By: George E. Pallas
Cohen Seglias Pallas Greenhall & Furman PC was founded in 1988 by three attorneys and has grown to 70 attorneys in nine offices; practicing not only all over the country but throughout the world. From its inception, the business philosophy of the firm has not changed; namely, to provide exceptional legal services with a unique business acumen of knowing that, even in the legal world, “time is money.” Therefore, the firm has endeavored to create meaningful relationships with many different trade organizations like the UTCA, to promote the advancement of the best construction practices; as well as public agencies and dispute resolution administrators. The result of these focused efforts has been to facilitate early resolution of disputes (usually at the project level) or, when necessary, to better guarantee a positive outcome through litigation. This business philosophy inspired George Pallas to join the firm in 1993, Shawn Farrell in 1998 and, most recently, Michael McKenna in 2018. The firm accredits this business-oriented approach as the reason for the firm’s expansion of its footprint from New Jersey/ New York area down through Delaware and Washing, DC.
In addition, the dedicated efforts have earned Cohen Seglias a reputation for understanding the business needs of the construction industry and the significance of speed and timing in construction projects. As a result, the firm quickly grew to be known as a top construction law and litigation firm with hundreds of construction and construction industry-related companies as clients. Typical projects include: bridges, water treatment plants, petrochemical plants, dams, highways, major office buildings, stadiums, hospitals, shopping centers, condominiums, government buildings, airports, factories, and schools. The firm and its attorneys are consistently recognized as leaders in legal rankings such as Chambers USA, The Top 50 Constructi0n Law Firms, Best Lawyers, Super Lawyers, and Martindale-Hubbell. Cohen Seglias attorneys are heavily involved and hold leadership positions in industry trade associations across the country including the Utility and Transportation Contractors Association (UTCA – Special Counsel), the American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC – General Counsel), the Construction Industry Advancement Program (MCA), the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA), and the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC NJ – Labor Counsel).
What Makes Cohen Seglias a Different Kind of Law Firm
While Cohen Seglias recognizes the importance of the broader industry concerns that impact all construction companies, what separates Cohen Seglias is the commitment to act as an indefatigable advocate for the individual client; the individual clients’ financial problems; to obtain justice and payment to those individual clients. In New Jersey, this has put Cohen Seglias on the front line of clarifying the rights and obligations of contractors. For example:
- George Pallas has won some of the seminal cases in New Jersey that define public bidding laws concerning such issues as the requirements to name subcontractors under local public contracts law;
- Shawn Farrell has recently won cases that clarified the common law requirement to provide a New Jersey contractor with an opportunity to cure before the owner can terminate a contractor for cause; and that New Jersey has adopted federal common law on the enforcement and interpretation of a Differing Site Conditions clause; and
- Michael McKenna, continuing his proven track record of trial victories, recently won the largest jury verdict ever rendered for a contractor against the NJ DOT.
To assist the efforts of representing clients in New Jersey, earlier this year the firm opened an office in a new space at One Newark Center, located in the heart of Newark. George Pallas, the firm’s Managing Partner, said, “We have been fortunate to work with so many great clients who operate their businesses in New Jersey, and we wanted to make sure our new office location was easily accessible to them.”
Mike, Shawn, and George have been active members of UTCA for many years. In fact, George and Shawn received the Larry Gardner Memorial Award in recognition of the firm’s service to UTCA and the construction industry in 2014, and have been Special Counsel to UTCA since 2017. Mike also received the Larry Gardner Memorial Award in 2010. At the time, he was the first lawyer to ever receive the honor.
As Special Counsel to UTCA, George, Shawn, and Michael support the organization’s focus on improving working conditions for the construction industry through legislative efforts. They help UTCA have a voice in regulatory hearings for safety training, labor relations, and specifications development. Cohen Seglias closely works with the UTCA not only assisting with legal needs, but also providing legal presentations that benefit the entire membership on issues such as liquidated damages, claims procedures, liens, OSHA, and other legal issues that are common to the Industry.
As Cohen Seglias celebrates its 30th anniversary, the firm is unique in that the senior leadership has remained intact for more than 20 years. The firm’s vision includes growth beyond the core New Jersey/ New York/ Pennsylvania area, more collaboration among the attorneys, and continued focus on client service. “We strive to make delivery of legal services as efficient as possible,” George explained. “Technology has changed the way we practice law. We routinely handle construction matters where millions of pages of documents are exchanged.” the firm invests heavily in document retention and innovative search platforms and is now utilizing artificial intelligence to help attorneys digest, review, and analyze various documents that are produced in litigation. For its construction industry clients, this means both cost savings and the ability to analyze what would otherwise be a morass of information. The firm recognized the need to efficiently cull through and analyze what can be hundreds of thousands, if not more, emails, correspondence, reports, and other electronic documentation that are inherent to the modern construction project. The firm has made significant investments and forethought in this area to stay on the cutting-edge and successfully handle complex construction cases for its clients.
“We are excited to continue growing our geographical footprint,” said George, “and strengthening our commitment to the New Jersey construction industry. This is a region where we have always had a large client base, and we are expanding the services we provide to the construction industry and beyond.”