Is Your Entity Licensed in Addition to Your Team?

Architects and their practices are highly regulated because of their charge to safeguard life, health, property and the public welfare. In most states, architecture may be practiced only through very specific entity types in order to ensure that ownership and management of the firm is controlled by licensed professionals. Unlike non-licensed businesses, design professional firms cannot just form a corporation, partnership or other type of entity and begin operations. Design professionals must comply with the regulatory authority that oversees licensed professionals within each state.

State Regulation

In 31 states, any entity providing architectural services must be approved in some fashion by the licensing authority in that state. In most states that do not require the firm itself to be approved, there is a registration requirement that enables the regulatory authority to ensure that the individual(s) providing architectural services are appropriately licensed.

Specific Entity Types Required.

While the state itself will allow a multitude of entity types, the licensing authority may require that licensed professionals operate only through specific entity types. For example, the New York State Education Department does not allow architects to form general corporations but offers a special breed of entity, the Design Professional Service Corporation, which allows for a limited amount of ownership and management by non-licensed professionals.

Know Before You Go.

Accordingly, before establishing an architecture firm within a particular state, it is important to understand:

  1. What entity types are permissible for design professional firms;
  2. What, if any, restrictions the regulatory body puts on licensed v. non-licensed owners, directors and officers;
  3. Whether owners, directors and officers must be licensed by that specific state; and
  4. The steps involved in the entity formation and, specifically, the interplay of the approval process between the state itself (entity formation) and the regulatory authority (licensing).

LicenseSure keeps abreast of the requirements in each of the 50 states and helps design professionals navigate this complicated process.

About The Author

Patti Harris spent 13 years as the Managing Partner of a New York City-based construction law firm; in addition to overseeing the business operations of the firm, she advised clients on office and business management issues.

Learn more about Patti on our About page.

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