AUGUST 11, 2022 – In recognition of a decades-long partnership that has helped build the country's largest private restaurant company, elevated the careers of multiple women lawyers, and expanded pro bono service to at-risk communities, The American Lawyer has selected Flynn Restaurant Group and Davis Wright Tremaine LLP as a finalist for "Best Client-Law Firm Team" in the 2022 American Lawyer Industry Awards.
The finalists will be honored, and a winner announced, at an awards dinner in November.
"Davis Wright has been there for us since the beginning and they're deeply embedded in our organization," said Jacqueline Lee, general counsel for San Francisco-based Flynn Restaurant Group (FRG). "It's a partnership grounded in trust that we're growing in the same direction and aligned on the same goals. As a result, our work together is high-value, high-impact, and tons of fun."
"To be recognized as a key strategic partner for an industry-leading client like FRG is a great honor," said Scott MacCormack, Davis Wright Tremaine's firmwide partner-in-charge. "I'm very proud of our team."
The Flynn-Davis Wright partnership began in the late '90s when budding restaurateur Greg Flynn purchased a handful of Applebee's franchisees in Washington state, advised by Davis Wright partner Dennis McLean. Over the ensuing years, Flynn acquired hundreds of Applebee's units, ultimately becoming the largest operator of the country's biggest casual dining chain.
With major investments from Goldman Sachs, Weston Presidio, Main Post, and the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan, FRG has gone on to execute a series of high-volume acquisitions that have defined "a whole new stratosphere of franchise ownership," as Entrepreneur magazine put it in 2019. The company is now the largest Arby's and Pizza Hut franchisee, and one of the largest franchisees of Taco Bell, Panera, and Wendy's, in the country, and widely recognized as "the best in the business."
Davis Wright has served as FRG's principal outside counsel in multiple disciplines throughout this period of extraordinary growth. The group is led by Sarah Tune, who took over the client relationship following the untimely death of her mentor McLean in 2009. Joined by Elisabeth Woare (real estate), Laura Warf (corporate), and paralegal Lonna Beebe, among others, Tune and her mostly-women team—a rarity in M&A—have carved out a position of national leadership advising large-scale, multi-brand franchisees and the institutional investors funding them.
"Working with Jaci, her team, and the entire leadership group at FRG has been very rewarding and has provided opportunities for growth and development for our broader team," said Tune. "I'm grateful for the trust and collaborative spirit they've shown us and for the opportunity to help them transform an industry."
"Sarah and her team know our business, our leadership, our strategic focus, and our tolerance for risk," said Lee. "They know we're not bound by what other people have done before. As a result, they don't wait for us to ask questions. They see the big picture and can advise us in advance on the impact of any decision. That's invaluable for a company moving as fast as we are."
FRG's partnership with Davis Wright extends to the firm's Pro Bono & Social Impact department, which is nationally recognized for its work helping corporate counsel launch pro bono programs in-house. Led by chief pro bono and social impact officer Joanna Plichta Boisen, Davis Wright has organized team-building "days of service" that have enabled FRG professionals to provide direct legal services to nonprofits serving communities in need. Boisen also collaborated with FRG during the peak of the COVID shutdowns to create state-specific brochures for the company's furloughed employees, informing them about available support services.
"FRG's approach to business goes beyond the bottom line," said Boisen. "It's personal, altruistic, and intentional. Jaci and her team execute on impressive business imperatives, while treating their employees like family and giving back to communities that need access to justice the most."
"It has been a true delight working alongside the likes of Sarah, Laura, Elisabeth, Joanna and many others at Davis Wright, and to join the decades-long ride that these two organizations have been on together," said Lee. "The best part is, it's only just beginning."
About Davis Wright Tremaine
Davis Wright Tremaine LLP is an AmLaw 100 law firm with approximately 600 lawyers representing clients based throughout the United States and around the world. The firm has been widely recognized as a legal industry leader in pro bono, social impact, and DEI. For more information, visit www.dwt.com