Was asked to seal drawings


My boss, a principal in my architecture firm, asked me to seal a drawing set recently and it surprised me a bit.  Previous employers only utilized principals' seals for all projects.  I'm not a principal and have no ownership stake.  I'd assumed that the principals were licensed when I joined the firm, but I was mistaken.  I do know of at least one other licensed individual in the office.

I've only been at this gig for about a year, and I do love it.  It is the best job I've had, by a wide margin, and I'm proud of our work.  So there's a part of me that wants to step up and accept this role, hoping that it leads to increased standing.  

But I also think I'd be foolhardy not to consider liability and to question whether this service warrants some additional compensation immediately.

I did confirm that the company's insurance covers all work, regardless of who seals.  But the policy is only good while current - it doesn't continue to provide coverage after cancellation for projects that were initiated or constructed during the coverage period.  And though it is uncommon in our state for architecture practice-related lawsuits to pursue personal assets, it is not impossible & not without precedent.  The insurance can't protect me against that, but at least it provides a much more lucrative and appealing target for an unhappy client than whatever change I might have between cushions.

Anyone have experience or insight into this sort of thing?  Advice would be greatly appreciated.

Apr 6, 14 3:02 am
Run. Don't do it.
Apr 6, 14 9:01 am
This is crazy. The only time I would take on such risk is if I was principal of my own firm, or at the very least the stamping (and proportionally compensated) partner in an LLP. To just be a regular employee taking on that sort of responsibility seems totally out of proportion. Maybe you should look critically on the fact that your boss isn't licensed in the first place and that he counts on underlings (no offense) to sign his drawings. How does that even look in the eyes of a client?
Apr 6, 14 9:16 am

Does you firm  call itself Architect or Interior Designers or  Jack of all Trades?

Apr 6, 14 9:20 am

Do not stamp the drawings.  If that work gets tied up in a law suit, you are going to get screwed.  I would bail, and they would probably ask you to leave anyways if you refuse to stamp the drawings.  If they are dickheads about it, you could always report them to your local state board for representing the firm as an "architectural" practice without a licensed principal.  

Apr 6, 14 9:42 am

I use this to seal drawings.

Apr 6, 14 10:54 am

franswah: what you describe can become quite dicey:

In the jurisdiction where I practice, state law regulates how architectural firms may practice -- this is the language in our statute:

"Firms, sole proprietorships, partnerships, limited liability companies, and corporations may practice architecture, as defined by this article, and perform the services heretofore enumerated common to the practice of architecture, provided that all such work and services are performed under the responsible control of an architect registered in this state who is a director, in the case of a corporation, or who is a partner, in the case of a partnership, or who is a member, in the case of a limited liability company, or who is an employee with an ownership interest who has been designated in writing as holding a position of authority within the firm which authorizes him or her to direct the architectural services offered by that firm; and provided, further, that the administration of construction contracts shall be under the responsible control of such registered architect and that such plans, drawings, and specifications shall be prepared under the responsible control of such registered architect and bear the architect's individual signature and seal."

The boldfaced type is the most relevant language.

I strongly recommend that you research how the laws in your state address this issue. If your state is similar to mine, you may not have the legal authority to stamp the documents for your firm.  Moreover, your firm may not have the legal authority to practice architecture in your state. If either of these conditions are true in your case, you expose yourself to significant legal jeopardy by stamping any drawings.

Proceed cautiously. If I were in your shoes, I would not stamp any drawings without first receiving a written legal opinion from the firm's attorney (and reviewed critically by your own attorney) signifying that it is legal for you to stamp such drawings. I also would require a written indemnification from the firm (acceptable to your attorney) whereby the firm accepts all legal and financial responsibility for any E&O claims that may arise from drawings that you have stamped - -- whether you are an employee of the firm or not at the time of the claim. Finally, I would have some serious conversations with the firm about your compensation and organizational status within the firm.

Good luck.

Apr 6, 14 12:12 pm

You could always ask them for a $100,000.00  signing bonus.....and then tell them they do in  the sports world only for a lot more money.

Apr 6, 14 2:36 pm

What have they been doing for stamps in the past?  Are the principals unlicensed?  This is not the norm in the profession, but I have heard of cases where it is done in engineering firms.  The advice about indemnifications, legal opinions, etc. are good, but the primary question to ask first is "why".  I wouldn't do it for the reasons outlined by others.  If you're not in on the takeoff, don't be in on the landing.

Apr 6, 14 2:51 pm

Whoa, stay away from that, definitely.  I've been asked to do that on two occasions, but it was upfront during the interview process, I consequently denied employment.

The fact that he is asking should send up all sorts of red flags about their business practices I think.

Apr 6, 14 4:29 pm

What Keith said. What is their business strategy here?

And by the way - why doesn't this practice owner just go get a license already? (Isn't it even easier in some states at least if you can prove certain years of experience as a practice principal, with regards to the IDP hours?)

Apr 6, 14 4:38 pm


Apr 6, 14 9:07 pm

Thanks to all for the prompt, enlightening, and in some cases, passionate input.

Quizzical, my state's language is similar to yours, re:  needing a licensed architect as principal or at least having ownership stake, in order for an organization to practice architecture.  I've not looked into the question of whether or not I can legally stamp our company's drawings as a non-owner, but will do so - thank you for pointing it out.

I think 'innocent until proven guilty' is a reasonable and fair assumption, until I can verify what's actually happening.  Based on the length of time they've practiced and their involvement with the local AIA, they must have a licensed individual (probably the other person I mentioned) with an ownership stake.  But I will definitely confirm.

Again, thanks everyone.  It's clear that I have a lot to figure out before stamping anything.

Apr 6, 14 11:25 pm

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