Rupert Merson (adjunct professor at London Business School) has written an interesting piece on how family businesses have more in common than they realise.

In particular he discusses the interesting phenomenon where problems seem completely unique and intractable to those involved but are actually variants of problems lots of other family businesses face.

The professor gives several reasons for this. Succession problems only typically arise once a generation for family businesses, but succession is an issue that arises for nearly all such companies at some stage. Many businesses are also not created as specifically family businesses, but morph into ones over time. Issues also often arise as the role of the founder changes over time from a position they are used to (e.g. CEO) to something new and less involved. 

I have seen this phenomenon with family businesses that we work with and it should be reassuring for families that others have been able to resolve apparently intractable issues. However, I can't help feeling that in the legal world finding a solution that works often depends on the detail and the personalities involved. Perhaps "each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way" after all.