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AAMCO General Counsel Joins Wiggin and Dana’s National Franchise Practice

September 10, 2012 // // NEW HAVEN, CT - Wiggin and Dana is pleased to announce that James A. Goniea has joined the firm as a Partner in the firm’s Franchise and Distribution Practice Group, resident in the Philadelphia office, after serving for six years as Vice President and General Counsel of American Driveline Systems, Inc. (ADS) and its AAMCO and Cottman brands.

“Having worked with the franchise lawyers at Wiggin and Dana for many years, I always have appreciated their professionalism, experience and reputation within the franchise bar,” comments James Goniea. “Their national franchise practice provides a fantastic platform for my existing skill set and dovetails nicely with my desire to return to private practice and continuing my work for my existing clients.”

As General Counsel of ADS, Mr. Goniea had primary responsibility for overseeing and managing all legal, regulatory and compliance matters for both AAMCO and Cottman. In addition to addressing matters relating to corporate governance and contract negotiation, Mr. Goniea served as the company’s primary litigator, frequently appearing in court and trying cases for both franchisors.

Mr. Goniea also was responsible for managing the company’s Customer Relations and Consumer Affairs departments. Before joining ADS, he was a partner in the San Francisco office of Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal (now SNR Denton) from 2000-2006.

“Jim has a unique body of experience in franchising,” says Jack Dunham, the senior partner in Wiggin and Dana’s franchise group. “I don’t know of any other lawyer who has been the in-house general counsel of a major franchise system and a partner in an AmLaw 100 law firm, who is also a first-rate trial lawyer. I’m thrilled that we have the opportunity to practice together, and that the firm will now be able to offer even greater value and service to our clients involved in franchising.”

Mr. Goniea has litigated on behalf of, and provided counsel for, many of the most prominent names in franchising over the past twenty years. He has represented franchise clients in courts across the country and internationally on a wide variety of issues including, among others, territorial disputes, non-competition covenants, trademark disputes, system compliance, collections matters, wrongful termination and enforcement of arbitration and venue provisions.

Mr. Goniea will join the firm’s nationally ranked Franchise and Distribution Practice group, including Bethany Appleby, Jack Dunham and Dean Fournaris. Wiggin and Dana's franchise and distribution lawyers regularly represent many prominent, innovative industry leaders, including companies from the hospitality, automotive, quick-service and retail industries. In 2012, Chambers USA ranked the firm’s franchise practice among the top six in the United States.

“We are honored that a lawyer with Jim’s experience and reputation is joining our team,” comments Dean Fournaris, partner and co-chair of the firm’s Franchise and Distribution Practice Group. “Jim is a recognized leader in the ABA Forum on Franchising and franchise bar and he will bring substantial, additional first-chair trial experience and franchise industry knowledge to the firm.”

Mr. Goniea serves on the Governing Committee of the ABA Forum on Franchising and is currently its Technology Officer. He is the co-author of the Chapter on “Termination, Nonrenewal and Transfer” in The Franchise Law Compliance Manual, 2nd Edition, published by the ABA. He also published articles in Franchising World Magazine and The Franchise Lawyer.

Mr. Goniea received his J.D. from Rutgers School of Law-Newark in 1990 with High Honors. Between college and law school, Mr. Goniea lived for a year in China as a Princeton-In-Asia Fellow where he taught English as a second language to college and graduate level students. After graduating from law school, Mr. Goniea clerked for Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr. when he was a judge on the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

Mr. Goniea received a B.F.A. in Drama from New York University in 1985 with Honors. In his spare time, he is an amateur thespian, performing in local community theater productions in the Philadelphia area. His most recent roles include Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar, Roger Debris in The Producers and Pirelli in Sweeney Todd.

Wiggin and Dana is a full service firm with more than 135 attorneys serving clients domestically and abroad from offices in Connecticut, New York and Philadelphia. For more information on the firm, visit our website at


Erika Malm-Fabrizio
Marketing Communications Coordinator
Wiggin and Dana LLP


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