Martin A. Onorato

Partner

  • Overview

    Biography

    Martin Onorato has over twenty years of experience as a construction attorney, and he represents clients throughout the industry and across the nation. Mr. Onorato practiced architecture prior to becoming a lawyer, which gives him an insider’s understanding of the industry and brings significant value to his clients. He advises construction clients throughout the life cycle of projects, and he is an experienced litigator who assists clients on any project-related claims or disputes.

    Mr. Onorato, a member of the firm’s Construction Practice Group, works with the firm’s multi-disciplinary practice groups to bring a full-service approach to clients. Mr. Onorato co-chairs the Education Initiative, which services the legal needs of public and private university and secondary school clients. He also participates in the firm’s initiatives on Sustainability, Health Care, and Exempt Organizations.

    Contract Procurement and Project Delivery

    From the earliest stages of project planning, Mr. Onorato serves on deal teams, and he drafts and negotiates contracts for all types of developments and construction projects. He guides clients through the intricacies of structuring and documenting transactions, while counseling them on key considerations like project delivery methods, risk tolerance, schedule, budget, and project complexity.

    Mr. Onorato has drafted and negotiated contracts for a wide array of public and private projects, including universities and schools, hospitals and healthcare facilities, commercial offices and corporate headquarters, research facilities, energy production and distribution, hospitality and gaming, industrial facilities, and transportation. He works regularly with all the standard industry contracts, and he also has collaborated with clients to develop contract and procurement forms that accommodate their unique needs.

    Mr. Onorato handles transactions on a yearly basis worth hundreds of millions of dollars, involving millions of square feet of construction. Mr. Onorato has advised several prestigious Northeast colleges and universities on capital projects such as the expansion of new residential colleges, the renovation of art museums, student center projects, athletic facilities, and clean energy projects. He has negotiated contracts for the design and construction of major hospital expansions and corporate campus unification projects.

    Dispute Resolution

    Challenges inevitably arise in the course of design and construction. Providing legal guidance in those times is a significant part of Mr. Onorato’s practice. He provides strategic counseling and advocacy for clients, in order to resolve disputes, preserve relationships, and avert disruptions to the project. Mr. Onorato regularly advises clients through scope changes, payment disputes, project delays, defective design and construction, unanticipated conditions, interactions with authorities having jurisdiction, terminations, and preparation and analysis of all types of claims.

    The key is to identify problems as early as possible and resolve them efficiently before costs escalate. Mr. Onorato works closely with clients in these situations to identify the central issues, assess the strength of legal positions, and find resolutions that optimize the client’s business interests. When complex claims cannot be resolved by amicable means, Mr. Onorato represents clients in formal dispute resolution proceedings, including mediation with neutrals, proceedings before private arbitration panels, and litigation in state and federal courts. Mr. Onorato has successfully obtained arbitration awards and judgments in a wide variety of design and construction defaults, errors and omissions, fraud, bad faith, unfair trade practices, and fraudulent transfer of assets.

    Mr. Onorato frequently speaks publicly and delivers seminars and presentations on construction law. He is a regular contributor to the firm’s blogs, and his posts can be found at the Construction Law Zone, the HigherEdWire, and Sustainability Practice Center.

    Mr. Onorato is listed in The Best Lawyers in America®in the areas of Construction Law and Litigation - Construction since 2013 (Copyright 2016 by Woodward/White, Inc., Aiken, SC), and he has been listed as a Connecticut Super Lawyer in the area of Construction Litigation for 2010 to 2012 and 2014 to 2016 (Super Lawyers is a registered trademark of Key Professional Media, Inc.). He also was listed in Hartford Magazine's April 2010 issue as one of the Top Lawyers in Greater Hartford in the area of Construction/Development.

  • Experience
    • Experience

      Experience

        Contract Procurement and Project Delivery

      • Representation of Southcoast Health in connection with the design and construction of a state-of-the-art electrophysiology lab at Charlton Memorial Hospital in Fall River, which opened in February 2017. The 3,800-square-foot lab, part of the Harold and Virginia Lash Heart and Vascular Center, will be used to perform complex procedures for patients with atrial fibrillation, ventricular tachycardia, and atrial tachycardia. It uses a new mapping system that localizes abnormal electrical signals at much higher rates and will cut procedure times for patients.

      • Representation of the developer of the Delamar West Hartford, a new boutique hotel in the West Hartford Center and Blue Back Square district of West Hartford. Opening in late Spring 2017, the six-story, 107,000-square-foot hotel has 102 elegant guest rooms and suites, 12 extended-stay apartments, a full service spa, a ballroom, an exercise facility, retail spaces, and fine dining.

      • Representation of Unilever in a development agreement in the sale-leaseback of their 23-acre headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. The transaction financed over $100 million in development work, including the renovation of five buildings, totaling 321,000 square-feet, with modernization, structural upgrades, and sustainability improvements, and the creation of a central marketplace.

      • Representation of the City of Hartford in the negotiation of installation and power purchase agreements for an 800 kW, fuel cell-powered microgrid that provides continuous electric generation and that supports critical facilities during grid outages.

      • Negotiation of a contract for the design and construction of a new hospital tower and expanded parking structure, totaling 260,000 square feet of new hospital space and 13,000 square feet of renovations. The $150 million project featured an expanded emergency department, a new critical care unit, a state-of-the-art neonatal intensive care unit, improved parking, and a heliport. 

      • Negotiation of a contract for the construction of a new, 63,000-square-foot safety testing facility to be used for nonclinical safety studies in pharmaceutical development and research.

      • Negotiation of contracts for the design and construction of a renovation and addition of 14,000 square feet of hospital space to accommodate an expanded 13-exam room emergency department. The project involved extensive site preparation and demolition and the relocation of critical care and support space.

      • Negotiation of a contract for the redesign, correction, and completion of a hospital ambulatory pavilion, a multistory addition and renovation on the existing campus, housing for new outpatient services, an emergency department, a post-anesthesia care unit, a cancer center, and a gastroenterology unit. 

      • Representation of a prestigious northeastern Ivy League university regarding its interests in drafting and negotiating hundreds of millions of dollars in design, construction, and consulting contracts on the university's most prominent projects. Served as special counsel in developing and maintaining a new family of construction and design contract documents, reflecting an integrated project delivery system. Document forms include various standard forms of construction and design agreements, such as general contractor agreements, construction management agreements, design and consulting contracts, bond forms, purchase orders, bid documents, RFP forms, bundling agreements, and design-build contracts. Representation also includes advice on policies governing owner-controlled insurance program, safety, project labor agreements, procurement deliverables, claims readiness, and dispute resolution.

        • Negotiation of a contract for the construction of a chemical processing pilot plant for the manufacture of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) in support of development, combining state-of-the-art technology, manufacturing practices, and process flexibility to handle the production of multiple types of APIs.
      • Drafted a contract to undertake the closure and decommissioning of a pharmaceutical manufacturing facility involving identifying chemical hazards; sampling surveys; cleaning laboratories, process rooms, and support areas; and arranging disposal of wastes.

      • Negotiation of an engineering contract in connection with the expansion of a pharmaceutical manufacturing facility with new cell culture bioreactor and modifications to accommodate continuous processing. Includes temperature-controlled harvest, buffer, settling, and purification equipment.

      • Negotiation of contracts with engineers and consultants pertaining to a hospital energy supply system maintenance and optimization, including investment grade energy audit, energy procurement services, boiler efficiency study, steam trap efficiency study, uninterruptible power supply servicing, and standby power maintenance.

      • Negotiation of contract for the design of the renovation of a hospital family birth center and neonatal intensive care unit, including operating and delivery rooms, post-partum beds, and entrance and waiting room upgrades.

      • Negotiation of a master services agreement to provide architectural design services to multiple hospitals and doctor groups within a regional health network.

      • Negotiation of a contract for the design of a 16,000-square-foot community health center in Griswold, Connecticut, to provide primary medical care, pediatrics, internal medicine, geriatrics, gynecology, dentistry, behavioral health, and addiction services.

      • Representation of a public-private partnership with the State of Connecticut to redevelop, operate, and maintain Connecticut’s 23 highway service plazas. The 35-year agreement was the result of extended negotiations with the state Department of Transportation. The service plaza overhauls will also include "green" initiatives to bring the facilities up to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards, improve water runoff patterns, and install idle-reduction technology for use by trucks on the Connecticut Turnpike, also known as Interstate 95. Including projected revenues, initial construction, and reinvestments, the benefit to the State of Connecticut is estimated to be almost $500 million over the term of the agreement.

      • Representation of the contractor partner in a public-private partnership responsible for the construction of the new South Norfolk Jordan Bridge, a 5,375-foot-long, two-lane, fixed-span, high-rise toll bridge over the Elizabeth River in Chesapeake, Virginia, providing navigational clearances of 145 vertical feet and 270 horizontal feet. The new bridge replaced and privatized an 80-year-old drawbridge.

      • Representation of an international pharmaceutical company in preparing and negotiating forms of design and construction contracts for use in improvements to its Connecticut campus, including construction of a 62,000-square-foot safety research facility, a 30,000-square-foot chemical development facility, and a 42,000-square-foot support building.

      • Representation of a university in the drafting and negotiation of an EPC contract for the replacement of three existing combustion turbines and heat recovery steam generators with two new 7.5 MW dual fuel combustion turbines with heat recovery steam generators, delivering combined heat, power, and chilled water to the main campus.

      • Representation of a manufacturing facility comprising over one million square feet in the negotiation of a contract for comprehensive professional and technical services to plan, design, and construct select utility infrastructure and energy projects as part of a utility master plan.

      • Representation of an independent coeducational college preparatory boarding and day school in the negotiation of a contract for comprehensive professional and technical services to plan, design, and construct select utility infrastructure and energy projects as part of a utility master plan for the 500-acre campus. 

      • Negotiation of a wayfinding contract for the design and installation of custom room identification, wayfinding, and exterior signage at new ambulatory pavilion of a hospital.

      • Representation of an independent coeducational college preparatory boarding and day school in negotiating design contract for a 24,000-square-foot science building designed and built in accordance with sustainability principles of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) rating system of the US Green Building Council.

      • Negotiation of a contract for the comprehensive replacement of the machinery, hoistway equipment, cars, and controls. Includes upgrades to controls, safety, and security features in hospital elevators and a contract for service and maintenance of 22 hospital elevators, including geared, gearless, and hydraulic systems, for a two-year term.

      • Representation of Danbury Hospital in preparing contracts for the construction of the clinical, state-of-the-art Harold A. Spratt Center for Simulation and Clinical Learning. The facility will be used to train medical staff, allied health professionals, and medical and nursing students to most efficiently serve patients while striving for an environment of performance improvement with zero erros. The project includes ultrasonography/transthoracic echocardiology simulator equipment.

      • Representation of Norwalk Hospital in the negotiation of a contract for the replacement of a 1.2 MW natural gas generator at the combined heat and power (CHP) plant located on the hospital campus.

      • Representation of a university in the drafting and negotiation of an installation and power purchase agreement for a 1 MW warehouse rooftop solar array with 4,400 panels. Power generated and sold to the university offsets the equivalent of 16,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide over the system's life.

      • Representation of King Low Heywood Thomas School, in Stamford, Connecticut, in preparing design and construction management contracts for the phased renovations to the Upper School, including a state-of-the-art academic center, new common space with integrated vertical circulation, substantial renovation of support space, asbestos abatement, and infrastructure improvements.

      • Representation of Dartmouth College in negotiating design and construction contracts to expand the art museum as part of a new Arts District and to create new exhibition, educational, office, and public spaces. New galleries will be used to display African, Aboriginal Australian, modern, contemporary, and Native American art.

      • Dispute Resolution

      • Obtained arbitration award, successfully invalidating a liquidating agreement between a subcontractor and general contractor. *

      • Obtained owner's judgment against defaulting contractor for contractual breaches, fraud, bad faith, unfair trade practices, and fraudulent transfer of assets. *

      • Successfully recovered professional fees on behalf of architectural firm for design services rendered to a developer. *

      • back to top
      *Atty. Onorato was counsel in these representative transactions before joining Robinson+Cole.
    • Professional Associations

      Professional Associations

      Connecticut Bar Association
      Construction Law Section, Executive Committee
      CBA Legislative Liaison

      American Bar Association
      Forum on the Construction Industry

      American Institute of Architects, Connecticut Chapter
      Past Director, Board of Directors
      Past Chair of Professional Practice Committee

      Connecticut Building Congress
      Past President
      Industry Practices Committee
      CBC Scholarship Fund

      Higher Education Real Estate Lawyers
    • Honors + Awards

      Honors + Awards

      Listed in Connecticut Super Lawyers® in the area of Construction Litigation for 2010 to 2012 and 2014 to 2016 (Super Lawyers is a registered trademark of Key Professional Media, Inc.)

      Listed in The Best Lawyers in America® in the areas of Construction Law and Litigation - Construction since 2013 (Copyright 2016 by Woodward/White, Inc., Aiken, SC)

      Listed in Hartford Magazine's April 2010 issue as one of the Top Lawyers in Greater Hartford in the area of Construction/Development

  • NEWS + PRESS
    • Publications

      Publications

      "Connecticut Authorizes Design-Build and CM-at-Risk Contracts on Transportation Projects," published in Robinson & Cole Construction Law Update, co-authored with Ryan M. Burns (June 2012)

      "Academic Solutions," published in Solutions, coeditor (8/2009)
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      "Copyright Ownership Clauses: The Project Must Go On," published in Solutions (2006)
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      "Home Improvement or Home Disaster? What Homeowners Should Know Before Hiring a Contractor," published in Danbury News-Times, co-authored with Lori Amann Chetcuti (2005)
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      "Toward Greener Buildings," published in OCCAM'S RAZOR (2004)
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      "To Settle or Not to Settle? Classic Dilemma," published in Surety Claims Institute Newsletter (2004)
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      "Improper Bond Form Exposes Construction Manager's Surety to Project Materialmen," published in OCCAM'S RAZOR (2003)
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      "Team Building: A Look at Project Delivery Systems," published in OCCAM'S RAZOR (2003)
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      "Arbitrating Construction Claims Against the State," published in KEYSTONE, Connecticut Building Congress (2003)
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      "Proposed Legislation Would Make Public Owners Liable to Subs If the Contractor Fails to Post a Payment Bond," published in OCCAM'S RAZOR (2003)
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      "Public Works Bond Surety Not Liable to Third-Tier Supplier That Was a Party to a Joint Payment Agreement with the Second-Tier Subcontractor," published in OCCAM'S RAZOR (2002)
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      "Default Judgement Against Bond Principal Has No Preclusive Effect on Surety," published in OCCAM'S RAZOR (2002)
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      "Perfection of the General Indemnity Agreement: The Result May Not Be Perfect with the Surety," published in Surety Claims Institute (2002)
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      "Raise Your Right Hand and Swear," published in OCCAM'S RAZOR (2002)
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      "Direct Sureties Are Now Prohibited on State Public Works Projects," published in OCCAM'S RAZOR (2001)
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      "Construction Case Law Summary," published in Connecticut Bar Association Construction Law Section (1998)

      "28 Million Permit Application," published in Solutions
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      "Troubleshooting a Troubled Project: Navigating Your Way Through Design and Construction Contracts," published in National Association of College and University Attorneys
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    • Presentations

      Presentations

      "A Lawyer, an Architect, and a Carpenter: Construction Law Best Practices Roundtable Discussions," co-presented with Gregory R. Faulkner, at a Connecticut Building Congress program at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, Connecticut (2/21/2017)
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      "Ireland's Great Hunger Museum Program," organized and moderated the program and presentation by key team members for the award-winning Ireland's Great Hunger Museum project near Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut (12/9/2014)
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      "2014 Business Awards," presented the winners of the 2014 Business Awards at the AIA Connecticut Awards Reception, held at The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine at the UConn Health Center (12/2/2014)
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      "Meet the Architects," moderator of panel discussion at Connecticut Building Congress program. The panel focused on the status of economic recovery, major market drivers for projects, and regional trends in design. (5/10/2011)

      "Avoiding the Six Common Mistakes of Construction Management Practice," co-presented with Elizabeth K. Wright and Frank C. White Jr. (4/21/2011)

      "Important Fundamentals of Construction Law in Connecticut," at Hartford Chapter of The Construction Specifications Institute, Rocky Hill, Connecticut (3/14/2011)

      "Managing Liability Issues in Green Buildings and Sustainable Construction," at Higher Education Real Estate Lawyers, co-presented with Gregory R. Faulkner (10/15/2010)

      "Opportunities & Challenges in Green Building Projects," at Sustainability and Climate Change Series (4/2009)

      "The 2007 Contract Documents from AIA and Consensus DOCS," at Robinson & Cole LLP, Boston, Massachusetts, and Stamford, Connecticut (March/April 2009)

      "The New Contract Documents and Integrated Project Delivery Documents from AIA and ConsensusDOCS," at Higher Education Real Estate Lawyers Conference, Austin, Texas (10/20 to 10/21/2008)
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      "Building Information Modeling (BIM): Legal Liability and Risk Issues," at CONSTRUCT, 2008, Construction Specification Institute (CSI) Annual Convention, Las Vegas, Nevada (6/5/2008)
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      "The New AIA Documents: Selected Issues on Finance, Insurance, Dispute Resolution, BIM, and Collaborative Agreement," at ABA Real Property Trusts and Estates Spring Symposium, Washington DC (5/2/2008)
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      "New Developments in Construction Agreements: the AIA and ConsensusDOCS," at Construction Contacts CLE Workshop, New York, New York (2/14/2008)
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      "2007 AIA Documents and ConsensusDOCS," at CBA Construction Section Meeting, Berlin, Connecticut (11/17/2007)
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      "Construction Law - Negotiating with Architects," at Higher Education Real Estate Lawyers Conference, Seattle, Washington (9/27 to 9/28/2007)
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      "Design and Engineering Contract Issues," at Construction Contacts CLE Workshop, New York, New York (3/15/2007)
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      "BIM and Your Practice," at Connecticut Chapter of American Institute of Architects (3/8/2007)
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      "Pros and Cons of Cost-Plus vs. Fixed-Price Contracts," at Lorman Web conference (3/2/2007)
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      "Recapturing the Competitive Advantage: Bringing Value to the Project Through Effective Management," at American Institute of Architects, National Convention, Los Angeles, California (6/8 to 6/10/2006)
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      "Successful Project Development Workshop," at the Construction Institute (6/2/2006)
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      "What to Do When Construction Projects Go Bad," at Lorman Education Services (4/28/2006)
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      "Change Orders in Connecticut," at Lorman Education Services (11/30/2005)
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      "Change Orders in Massachusetts," at Lorman Education Services (11/30/2005)
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      "Tightening Your Contracts: Clauses You Wish the Standard Agreements Included," at American Institute of Architects, National Convention, Chicago, Illinois (6/11/2004)
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      "What to Do If You Are Sued?" at Connecticut Chapter of American Institute of Architects (1/21/2003)
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      "Connecticut Construction Law: Can This Job Be Saved? Creative Strategies for Project Completion and Litigation Avoidance," at Lorman Education Services (2/1/2001 and 2/24/2000)
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    • News

      R+C in the News

      • June 13, 2017

        Robinson+Cole Lawyers Present at 2017 Connecticut Legal Conference

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      • February 22, 2017

        Construction Lawyers Participate in CBC Roundtable Discussions

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      • June 9, 2016

        Robinson+Cole Co-sponsors Connecticut Green Circle Sustainability Awards

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      • December 23, 2014

        Martin Onorato Moderates Ireland's Great Hunger Museum Program

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      • December 18, 2014

        Martin Onorato Presents AIA Connecticut Awards

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      • November 26, 2013

        Martin Onorato Moderates Diversity Program

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      • April 5, 2013

        Robinson & Cole Sponsors Annual Joint Dinner of the Design and Construction Industry

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      • March 13, 2012

        Construction Lawyer Attends Firm Sponsored Joint Design and Construction Industries Dinner

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      • June 17, 2011

        Martin Onorato Elected President of Connecticut Building Congress

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      • May 25, 2011

        Construction Partner Moderates Connecticut Building Congress Panel Discussion

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      • April 29, 2011

        Construction Attorneys Onorato and Cunha Present Webinar on Construction Management

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      • November 2, 2010

        Construction Attorneys Speak on Green Buildings and Sustainable Construction

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      • February 8, 2010

        Robinson & Cole Attorneys Present on Architectural Copyright Law

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      • December 15, 2009

        Robinson & Cole Attorney Elected to Board of Directors for the Connecticut Chapter of the American Institute of Architects

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      • November 12, 2009

        Robinson & Cole Attorneys Present on Employment Program to Connecticut Chapter of American Institute of Architects

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      • November 14, 2008

        Robinson & Cole Gains Over 30 Former Thelen Attorneys in Hartford, Connecticut and New York City

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      R+C News Releases

      • August 15, 2017

        Fifty-Eight Robinson+Cole Lawyers Listed in The Best Lawyers in America© 2018

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      • May 18, 2017

        Robinson+Cole Team Involved in “Office Deal of the Year”

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      • October 18, 2016

        Robinson+Cole Lawyers Recognized by Super Lawyers®

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      • August 15, 2016

        Robinson+Cole Receives Top Listing in Connecticut Lawyer Count in The Best Lawyers in America® 2017

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      • February 1, 2016

        Robinson+Cole Forms Sustainability Cross-Practice Team

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      • October 19, 2015

        Robinson+Cole Lawyers Recognized by Super Lawyers®

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      • August 18, 2015

        Robinson+Cole Receives Top Listing in Connecticut Lawyer Count in The Best Lawyers in America® 2016

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      • October 17, 2014

        Robinson+Cole Lawyers Recognized by Super Lawyers

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      • August 19, 2014

        Robinson+Cole Receives Top Listing in Connecticut Lawyer Count in Best Lawyers National Peer Review Survey

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      • August 16, 2013

        Robinson & Cole Receives Top Listing in Connecticut Attorney Count in Best Lawyers National Peer Review Survey

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      • June 21, 2013

        Local Organizations Recognize Robinson & Cole’s Pro Bono Service

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      • October 22, 2012

        Super Lawyers® Names 49 Robinson & Cole Attorneys to 2012 List and Recognizes 26 as Rising Stars

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      • August 28, 2012

        Robinson & Cole Receives Top Listing in Connecticut Attorney Count in Best Lawyers National Peer Review Survey

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      • January 7, 2010

        Robinson & Cole Construction Partner Appointed to Board of Directors for Connecticut Chapter of American Institute of Architects

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