Carmen D. Caruso

Trial & Appellate Lawyer

Carmen D. Caruso thrives in trial practice, having 35 years’ experience trying civil and criminal cases and arbitrations.  He has been recognized as one of the “half dozen best franchise trial lawyers in the country,” and has received on-the-record praise from state and federal court judges for the way he tries cases.  

Carmen is best known for his representation of franchisees and dealers, or entrepreneurs building franchise systems, or occasionally, successful national or international franchisors, and he is one of the very few trial lawyers to be named to the exclusive Franchise Times Legal Eagles Hall of Fame (for being named a Legal Eagle in franchising over 10 years in a row).    

Carmen has substantial experience in most areas of business litigation, including contract cases, fraud claims, business torts, antitrust and other statutory claims, real estate and intellectual property cases, and employment law cases.  He is also experienced in professional liability and civil rights cases.

Carmen has represented major corporations and privately held companies, partnerships, trusts, professional practices or individual professionals, and many individuals in their roles as franchisees, dealers, sales agents, officers, directors, employees, partners, shareholders, property owners, or as clients victimized by other lawyers’ misconduct.

Clients retain Carmen and other lawyers refer cases to him because they appreciate his determined advocacy, single-minded focus on what is best for the client, his ability to “see around the corner” and his creative thinking to win cases and solve client concerns.


Without compromising his dedication to his clients and their cases, Carmen has served since 2011 as an Arbitrator for the American Arbitration Association on its complex case, commercial arbitration, employment, and franchise arbitration panels. He has rendered Awards in over twenty cases ranging from single day to two-week hearings.  Without question, Carmen has found that sitting in the Arbitrator’s chair, ruling on objections, and having to decide the case, has made him an even more effective Advocate for his clients than he was before.

Career Highlights

Until 1997, Carmen practiced and “made partner” at Foran & Schultz (earlier Foran, Wiss and Schultz), a premier Chicago litigation firm led by the former federal prosecutors in the renown Chicago Seven Conspiracy Trial.  Carmen gained “big case” experience representing companies such as a substantial international franchisor and Waste Management and had significant civil and criminal trial experience early in his career.

Practicing as a solo attorney from 1998 to 2001, Carmen scored victories in the United States Court of Appeals for franchisees and in helping to shatter the “glass ceiling” of gender discrimination, and he prevailed in civil rights claims pursued on behalf of a minority franchisee that was not allowed to buy a franchise in white areas of Chicago.

From 2001 to 2008, Carmen was a Litigation Partner at Schwartz Cooper Chartered, a 75-lawyer firm well respected in the financial community, where he established and served as Chair of the Firm’s Franchise & Distribution Practice Group.  By 2008, Carmen was lead counsel in six cases in six states each with more than $10 million at stake in controversy, while also overseeing corporate, regulatory, transactional, intellectual property and employment matters as outside general counsel for a major national and international franchisor.

In 2010, Carmen re-established his independent practice, initially residing in the “Chambers” – a suite on the 48th floor of a major Chicago skyscraper filled with some of the best trial lawyers in Chicago.  In 2013, the need to add personnel led Carmen to open his own office in its present location.

Mediator & Ombudsman

Carmen has served as Mediator in franchise disputes upon the parties’ request.

Expert Witness

Carmen has served as an expert witness on franchise law and litigation subjects in cases pending in Illinois, Florida, and Singapore.

Pro Bono

Carmen serves in pro bono positions including:

*Over 10 years of service on the Franchise Advisory Board established by the Illinois Attorney General, advising on the implementation and enforcement of the Illinois Franchise Disclosure Act.

*Past Co-Chair of the Civil Rights Litigation Committee of the American Bar Association (Section of Litigation).

*Frequent writer and Continuing Legal Education (CLE) speaker on various franchise law and trial practice topics for the American Bar Association and the American Association for Justice.

*Frequent speaker at meetings of franchisee associations including the Coalition of Franchisee Associations (CFA) and the Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA), and in past years the American Franchisee Association and the American Association of Franchisees & Dealers.

*A Trustee of the Union League Club of Chicago Boys & Girls Clubs.

*A member of the Board of Advisors of Catholic Charities of Chicago.

*An alumni officer of the Fathers Club at Mount Carmel High School in Chicago.

Professional Recognition

Carmen D. Caruso has received widespread professional recognition for many years, including:

  • Selected by his peers for several years in a row to be included in The Best Lawyers in America for his franchise and dealership litigation practice in Illinois and across the United States.
  • London-based Chambers and Partners annual Chambers USA America’s Leading Lawyers for Business named Carmen for Franchising: Mainly Franchisee nationwide since 2016.
  • Named an Illinois Leading Lawyer by the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin in each year since from 2006 based on the recognition of his peers, and selected to serve on the Advisory Board of the Illinois Leading Lawyers Network in each year.
  • Named an Illinois Super Lawyer by Illinois Super Lawyers magazine and Law & Politics for franchise and dealership and business litigation each year from 2005 to present.
  • Consistently named a Legal Eagle by Franchise Times, a Crain’s publication focused on the franchise industry, in 2001 and 2002 and then consecutively from 2005 to present; and named to the Legal Eagle Hall of Fame in 2015.
  • Received an AV rating by Martindale-Hubbell, the highest rating available for both legal ability and ethics, each year for over twenty years, and named a member of the prestigious Bar Register of Pre-Eminent Lawyers.
  • Recognized in “Who’s Who Legal Illinois,” published by the International Bar Association.

Family & Community

Born and raised in Chicago, Carmen has been married to Ellyn Caruso since 1983, the principal of Caruso Communications LLC/Caruso PR. They have three grown sons and reside in the Beverly neighborhood of Chicago.

Bar Admissions

  • U.S. Supreme Court
  • Illinois Supreme Court
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and for the Tenth Circuit
  • U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois (including Trial Bar) and multiple other federal districts.
  • U.S. Court of Military Appeals


  • Loyola University of Chicago School of Law (J.D. 1983)
  • Master Advocates program of the National Institute for Trial Advocacy (NITA) (1996)
  • Marquette University (B.A. Psychology, cum laude, 1980); Member, Alpha Sigma Nu (National Jesuit Honor Society)
  • Brother Rice High School (Chicago)

Bar Associations

  • American Bar Association (Sections of Litigation, Antitrust and Dispute Resolution; and Forum on Franchising; Section.
  • Federal Bar Association (Sustaining Member)
  • Illinois State Bar Association (President’s Club Member)
  • American Association for Justice


Carmen Caruso has been interviewed, or his cases have been profiled by publications including the Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Reader, Crain’s Chicago Business, WBBM-TV Chicago, AP, Forbes, Franchise Times and more.

For media inquiries about Carmen’s cases, or about legal topics of interest, please contact:

Michael Nothnagel
Senior Account Executive
77 West Washington, Suite 1900 | Chicago IL 60602
Direct: 312-626-1171

We stand out from the crowd based on our
dedication to our clients and our ability to get
our cases to trial and to win.

Carmen D. Caruso

I look forward to discussing your case, call me today.

Contact Us Today For A Confidential Assessment Of Your Case*

*Filling out this form does not establish a client attorney relationship.

Not readable? Change text. captcha txt

Start typing and press Enter to search