Shapiro, Lifschitz & Schram

“Every time I work with them, they always give me the right advice – even though it’s not always profitable for the firm.”

Bruce Hoffman – Vice President, Gilbane Building Company and former Executive Director, Maryland Stadium Authority



          Architects providing services in the District of Columbia should take note of the recent decision issued by the District of Columbia Court of Appeals in Sturdza v. United Arab Emirates, 11 A.3d 251.  In a case of first impression, the Court responded affirmatively to the following question certified to it by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit:

 "Under District of Columbia law, is an architect barred from recovering on a contract to perform architectural services in the District or in quantum meruit for architectural services rendered in the District because the architect began negotiating for the contract, entered into the contract, and/or performed such services while licensed to practice architecture in another jurisdiction, but not in the District?"

          In so deciding, the Court denied architect Elena Sturdza's right to compensation for the architectural services she provided to the United Arab Emirates ("UAE") in connection with a 1993 competition for the design of a new embassy and chancery building in Washington, D.C.  Ms. Sturdza, who was licensed under the laws of Maryland and Texas, but not the District of Columbia, submitted a design in the competition, entered into contract negotiations with the UAE, and ultimately submitted revised designs at the request of UAE.  After contract negotiations ceased and the UAE proceeded with a competing architect, Ms. Sturdza filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, asserting breach of contract and quantum-meruit claims against the UAE as well as claims against the competing architect whom she alleged had misappropriated her designs.  The District Court granted summary judgment in favor of UAE, reasoning that Ms. Sturdza was barred from recovering for breach of contract or quantum meruit because she provided architectural services without a license in violation of the D.C. Code.  In answering the certified question in the affirmative, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals confirmed that unlicensed architects will not be able to recover compensation for architectural services rendered in the District if they fail to comply with D.C. licensing requirements.

          Sturdza argued that the District's architectural licensing statute should not be applied in the case of international architectural design competitions because "insistence on licensure would 'disable and diminish' international architectural competition in the District, because 'leading international architects cannot be expected to apply for and await receipt of local licenses in every jurisdiction to which they bend their talents.'"  The Court summarily rejected this notion and went on to explain that "[t]he rule is well-established in the District of Columbia 'that a contract made in violation of a licensing statute that is designed to protect the public will usually be considered void and unenforceable, and that the party violation the statute cannot collect monies due on a quasi-contractual basis either.'. . .  Architects who practice without a license are not exempted from the general rule."

          For information regarding the District licensing requirements for architects, visit the website for the District of Columbia Board of Architecture and Interior Design at:

Found In: Construction

Did You Know . . .

Members of the SLS trial group have tried in excess of 50 jury trials and 75 bench trials?

The SLS construction group has worked on sports stadiums across the country including Orioles Park in Baltimore and Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati?

The SLS construction group has worked on power plant projects across the country?

In 2007 SLS was selected for an Honorable Mention as one of the Best Places To Work in Washington DC?

Ron Shapiro, Steve Schram and Judd Lifschitz have all been selected as SuperLawyers by Law and Politics?

The SLS office building is an historic townhouse constructed in the late 1800s?

SLS has been selected by Martindale-Hubbell as a Preeminent Law Firm?

SLS trial lawyers have argued appeals in the U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeal for the 4th, 5th, 9th, D.C. and Federal Circuit?

SLS trial lawyers have been lead trial counsel in cases in Arizona, California, District of Columbia, Florida, Louisiana, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Texas, and Virginia, - to name just a few?

Virtually all the cases that SLS trial lawyers mediated have been favorably settled at mediation?

The transactional group at SLS was lead counsel on one of the largest, most complex mixed-use projects in downtown Washington, DC involving 4 lenders and 6 property owners?

In appreciation for the outstanding efforts of each of its employees during 2007, SLS gave everyone (attorneys, paralegals, and staff) a 4 day/3 night expense paid trip to Key West, Florida?

The transactional group at SLS has represented tenants in more than 200 retail leases in the Mid-Atlantic region?

Every attorney in the transactional group at SLS has at least 15 years experience?

The transactional group at SLS has represented developers in the purchase, construction, financing and/or sale of more than 75 multi-family apartment projects?

The transactional group at SLS has represented real estate investors and developers with respect to property in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Delaware, Maryland, the District of Columbia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Texas, Tennessee, Michigan and the U.S. Virginia Islands?

Attorneys in the transactional group at SLS have represented eight national banks in commercial real estate loans?

Attorneys in the transactional group at SLS have represented the FDIC, the Resolution Trust Corporation and several banking institutions in loan workout transactions throughout the Mid-Atlantic region?

The transactional group at SLS has represented homebuilders and commercial real estate developers in work-outs of individual loans and also for work-outs of large portfolios involving dozens of properties in several states?

The trial lawyers of SLS have numerous reported decisions to their credit?