The Practicing Architect’s Book of Law

People / Places / Products / May 9, 2012

Back in the early 1980s, attorney Robert Herrmann, fresh out of Columbia Law School and Yale’s Department of History, began to represent Robert A. M. Stern in construction law.

The encounter not only changed his career path, but engendered a lifelong appreciation for good design.

In the early 1990s, he developed a curriculum for a course at Columbia on law for architects.  The dean got pretty excited about it, but that was about the extent of the enthusiasm.

“Only a few students signed up for it,” Herrmann says today.  “It became the course that didn’t happen.”

Still, the seed of an idea was planted.  So, years later, when he ran into a book editor from W.W. Norton, Herrman proposed a book on the topic.

The result is “Law for Architects,” to be published on Monday, May 14.  It’s a reference book where practicing architects can get a quick read on the legal aspects of the business side of design.  Each of its 10 chapters covers topics like copyright, design infringement, intellectual property, contracts and employment guidelines.

“I hope it will really benefit people – that they’ll take advantage of it and stay out of trouble,” he says.

Herrman’s been practicing law for almost 40 years, 30 of them representing the design profession.  He’s participated in AIA programs on risk management, ownership transfers and contract law.

Moreover, he’s an aficionado of good design.  He plans trips around the architecture of the Rust Belt, in cities like Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Scranton, spending days at a time looking into classic American architecture.

And he’s got taste, too.  His favorite building?  Louis Sullivan’s exquisite Guaranty Trust Building in Buffalo, N.Y.

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Michael Welton
I write about architecture, art, and design for national and international publications. I am the author of "Drawing from Practice: Architects and the Meaning of Freehand" (Routledge, 2015), and the former architecture critic for the News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C.

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