Annie Caiola has left Decatur firm Slotkin & Caiola to start a new boutique a few blocks away, Caiola & Rose, with a focus on serving franchisors.
She is partnering with bankruptcy lawyer Elizabeth Rose, who joined Slotkin & Caiola two years ago after serving as a law clerk for U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Mary Grace Diehl. They brought on Meredith Barnes, who focuses on transactional and compliance issues, as senior counsel and Brittany Conklin as an associate. Marcy Sperry, a trademark lawyer, joined as of counsel from her own solo practice after 12 years at Womble Bond Dickinson (formerly Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice).
Clients include Huddle House, Church’s Chicken, Tropical Smoothie Café and Focus Brands, which owns Moe’s Southwest Grill, Cinnabon, Schlotzky’s, McAlisters Deli, Arby’s, Carvel and other restaurant brands. All of them are headquartered in Atlanta; Huddle House opened its first restaurant in Decatur in 1966.
Caiola, a Daily Report On the Rise pick in 2015, said most of the firm’s franchisor clients are restaurants, but it also does work for Cellairis, which offers cellphone repair and accessories in mall kiosks, and JanPro, a commercial cleaning franchise—also headquartered in Atlanta.
Caiola said Atlanta is the headquarters for a number of national and international franchisors, adding that the agreements they sign with franchisees generally specify that any litigation must be filed in Georgia.
Caiola & Rose advises clients on compliance, real estate, trademark and litigation matters. “It’s not uncommon for all those issues to be found in the same case,” Caiola said, when a franchisee files for bankruptcy or decides to exit the franchise system.
Caiola said franchise owners generally exit the system to start their own business doing the same thing and “using the same menu and trade secrets, but under a new name,” so her firm protects the franchisor’s rights to the lease, marks and other assets.
Slotkin & Caiola’s other name partner, F. “Bobby” Slotkin Jr., has gone back to owning his own shop, the Slotkin Law Firm. Meredith Watts, a litigator, continues her relationship with him as of counsel, and Vincent Dattilo, a 2016 graduate of the University of Georgia Law School, is an associate.
Slotkin, 51, is about the closest thing to an old-fashioned, small town business lawyer that is possible in a big city like Atlanta.
He said his work comes from referrals from friends and existing clients, not other lawyers. With one Decatur client, Three Taverns Brewery, he goes to church with the owner, whom he’s known for years.
Slotkin handles probate and fiduciary litigation, as well as general business disputes—almost all in metro Atlanta courts. He also does trademark prosecution and serves as the outside general counsel for 30 or 40 small companies, almost all local, ranging from tech companies to breweries and day care companies.
“I love my practice,” he said, adding that he can walk to his Decatur office from his home a mile away.
“She’s a really fine lawyer, and I think the world of her,” Slotkin said of Caiola, whom he hired after she left Troutman Sanders to go solo in 2011. “Her practice has gotten a bit more specialized than when she started as a solo, and she wanted to focus on franchisors.”
Caiola, 37, said she started her own shop six years ago because she wanted more flexibility as the birth of her second child approached. She was introduced to Slotkin by another lawyer and soon after became his partner.
Caiola said she started working for franchisors around the same time, after Barnes, a former colleague at Troutman, became the general counsel of Huddle House. “That really sort of launched it,” said Caiola, who’d been handling real estate and general business litigation until then.
Barnes then took a job as senior counsel at Hooters, and it grew from there, Caiola said. Barnes and Rose joined Slotkin & Caiola in 2015. While franchise work makes up a bit more than half the practice at Caiola & Rose, Caiola said, they still represent small businesses and real estate owners in disputes.
They also assist franchisors with crisis management and risk avoidance, she said, such as with foodborne illness outbreaks. While franchisors do not buy or sell the food products in the individual restaurants, they almost always get sued when there is a problem with contaminated food, she said, because they direct the franchisees’ sourcing.
Caiola & Rose, which opened in June, is all women, which Caiola said was not the aim, “but I’m very proud that we are a women-owned law firm.”
Caiola & Rose has relocated to Decatur Town Center at 150 East Ponce de Leon Ave., just around the corner from the Decatur MARTA station. Slotkin is staying put at 118 East Maple St. in downtown Decatur, as he owns the building.
Arnall Golden Gregory has recruited a duo from Parker Hudson Rainer & Dobbs to beef up its ERISA practice. Jeff Gordon joined as a partner, and his longtime colleague at Parker Hudson, Tia Martarella, joined as of cousel. Gordon was a high school teacher before becoming a lawyer—and one of his former students, Carly Smith, is an associate in the real estate practice at Arnall Golden. Smith herself is a former teacher, working at an elementary school in Donna, Texas, for two years through Teach for America after college.
Drew Eckl & Farnham has added two lawyers, Shannon Fishel as an associate and Timothy Veith as of counsel. Fishel, who’s focusing on general casualty and commercial litigation, was a staff attorney for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit for three years. She’d spent seven years before that working for the New York State Supreme Court as the principal staff attorney handling motions for the appellate division of the Second Judicial Department.
Veith, a corporate and transactional lawyer, served as a division advisor for Global One Financial, a subsidiary of Synovus Bank. He’d been general counsel for Entaire Global Cos. for 11 years before that, until the life insurance premium finance company was acquired by Synovus Financial Corp. in October.
Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz has added Sebastian Meis and Felix Faerber to its German team from the Atlanta office of BridgehousLaw, an international alliance of firms. They offer cross-border legal services to German, Swiss and Austrian clients.
Chamberlain, Hrdlicka, White, Williams & Aughtry has hired Kelli Church as an associate in the labor and employment practice from Paul Hastings. Church earned her law degree from the University of Florida in 2015.
Cordell & Cordell, a family law firm that represents men in divorce and custody cases, has hired Jessica Asbill as an associate in its Fayetteville office. Asbill joined the firm from Johnston Owen & Bullard in Griffin.
Cristine Sivec has been promoted from paralegal to attorney at law at commercial real estate firm Hartman Simons & Wood, after being admitted to the State Bar of Georgia in May.
Scott Allen, a partner in the corporate and securities practice at Morris, Manning & Martin, has become the secretary of the Atlanta board of directors for the Association for Corporate Growth.