Why Use An Automotive Legal Specialist

December 2007, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Ron Smith - Also by this author

As a firm that has done work in many areas of the country, sometimes I’ve been asked, “Why should we use your firm instead of our local lawyers?” The answer is simple: automotive expertise.

For example, at Stewart & Irwin, we have 10 lawyers who spend 25 percent to 75 percent of their time in automotive retail. Over the years, we’ve represented scores of dealers, in every facet of dealership operations; from factory relations and franchise issues, union avoidance, buying and selling dealerships, and succession planning, to consumer compliance and environmental issues. If a dealer has an issue, chances are we’ve handled a case – if not several cases – just like it.

Even though rates may be higher with a firm specializing in an industry segment, the ability to get to the heart of the problem and handle it quickly will generally cost less than working with an attorney who doesn’t represent multiple dealers on a daily basis. Many times, the relationship established with the factory lawyers or factory personnel are just as important as the legal expertise and experience.

Firms that specialize in the auto industry often have extensive access to networks of dealer attorneys throughout the United States, who regularly exchange information about issues and cases facing their clients.  When local counsel is warranted, they know where to find it. There are very few full-service dealer law firms in the country, but if you have an out-of-the-ordinary issue, it is well worth the effort to locate an expert.

Many of the issues dealers face today are national in scope. The automobile dealer is one of the most regulated business people in America; much more so than, for instance, home builders. Most laws to which dealers are subject are federal in nature, as are most regulations. While there are individual state licensing laws, etc., eight out of 10 issues faced by dealers in today’s market involve laws and contract principles that are not local in nature. The franchise agreements themselves are national in scope. Manufacturers, rather than draft a franchise agreement which tried to comport with state laws, simply drafted agreements that benefit them most; forcing affected dealers to challenge the contracts or factory actions to which state laws may apply.

Why use an automotive legal specialist? Expertise.

Vol 4, Issue 10

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