Q&A with Cohen Seglias’ New Partners, Matthew Gioffre and Michael Metz-Topodas
Our newsletter team recently spoke with our new construction partners, Matt Gioffre and Michael Metz-Topodas, to discuss their careers and legal practices.
Q: Tell us a little about your practice and the services that you provide to your clients.
Michael: My litigation practice focuses on the construction industry and involves three areas of services. For clients with project-related disputes, I litigate cases from initial assessment through resolution. Drawing on litigation lessons, I also support contract review for negotiation and risk analysis purposes. Finally, I provide day-to-day business counseling on construction project disputes to prevent them from growing a life of their own or to position clients best should litigation arise.
Matt: I work with clients to solve problems that arise on commercial construction projects and consult with and advise them about their legal and contractual rights. I also represent clients in negotiations with the opposing party and, if necessary, assert or defend claims either in arbitration or in court. With an eye toward reducing the risk that is inherently part of every construction contract, I advise clients and assist in negotiating contracts on prospective jobs.
Q: How did you get started in your career, and what first drew you to Cohen Seglias?
Michael: I started my career at a larger law firm in a more general litigation practice. However, I was introduced to Cohen Seglias in 2006 while looking for a summer associate position and became fascinated about how unique a construction law practice is. When Cohen Seglias posted an opening, I applied and had the opportunity to meet lawyers at the firm. Those meetings confirmed the Cohen Seglias’ reputation of strong collegiality, deep construction industry knowledge, and excellent advocacy for their clients. From my first day working at Cohen Seglias, I have never had an idle moment and have loved every minute of it. I remain grateful for the opportunity to join the firm and for the mentoring I have received here.
Matt: I worked as a summer associate at Cohen Seglias before my last year of law school. That summer was an eye-opening experience for me—I was introduced to an area of the law and an industry that was far more complex and interesting than I ever expected. I enjoyed the work, the clients, and the people at the firm and accepted the subsequent offer. In the 14 years since, I have continued to be fascinated by the projects our clients build and the unique issues facing each project. I am the first “homegrown” summer associate to become a partner and, as our firm continues to grow, I will not be the last.
Q: What do you enjoy most about your practice?
Michael: A construction law practice affords unique client relationships. Often conversations involve a company’s business head, usually the owner, who either founded the company or is related to the one who did. That gives the conversation special dynamics. Reaching back to my earlier career as a teacher, I often find myself educating clients about how the law operates in relation to their problems. They also readily grasp and accept finding business solutions to their problems, making those discussions very easy. Our clients’ personal connections to their business give the conversations a special energy and passion. Finally, practicing in construction law invariably entails working with people who take great pride in their work and do it with dedication, integrity, and honest values, which I find motivating.
Matt: The clients we deal with are proud of their work and are passionate about what they build. I enjoy the appreciation I get when I solve a client’s problem, provide good advice that keeps a client from making a critical mistake, or simply recover the money that a client is rightfully owed. I try to bring that same level of passion to my services and I enjoy the sense of satisfaction when I achieve a good result for my clients.
Q: What made you stay and grow here? What is it that you like about the firm?
Michael: My fellow partners demand each day I become a better lawyer than I was the day before, and our clients inspire meeting that demand.
Matt: As cliché as it may sound, the people of the firm are the reason that I initially wanted to stay and grow with the firm. There are fantastic lawyers here who are generous with their time and have mentored me in many ways. The firm is focused on satisfying clients but is also dedicated to maintaining a culture and atmosphere that is positive and uplifting for all who work here.