Goldberg Segalla LLP

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Architects, Engineers, and Design Professionals

Good legal representation, as with good design, is rooted in an understanding of your client’s needs, including their programmatic requirements, budget, and schedule. Only with this understanding can an attorney — or a design professional — formulate a proper plan. This begins with assessing immediate needs and anticipating risks; it involves the crafting of contracts, policies, procedures, and other documents for any eventuality; it calls for planning and executing strong defenses in the event of litigation — and it always requires service on time and within a budget.

Our attorneys like to think in these terms — perhaps because so many of them have a passion for design and construction, fostered over the course of long and successful relationships with clients in those fields. And our track record shows that that mentality works. With a culture committed to professionalism, collaboration, and vigorous defense, we’ve counseled clients through all types of design and construction claims and concerns, and have even helped rewrite the law at the appellate level in favor of the design professional community.

We counsel and defend clients including:

  • Architects
  • Engineers
  • Land surveyors
  • Energy firms
  • Environmental engineers and consultants
  • Professional liability insurers
Whether you’re planning for a project, preparing a proposal, negotiating a contract with an owner, hitting a snag during construction, or facing claims long after completing a job, we have the knowledge and experience to help.

Protecting Your Profession
According to a popular story, when a prospective client visited one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s houses and noted that the roof was leaking, the owner replied, “That’s what happens when you leave a work of art out in the rain.”

Unfortunately, clients of today’s design professionals are less forgiving. They often seek to hold the design professional to a standard of perfection rather than reasonable professional care. Litigation over damages, delays, payments, selection of materials, environmental issues, intellectual property rights, or other client complaints could lead to lengthy and unforeseen expenses, prematurely end important projects, and do irreparable damage to a firm’s reputation or an individual’s career. At the same time, the development of new technologies and design alternatives, increasingly frequent movement of insurance carriers among industries and types of projects, and complications arising out of contractor-led design-build and other project delivery methods all burden any infant project with dozens of potential risks.

We understand those pressing concerns, because we’re committed to your industry and profession. Our team includes leaders and members in these and other organizations:

  • American College of Coverage and Extracontractual Coverage (ACCEC)
  • American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC)
  • American Institute of Architects (AIA)
  • Construction Financial Management Association (CFMA)
  • Construction Specifications Institute (CSI)
  • Defense Research Institute (DRI), including a former National Chair of the Construction Law Committee
  • Federation of Defense and Corporate Counsel (FDCC)
  • Professional Women in Construction (PWC), including a Board of Directors member
  • Various state and regional development associations and committees
Comprehensive Defense for Design Professionals
When design error or construction phase service claims arise, we bring extensive experience protecting clients against claims involving issues and allegations including:

  • Design defects and omissions
  • Negligent provision of construction phase services including submittal and payment application review
  • Delay claims
  • Faulty or defective material specification
  • Indemnification and contribution
  • Professional negligence
We have advised and represented clients in design-build and design-bid-build matters, in traditional projects and ones involving unusual complications and emerging technologies and risks. We’ve successfully litigated multimillion-dollar, high-exposure matters as well as sensitive but “smaller” dollar-number matters in which the greatest risks pertained to a client’s reputation and ability to continue working.

In all cases, we follow Louis Sullivan’s old adage that form fits function. We don’t offer cookie-cutter solutions, and we eschew expensive and inefficient “Big Law” litigation tactics. Instead, we build each strategy, each defense, and each document to suit our client’s immediate and long-term needs, rooted in an understanding of and respect for the work that they do. Simply put, we help our clients manage the risks associated with practicing in a rapidly changing marketplace where not only designs, but also contractual requirements, delivery methods, and insurance coverages are constantly evolving.

Experienced Representation for Environmental Engineers and Consultants
Many of our attorneys have rich experience in environmental matters, and have earned Goldberg Segalla a reputation as home to thought-leaders in environmental law and case law, environmental regulatory matters, environmental catastrophe response, and the legal and practical concerns of professionals in fields including renewable and nonrenewable energy.

We are equipped to counsel and defend clients in matters including:

  • Regulatory compliance and self-auditing
  • Permit applications
  • Environmental strategy development, proactive measures to minimize liability, and preemptive solutions to changing laws
  • Preparing for and responding to government inspections and enforcement actions
  • Zoning and land use issues
  • Emerging environmental, liability, and coverage issues for an array of industries connected with hydrofracking
  • Environmental aspects of transactions, including environmental review, due diligence, and commercial loan closings
  • Waste management issues and hazardous waste remediation, including community outreach to landowners
  • Spill or accident remediation and cost-recovery litigation
  • Litigation to defend against the full range of environmental claims
Our experience includes matters involving the full range of applicable federal and state agencies and regulations, including:

  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  • Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)
  • Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA)
  • Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)
  • Clean Air and Clean Water Acts
  • Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure Plans (SPCC) for oil spills
  • State environmental protection agencies, laws, and regulations
Several members of our team have background experience in environmental science, meteorology, consulting, wastewater treatment, and other disciplines, providing increased efficiency and greater understanding of the technical and scientific challenges facing our clients.

Cyber Liability and Emerging Risks
Aside from leaks, quips, and clean horizontal lines, we also remember Wright for predicting the needs and desires of the people who would use his buildings many years in the future. In fact, he said that only a person who “can think ten years ahead” deserves to be called an architect.

Since Wright’s day, design professionals have been at the forefront of emerging technologies, including data storage and access, unmanned aerial systems (drones), renewable energy sources, and design software. As such, architects, engineers, land surveyors, and construction professionals have been exposed to some of the first lawsuits arising from these evolving technologies and evolving laws.

The number-one emerging risk for design and construction professionals is cyber liability, including the protection and management of electronic data. Design professionals now routinely command vast amounts of confidential electronic client data and bear the responsibility to limit access to and ensure the security of that information, creating a growing risk of exposure for lost or stolen information. At the same time, design professionals are often expected to share their work product freely with a large project team, in the name of efficiency and collaboration, often in an electronic form easily misread or manipulated, creating confusion and the opportunity for error.

Drones, nanotechnology, emerging environmental concerns, and new design and construction techniques also pose risks. As architects, engineers, land surveyors, and other design professionals push out into new practice areas, dealing with new conditions, structures, and technologies, we help them look ahead and move forward with confidence. Our clients are pioneers and innovators in their fields — which means we have to keep ahead of the latest case law and regulatory developments, anticipating risks before our clients begin a project and, in the event of litigation, trying and winning cases of first impression.

Many of our attorneys have become thought-leaders on issues including:

  • Cyber liability and data breaches
  • Internet publishing and intellectual property
  • Emerging technologies, including nanotechnology and 3-D printing
  • Integration of unmanned aerial systems (drones) into project management
  • Environmental engineering and renewable energy
  • Design-build project delivery
We’re also able to keep our clients continually up-to-date with in-depth analysis of industry trends, frequent seminars and presentations, and alerts about important developments.

Proactive Counsel from Conception to Completion
We are professional liability counselors and litigators with a passion for architecture, engineering, and design — but we’re also a team of construction litigators, insurance litigators, business and transactional counselors, and appellate practitioners. We apply to every matter our deep understanding of each client’s business, values, and objectives, providing proactive, risk-minimizing counsel throughout all phases of a project — from initial conception and design all the way through completion and beyond. We seek to minimize expenses and exposure, protect our clients’ reputations, and look beyond individual matters to the “big picture” of each client’s legal needs.

Because of the collaborative culture of our firm we’re also well-equipped to offer cost-effective solutions to other problems our clients face, beyond professional liability matters — including employment and labor concerns, regulatory compliance, leasing and zoning, intellectual property and internet publishing, environmental and toxic torts, government and partnership issues, and other transactional needs. When design professionals choose us, you’re tapping in to a dynamic network of accomplished, trial-tested attorneys, and can count on the full range of our firm’s experience.

Representative Matters

  • Representation of an architect in a claim brought by a senior living condominium association in New Jersey. The plaintiff alleged that the 714 units and the clubhouse were leaking and were otherwise designed and constructed improperly. More than 50 co-defendants asserted cross-claims asserting that same allegation. Our client was responsible for drafting the construction documents and there was an issue of fact as to whether the architect also had or otherwise performed construction administration services. We achieved a settlement on behalf of the client for less than 10 percent of the plaintiff’s initial demand from our client, amounting to approximately 1 percent of the value of all claims alleged.
  • Representation of a geo-environmental engineer in a construction defect claim involving the new construction of a high school in New Jersey. The plaintiff claimed that our client negligently performed its services and failed to detect hazardous materials in the soil, resulting in millions of dollars of actual damages and delay costs. On behalf of our client we reinstituted the application of the economic loss doctrine in the state of New Jersey and following our successful motion for dismissal of the case against our client at the trial level and a lengthy appeal, the client decided to settle the case for $125,000 to avoid further business interruption, negative publicity, and litigation costs.
  • Representation of an architect alleged to have negligently designed and negligently performed construction administration services on a newly built library on eastern Long Island. After demonstrating that the water infiltration and damage to the library was a construction error, the case settled for pennies on the dollar at binding arbitration.
  • Representation of an engineer alleged to have negligently accounted for roof loads on a newly constructed commercial space in New York. We successfully moved to have all claims and cross-claims against our client dismissed.
  • Representation of an architect and his firm in a suit alleging design defects causing damaging leaks at a major religious pilgrimage site attracting thousands of visitors from around the globe each year. The alleged design defect occurred during a $6 million renovation of the site; alleged damages exceeded $1 million, according to the plaintiff’s expert witness. That witness, however, was also the plaintiff’s architectural consultant on the project, and approved the alleged design defect.
  • Representation of design professionals in multiple personal injury matters.

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4.7/5.0 (1253 reviews)
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  • 5.0/5.0 Review for John M. Allen by a Associate on 05/04/16 in General Liability

    John is an excellent civil defense attorney. Most importantly, he seeks resolutions that are fair to the parties. This is a trait not often found in litigation matters. Given that John and I were on opposite sides of the fence in a recent case, my... Read more

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    John is an excellent civil defense attorney. Most importantly, he seeks resolutions that are fair to the parties. This is a trait not often found in litigation matters. Given that John and I were on opposite sides of the fence in a recent case, my comments stem from personal knowledge of this gentleman. Read less

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  • 5.0/5.0 Review for Michael Rubin by a Partner on 05/28/15 in Civil Litigation

    Mike is an excellent attorney, a strong client advocate and worthy adversary.

    Mike is an excellent attorney, a strong client advocate and worthy adversary. Read less

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Both within our own firm and across the wider business and legal communities, Goldberg Segalla’s commitment to diversity is strong, sincere, and a critical component of our firm’s mission and culture. Our philosophy has always been that we hire people who are excellent at what they do, and even better human beings. Period. We feel we would be doing a disservice to our firm and to our clients if we didn’t include contributions from every available resource.

We are extremely proud that our commitment has received regional and national recognition for the innovative programs we have developed and the results we have been able to achieve. The following is a sampling of the firm-wide or individual honors we have received for implementing initiatives that make a difference:

  • George B. Vashon Innovator Award, Minority Corporate Counsel Association
  • MCCA Firm Affiliate Network
  • Vault/MCCA Commitment to Diversity
  • Community Service Award, Defense Research Institute
  • Good Works Award, American Bar Association Section of Litigation
  • Outstanding Committee Chair, ABA Section of Litigation
  • Diversity Trailblazer Award, New York State Bar Association
  • Legal Service Award, Minority Bar Association of Western New York
  • Lawyer of the Year, Bar Association of Erie County
  • Legal Community Leader Award, National Federation for Just Communities of Western New York
  • Diversity Excellence Award, Buffalo Niagara Human Resource Association
  • Value Award for Diversity, Leadership Buffalo
  • Western New York Game Changers, Buffalo Spree magazine

What we are most proud of, though, is that our efforts have shown significant results and continue to make a lasting impact on the lives of many.

Leadership and Action

To put our philosophy and commitment into practice, we have a Diversity Task Force, which includes our managing partner, in place to conceptualize and implement diversity-focused programs as well as give diversity a voice in our decision-making at the highest level. The individuals on this task force share the firm’s strong commitment to increasing diversity, and they use their unique experiences and backgrounds to support and advance that goal. The team meets regularly to create programs, schedule events, establish diversity initiatives both inside and outside of the firm, set long-term goals, and develop the strategy to recruit and retain people from diverse backgrounds.

The chair of our Diversity Task Force, Joseph M. Hanna, has spearheaded numerous diversity initiatives in various organizations and outreach programs, serves on several diversity-related committees, and is a frequent author and speaker on diversity. Among other positions, he is co-chair of the American Bar Association (ABA) Young Lawyer Leadership Program, former chair of the association’s Minority Trial Lawyer Committee and its Special Committee on Human Rights, and former editor-in-chief of the ABA’s Minority Trial Lawyer; a 2014 fellow of the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity (LCLD); a past president of the Minority Bar Association of Western New York (MBAWNY) and the MBAWNY Foundation; and the Diversity Liaison for several committees at the 22,000-member DRI.

For more than a decade, Goldberg Segalla has proudly supported the ABA’s Judicial Internship Opportunity Program, which provides racial and ethnic minority law students, along with members of other groups underrepresented in the legal profession, opportunities to serve as an intern with a judge during the summer after their first or second year of law school. Joe Hanna — an alumni of the program himself — acts as a mentor and leader in the program, through which he has conducted more than 100 interviews for students across the country.

In 2017, Goldberg Segalla participated in the Thurgood Marshall Summer Law Internship Program, the New York City Bar Association’s flagship pipeline program for high school students. As a participating legal employer, we hosted high-achieving inner-city students for the summer and collaborate with the NYC Bar to provide them with additional programming before, during, and after the summer designed to help them prepare for a legal career.

Each summer, Goldberg Segalla proudly welcomes interns through a formal Diversity Clerkship Program that was conceived by Joe while he served as president of the MBAWNY. The program was developed in collaboration with the MBAWNY and the SUNY Buffalo Law School to provide opportunities for minority UB Law students to gain firsthand experience in the legal system. Since it was launched in 2011, the program has placed more than 100 students in clerkships in area courts as well as in several area law firms, with more judges and law firms asking to participate every day. It provides participants with an in-depth look at the legal process and the interaction between the bench and the bar that they would not otherwise get. At our firm, a dedicated team of partners monitors the work of these law clerks and ensures they obtain valuable experience to help develop important legal research, writing, case management, and client service skills critical to their long-term success. Our program earned the firm the Minority Corporate Counsel Association’s 2012 George B. Vashon Innovator Award.

We also have sponsored Success in the City, an annual diversity networking and mentoring event developed by Joe that brought together students, legal and business professionals, educators, nonprofits, and political leaders to make lasting partnerships. Many employment, business, and mentoring relationships resulted from this event. Past events have drawn more than 500 political and business leaders, legal professionals, and students. Success in the City has influenced the development of similar programs in Baltimore, Cleveland, Birmingham, Dallas, and elsewhere.

Our firm is committed to spreading the message throughout the broad legal and business communities that embracing diversity contributes to greater overall success. We conduct training sessions for in-house counsel at Fortune 500 corporations on increasing and promoting diversity. Our attorneys have authored articles and delivered presentations on diversity for various legal organizations, including DRI and the ABA, and our efforts and accomplishments in this area have been profiled in publications such as Law360, the New York State Bar Association’s State Bar News, Business First of Buffalo, the Buffalo Law Journal, and others.

In one example of our work to provide inspiration and raise awareness of diversity and women’s issues in the legal community, Caroline Berdzik, chair of our Employer and Labor Practice Group, spoke to Law360 for the publication’s “Female Powerbrokers” series. In the interview, Caroline discussed her career, the challenges of being a woman at a senior level at a law firm, the work-family life balance, and the importance of taking risks. She also offered guidance to female attorneys on moving their careers forward and advice to law firms on both increasing the number of women partners and retaining top female talent. Her longtime advocacy for women (at her previous firm, she served on the Women’s Business Development Committee and was a member of what became the national Women’s Presidents Organization) helped earn her a spot on the 2015 NJBIZ list of New Jersey’s Best 50 Women in Business.

Joe Hanna also was featured by Law360 in its “Minority Powerbrokers” series, in which he shared his perspective on breaking the glass ceiling in the legal industry, the challenges of being a lawyer of color at a senior level, how law firms can increase diversity in their partner ranks, and Goldberg Segalla’s core commitment to diversity.


Goldberg Segalla is proud to be a member of the Minority Corporate Counsel Association Firm Affiliate Network, which was created by the MCCA to assist and acknowledge law firms that are committed to advancing diversity and inclusion in the legal profession.

We are also a member of the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity (LCLD), a national organization of leaders in law firms and corporate legal departments dedicated to creating a truly diverse legal profession. As noted earlier, Joe Hanna was a fellow of the LCLD in 2014. In this position, he played a critical role in organizing the first-ever New York City LCLD Fellows Roundtable event, and he was instrumental in establishing a mentorship program in Hartford for local diverse first-year law students.

We support the diversity efforts of numerous organizations, including:

  • American Bar Association
  • Asian American Bar Association of New York
  • Columbian Lawyers Association
  • Defense Research Institute
  • Federal Bar Association
  • Korean American Association of Greater New York
  • League of First Nations
  • Minority Bar Association of Western New York
  • National Bar Association
  • Native American Rights Fund
  • National Association of Asian American Professionals
  • National Congress of American Indians
  • New York State Bar Association
  • Seneca Free Trade Association
  • SUNY Buffalo Law School
  • Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York

Our outreach efforts led to the creation of a comprehensive database of more than 500 minority law organizations throughout the United States. Contact between these organizations takes place in anticipation of bringing CLE and legal programs together. This group of minority bar associations includes both local and national organizations, such as:

  • National Association of Women Lawyers
  • National Association of Muslim Lawyers
  • Hispanic National Bar Association
  • National Asian Pacific American Bar
  • Black Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles
  • South Asian Bar Association of Philadelphia
  • Vietnamese American Bar Association of North Carolina

A Talented and Diverse Team

Diversity is further evident within our firm through the many languages and dialects spoken by members of our team, including Albanian, Arabic, Croatian, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Italian, Korean, Malayalam, Mandarin, Marathi, Norwegian, Portuguese, Punjabi, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, Tagalog, Tamil, Thai, and Urdu.

Goldberg Segalla’s culture is one that values team-spiritedness, collegiality, and interpersonal harmony within our working community. We are a firm that believes in diversity in the workplace, and we are proud to offer a professional and positive work environment for each and every member of our team.

On these values, and on our commitment to diversity, we will never waver. We are proud of what we have accomplished thus far, but we also realize that this is a long-term mission. We will continue to innovate and to improve diversity in law and business — both within Goldberg Segalla and across the communities in which we live and work.

Diversity Matters — Join the Conversation

If you have questions regarding any of the firm’s diversity initiatives or would like to discuss ideas regarding increasing diversity in the legal profession, please contact Joe Hanna (716.566.5447; [email protected]) or another member of our Diversity Task Force:

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