Deborah Coldwell (pictured), a partner in Haynes and Boone in Dallas, was elected as the next chairwoman of the American Bar Association Forum on Franchising on Oct. 5 at the forum’s annual meeting. She will begin her two-year term as chairwoman in August 2013.
Coldwell practices in Haynes and Boone’s business litigation section and franchise and distribution practice group. She says she began practicing full-time in franchise law in 1998.
Before practicing franchise law, Coldwell says she practiced in basic commercial litigation. “I did antitrust, some insurance coverage work and toxic tort work,” she says.
Coldwell says she got involved in franchise law initially when she came back from maternity leave and wanted to get work. She says her partner in litigation at the time wanted her to help an attorney — who was hired as an expert witness — with a report.
“I started helping him with papers, and he gave me speaking opportunities,” she says. Coldwell says the attorney became her mentor and helped her get involved with the ABA’s franchising forum.
“He got me involved as a young associate,” she says. “In my sixth year I gave my first speech and after that started writing for the journal.”
Coldwell says she was involved in the publications area of the forum, including writing for publications, acting as associate editor and spending three years as editor in chief.
After that, Coldwell says she was elected to the governing committee, which is the governing board of the forum.
“I was nominated to be chair last year,” she says. “The forum is 35 years old, and I’m the third female to be elected as chair.”
Coldwell says the forum’s mission is “to be the pre-eminent forum for the study and discussion of franchising law.” She says the forum publishes books, including five this year, and holds an annual meeting with a three-day CLE component.
“The forum is a very interesting organization because, of all the ABA sections and forums, we’re one of the smallest. We have around 2,000 members,” Coldwell says. “We usually have about 850 people attend our meeting; 40 percent of our membership attends our annual meeting. Other sections look to us as a model because we have so much participation.”
Coldwell says that participation stems from the high quality of programming the forum provides. She says the group is already planning for next year’s meeting. “We put a lot of work into it,” she says.
“It’s a great way to get involved and learn about the substantive part of the law,” Coldwell says of the forum. “It is a nice, congenial group of lawyers. You know most of your adversaries and have a good relationship. If you can be proficient, it is a good specialty to have.”
— Christine Lesicko