Goldberg Segalla, the Buffalo, New York-based law firm comprising more than 400 attorneys in 21 offices across 11 states, announced the first phase of a leadership transition. The process will see a redistribution of certain management and operational responsibilities and conclude in January 2021 with the election of a new managing partner, only the second person to fill that role since the fast-growing firm opened its doors on April 20, 2001.
In an email to the entire firm community on Monday, June 8, 2020, founding Managing Partner Rick Cohen announced his decision to step back from the position he has filled for two decades. Cohen will remain a member of the firm’s five-person Facilitation [Management] Committee. The Committee members will collectively fulfill the responsibilities of the managing partner until the end of the year, and will recommend a new managing partner in January 2021. In the meantime, Chris Belter, also a member of the Facilitation Committee, will step into the new role of chief operating officer.
“Twenty years ago, I had a vision of a law firm that would be different, where people would come together as a team to support each other and our clients,” Cohen said. “Twenty years later, we have not only realized but have vastly expanded upon that dream. It has been an honor to guide this firm from seven lawyers on folding tables in Buffalo to over 400 lawyers in more than 20 offices in 11 states. But this journey has also been all-encompassing, and quite frankly unfair to my wonderful wife and nine wonderful kids.
“With seven children suddenly at home due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic (including six kids between the ages of four and eight) and in need of not only full-time parents but full-time parent-teachers, my responsibilities at both work and at home were simply too much for me to handle the way I wanted. But I wasn’t alone. In the face of the task at hand, Chris Belter stepped up and took the lead on the implementation of our continuity plan. Our Facilitation Committee met nearly daily and our equity partner community met at least twice a week, as we strove both to manage an unprecedented environment and to provide around-the-clock counsel to a large client community facing their own challenges. The tremendous contribution of the entire GS community has been remarkable and unwavering. Because of this level of support and leadership from across the firm, I’m incredibly confident and excited to announce this transition—and even more excited to focus a bit more on my children.”
Goldberg Segalla has earned repeated recognition for its historic rate of organic growth. Separating the managing partner and chief operating officer functions, Cohen and Belter said, will better position the firm to manage that growth as client demand continues to increase. Cohen will remain an integral part of the firm’s Facilitation Committee and will lend his full support and skillset to his eventual successor.
Chris Belter joined Goldberg Segalla in November 2001 and immediately helped to expand the firm’s services in areas including commercial litigation, intellectual property, and construction law. He currently serves as chair of the firm’s 100-lawyer Construction practice and of its 50-lawyer Corporate Services and Commercial Litigation practice. He has served on Goldberg Segalla’s Facilitation Committee for 10 years, and over the past five years has assumed an increasing role in management of the firm’s day-to-day business operations, including leading the implementation and oversight of the firm’s continuity plan in response to COVID-19.
“Rick has been not only a partner but a friend to me for two decades,” Belter said. “And as both a partner and friend, I’m thrilled that our firm has evolved to a point where Rick doesn’t have to carry all of this load alone, and will be able to spend more time with his family. I’m also grateful, though, that Rick will remain a close advisor to me as I step into the new role of COO, and will remain an integral part of our leadership through the Facilitation Committee and other roles.”