from Widener Law School, which he attended for four years at night. He spent a year in house at Maaco before joining Abraham Pressman and working his way up to partner. He still maintains Maaco as an anchor client, but also does work for Mailboxes Etc., GNC and Remax.

Along with associates Kimberly Toomey and Christina Peterson, Schumacher will work closely with practice group leader Dunham, New Haven partner Kevin Kennedy and a handful of other lawyers in the firm’s three Connecticut offices.

Dunham said Wiggin & Dana serves as national litigation counsel for Subway and as New England counsel to the Cendant franchise brands, in addition to representing other well known franchise systems in pre-litigation counseling, litigation and arbitration around the county. Cendant owns Century 21, Howard Johnson’s, Coldwell Banker, Days Inn and Ramada Inn.

"We have complementary but not identical contacts," Dunham said. "Our goal in Philadelphia is not to have a big, full-service office. Joe’s attraction to us was the practice not our locale. Our plan is to expand the franchise practice in Connecticut and Philadelphia with the expectation of having some IP people on the ground in Philadelphia because that practice often intersects with franchise."

Wiggin & Dana started in 1934 in New Haven, where the firm has 90 lawyers. It also has offices in Stamford and Hartford. The firm’s expertise includes all forms of litigation and dispute resolution, antitrust, securities law, labor and employment, benefits, complex corporate and real estate transactions, health care and estate planning and administration.

Schumacher said Fisher & Zucker will continue to practice on its own with two associates. He characterized the split with the firm as amicable but said he would be bringing his entire client roster.