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Alan A. Fowler is a dynamic and versatile attorney, who utilizes leadership and advocacy in his practice to simplify the law for his clients across a variety of practice areas. He has over 6 years’ experience of representing individuals and the federal government in over 2,500 diverse legal matters.
While Alan currently represents a diverse group of businesses in corporate matters, land use matters, and so forth, he is particularly focused on serving restaurants and the hospitality industry, including an ongoing relationship as their outside general counsel and as a their start-up counsel.
MO: Can you provide an example of how you leverage leadership , advanced communication skills, and legal acumen to enable people to achieve their goals?
Alan: While serving as the Staff Judge Advocate (the military’s equivalent to General Counsel) to Naval Air Station Key West, I led a multi-agency, joint effort to combat encroachment by illegally-moored vessels surrounding a munitions storage facility that was crucial to the installation’s mission. I researched the applicable federal and state laws and regulations, and I formulated a plan to get the vessels to voluntarily leave the Safety Danger Zone, while ensuring prosecutorial support if they continued to trespass. I coordinated an outreach campaign with the installation’s Public Affairs Office, and I coordinated an enforcement-and-prosecution effort with Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission, the installation’s Security Department, the local Coast Guard Sector, and the Key West State Attorneys Office. In the end, the plan worked – most of the vessels moved voluntarily, and the installation was able to maintain mission sustainability.
MO: What inspired you to focus your attention on the restaurant and hospitality industry?
Alan: Passion for the culinary arts and travel and a refusal to accept the status quo of the legal profession. I believe the local, independent restaurateur drives culture in this country, and I want to help them be successful for the benefit of all of us. Where most lawyers specialize in one or a few areas of law, I enjoy having a diverse practice. In developing my business model and my brand, it dawned on me, “Maybe my ‘specialty’ could be one type of person, not one area of law? Maybe I could be a general counsel to restaurateurs, craft breweries, craft distilleries, and hotels – meaning, hospitality and culinary entrepreneurs?” I received positive reaction from the market, and it appeared I found a unmet and rewarding niche. So, I pursued it, and I haven’t looked back. My goal is to be the restaurant lawyer in the State of Florida.
MO: Can you expand on how you achieve results through a variety of skill sets, some of which may not be considered traditional practice of law?
Alan: The goal for attorneys should be to get results for our clients, provided we’re not breaking any laws or ethical rules. Lawyers have a lot of power to influence other people, seemingly because society assigns us some degree of clout (be it deserved or undeserved). Regardless of the reason, attorneys carry influence, and, in times of conflict, that influence can be amplified by building relationships and utilizing existing ones, being able to identify and exploit an opponent’s underlying motivation, using threats cautiously and as a last result, and accurately assessing the political, economical, and public relations aspects of a situation. Likewise, your client’s own emotional distress may cloud his or her judgment. In those cases, the attorney must become a counselor, helping the client cope with the situation in order to see the situation more clearly and make better, more rational decisions. Lawyers are in the business of turning screws. And, in a legal profession where a very small percentage of cases are resolved by a trial, I believe I should use legal and non-legal strategies to turn those screws in the direction and to the torque that my clients want them.
MO: What marketing strategies have you used to capture your niche client base?
Alan: For me, it’s all about communicating my vision, as eloquently detailed by Simon Sinek in Start With Why, with the intent of developing a tribe of brand ambassadors, much as Seth Godin wrote about in Tribes and others have written about. It seems that the restaurant and hospitality industries, like many other industries, are communities and word-of-mouth driven. Accordingly (and because of the infancy of my firm), my primary method of delivery has been in-person networking. I always start by telling people, “I believe that culinary and hospitality entrepreneurs drive culture in this country, and I want to help them be successful.” I amplify my vision with my passion, i.e. my love for food and travel. Finally, I articulate my role in the world: to simplify the law so that people can achieve their goals and dreams. I plan on using this same paradigm in my blog, in my presentations and seminars, and in my publications. Moreover, I designed a logo and branding slogans with the intent of communicating my brand attributes. In sum, I get myself in front of my niche client base and I share my vision.
MO: Can you share some of the challenges of developing a novel practice model and articulating a vision for the role of attorneys in the restaurant and hospitality industries?
Alan: On a personal level, the biggest challenge of articulating my vision was the fear that people may not embrace it. In a sense, it is the same fear of rejection that all of us experience in a number of facets of our lives. But, I’ve found that people respect and appreciate a vision that is amplified by a sincere passion. The primary challenge in developing my practice model has been educating my ideal clients that they should retain a fully engaged lawyer. These sorts of entrepreneurs tend to be hands-on, do-it-yourselfers, perhaps believing that they can handle their own legal affairs through online legal service companies and so forth. There’s a challenge in convincing clients that they have legal needs and that I can save them time and money by being engaged in their business and practicing preventative law, rather than being hired when things get bad. Fortunately, this challenge has huge upside. When the light bulb goes on, not only do they recognize they need a lawyer, but they want me to be their lawyer. The education part, in essence, becomes the basis of a healthy relationship.
MO: What advice would you give to someone looking to open a restaurant?
Alan: Create a unique experience for your diners. Everyone knows that the restaurant industry is tough. It’s not enough to merely have good food, and perhaps it’s not enough to merely have some nice decor. You have to give people something that you can’t get anywhere else, particularly from home. Unique food. Unique service. Unique ambience. Together, unique value. Set yourself up for success by hiring someone like me to form your business, work with you to find the right location, negotiate and execute a fair lease agreement, and, after you build your unique experience, trademark your brand and expand to new locations.
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