“I’m an Architect.”

Robert Lopez, RA, introduces DPCs.

Daniel Fox

Event: Understanding Permissible Corporate Entities and the New D.P.C. Law in NYS
Location: Center for Architecture, 04.17.12
Speakers: Douglas Lentivech, Deputy Commissioner for the Professions, Office of the Professions, New York State Education Department; Robert Lopez, RA, Executive Secretary to the New York State Board for Architecture and the State Board for Landscape Architecture, Office of the Professions, New York State Education Department
Organizers: AIANY Professional Practice Committee and the New York Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (NYASLA)

Believe it or not, the name of your design firm might be illegal. Are you a non-licensed designer calling yourself an architect? Or did you know that if you’re an intern stockpiling hours for licensure while working under a non-licensed designer, your experience hours might not officially count? While Douglas Lentivech and Robert Lopez, RA, came down from Albany to introduce one of New York State’s newest types of corporation—the Design Professional Corporation, or D.P.C.—they also came with a message: names count when it comes to “permissible corporate practice.”

After describing the myriad-but-familiar types of corporations in the state—your LLCs, LLPs, and PCs—Lentivech and Lopez let the architect and landscape architect audience know that through the hard-won lobbying of the AIA and ASLA, design professionals other than licensed architects, landscape architects, engineers, and land surveyors may now own “less than 25% of the shares and may constitute less than 25% of director and officer positions” of a new D.P.C. In other words: do you want to make your Director of Marketing a partial owner of your firm? Well, now you can, provided you form a new D.P.C. (the periods between each letter are legally required), and merge your old company into the new. (Read a full description of the new law here.)

But the other points of Lentivech and Lopez’s discussion concerned the standards of professional practice. The message for architectural interns was especially clear. If your firm’s owners are non-licensed designers, you will not receive credit for your experience when it’s registration time. They also reminded designers that if you are not a licensed architect, you cannot legally practice architecture and cannot name your firm John Doe Architecture/Architects.

To reiterate: according to the New York State Office of the Professions, “to use the title ‘Architect’ in New York State, an individual must be licensed and registered by the New York State Education Department.” Conversely, if you are licensed and own a firm, that firm must, in its name, describe the type of professional service provided (most obviously, architecture). Moreover, in the world of increasingly-creative firm names, if you do use a name like John_DOE_Designs_123 on your website, for instance, your firm’s officially-registered name (i.e. John Doe Architecture PC) must be included somewhere on the page as well, all in the name of fair and non-deceptive practice.

But take heart! Once licensed, all the benefits of belonging to a profession are conferred, not the least of which is being able to call yourself a real-life architect.