Architecture Firms

Ranked by the Number of Registered Architects



Registered Architects

Total Employees

Year Formed

Top Local Executive

Type of work performed



Dietz & Company architects Inc.

55 Frank B. Murray St., Suite 201, Springfield, MA 01103

(413) 733-6798;




Kerry Dietz

Commercial; institutional; housing; education; healthcare; government offices; historic preservation; LEED design services; high-performance buildings; senior centers; senior housing


Kuhn Riddle Architects inc.

28 Amity St., Suite 2B, Amherst, MA 01002

(413) 259-1630;




Aelan Tierney

Jonathan Salvon

Charles Roberts

Commercial; educational; historical; institutional; interior design; religious; residential (single-family, multi-family, affordable, market-rate, high-end); retail; sustainable design


Hill-Engineers Architects Planners Inc.

50 Depot St., Dalton, MA 01226; (413) 684-0925

44 Spring St., Adams, MA 01220; (413) 0743-0013




Jeffrey Noble

New construction and renovation projects for institutional, industrial, commercial, educational, civic, recreational, and residential markets


Caolo & Bieniek Associates Inc.

521 East St., Chicopee, MA 01020

(413) 594-2800;




Curtis Edgin

James Hanifan

Bertram Gardner

Educational; commercial; public facilities (police and fire facilities, libraries, senior centers); historic preservation; sustainable design; interior design; healthcare; housing


Jones Whitsett Architects Inc.

308 Main St., Greenfield, MA 01301

(413) 773-5551;




Dorie Brooks

Kristian Whitsett

Educational; commercial; public municipal buildings (town halls, libraries, senior centers); historic preservation; religious facilities; energy-efficient buildings; residential


Burr and McCallum Architects

720 Main St., Williamstown, MA 01267

(413) 458-2121;




Franklin Andrus Burr

Ann Kidston McCallum

Residential; institutional; commercial


C&H Architects

49 South Pleasant St., 301, Amherst, MA 01002

(413) 549-3616;




Tom Hartman

Serves residential and institutional clients with architecture designed for resilience and renewability


Juster Pope Frazier Architects

82 North St., Northampton, MA 01060

(413) 586-1600;




Kevin Chrobak

Residential; corporate; educational; retail; healthcare; religious; cultural


Timothy Murphy Architects

380 High St., Holyoke, MA 01040

(413) 532-7464;




Timothy Murphy

Commercial; educational; public/municipal buildings; residential; historical


Architectural Insights

3 Converse St., Suite 201, Palmer, MA 01069

(413) 283-2553;




Lawrence Tuttle

Robert Haveles

Public- and private-sector work; continued and repeat client work in professional office design, medical-office, hospital, and laboratory work; multi-family housing and private residential; light industrial and warehouse construction; retail and hospitality development


Clark & Green Inc.

113 Bridge St., Great Barrington, MA 01230

(413) 528-5180;




Stephan Green

Residential; cultural; commercial; retail; educational


Gillen Collaborative Architects

409 Main St., Amherst, MA 01002

(413) 253-2529;




John Krifka

Carol Vincze

Commercial; residential; institutional; planning; studies


HAI Architecture

64 Gothic St., Suite 1, Northampton, MA 01060

(413) 585-1512;




Richard Katsanos

Don Hafner

Healthcare; educational; commercial; planning; interior design; residential


Studio One Inc.

38 Elm St., Westfield, MA 01085

(413) 733-7332;




Peter Zorzi

Greg Zorzi

Educational; healthcare; multi-family housing; assisted-living facilities; renovations; historic preservation; senior housing


Architecture EL Inc.

264 North Main St., Suite 2

East Longmeadow, MA 01028

(413) 525-9700;






ADA standards for accessible design; commercial; industrial; historic; multi-family residential; single-family residential; religious; child care; historic preservation and renovations; interior design


Jablonski DeVriese Architects

22 Green Lane, Springfield, MA 01107

(413) 747-5285;




Stephen Jablonski

Brian DeVriese

Historical renovations and additions; colleges; museums; libraries; interior design


Fitch Architecture & Community Design Inc.

110 Pulpit Hill Road, Amherst, MA 01002

(413) 549-5799;




Laura Fitch

Sustainable and socially responsible design, including zero-net-energy homes; educational facilities; commercial buildings; institutional; deep-energy retrofits; co-housing communities


Mount Vernon Group Architects

35 Center St., Suite 210, Chicopee, MA 01013

(413) 592-9700;




Chris LeBlanc

Wide range of public and private work, including commercial and education; three offices statewide with 15 total architects and 35 total employees


Tessier Associates Inc.

48 Ridgecrest Dr., Westfield, MA 01085

(413) 736-5857;




Robert Stevens

Colleges; banks; churches; schools; industrial buildings; assisted-living facilities; medical facilities

Daily News

Matthew Nash

HOLYOKE — Meyers Brothers Kalicka, P.C. (MBK) announced the promotion of Matthew Nash, CPA to partner. Since joining the firm in 2011, he has been an integral part of the team, focusing on audit, review, and compilation engagements and playing a pivotal role in the commercial, not-for-profit audit, and pension engagement teams.

“We are so very proud of Matt’s professional accomplishments, and we look forward to his contributions to the firm as a member of our partner group,” Partner Howard Cheney said.

With a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Nichols College and an MBA from Elms College, Nash’s educational background has been foundational in his rise within the firm. As a member of both the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Massachusetts Society of Certified Public Accountants, he has proven his commitment to professional excellence and ethical standards.

In his time at Meyers Brothers Kalicka, Nash has advanced from an intern to a senior manager and now to a partner. His journey has been characterized by hard work, dedication, and a strong ethic instilled by his family. He attributes much of his success to the mentorship and support provided by the team at MBK.

His expertise in the commercial sector and his holistic approach to client businesses have been invaluable to the firm. His dedication to understanding client needs and fostering business growth is a testament to his professional philosophy. As a leader, he is committed to mentoring junior staff, emphasizing the importance of continuous learning and problem-solving skills. His leadership style is exemplified by accountability, open communication, and trust.

Beyond his professional achievements, Nash is deeply involved in community service. He serves as a board member and treasurer for Springfield School Volunteers and is a committee member of the Ronald McDonald House Golf Tournament. These roles complement his professional work, reflecting his commitment to giving back to the community.

Motivated by his family’s support and the firm’s success, Nash is driven to contribute meaningfully to Meyers Brothers Kalicka, P.C., and the wider accounting field. His promotion to partner is not only a recognition of his past accomplishments, but also a testament to his potential in shaping the future of the firm.

“I am so excited and proud for Matt, and he has earned this partnership,” Partner Rudy D’Agostino said. “His dedication and drive to service clients is outstanding. Matt represents the next generation of leaders for our firm and is a key part of our continued succession plan. Congratulations to Matt, and well-deserved.”

Daily News

WESTFIELD — Tighe & Bond, a Northeast leader in engineering, design, and environmental consulting, announced it has acquired Cape Cod-based Coastal Engineering Co. Inc., a civil, structural, and waterfront/marine engineering firm that specializes in projects located in environmentally sensitive areas.

This strategic acquisition aligns with Tighe & Bond’s vision of being a trusted advisor by offering clients a comprehensive, single-source solution to their engineering, design, and environmental-science needs. The addition of Coastal Engineering’s staff bolsters the breadth and depth of services that Tighe & Bond currently offers to clients, particularly those located in Cape Cod, the islands, and coastal Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

“To create a more sustainable future, there is a growing need to shore up our coastal assets and infrastructure, both existing and new,” Tighe & Bond President and CEO Bob Belitz said. “We believe adding Coastal to our team will help support our clients’ growing needs in these areas. In addition to our aligned missions to make a positive difference in the built and natural environment, our firms both have strong cultures of employee ownership; we are collectively invested in our clients’ outcomes.”

John Bologna, Coastal’s former president and CEO, will now serve as vice president within the firm’s Building Services business line.

“After teaming with Tighe & Bond on some projects, we realized we were aligned in our vision to create economically feasible and environmentally responsible designs, and that our firms have the potential to be stronger together,” Bologna said. “We look forward to bringing our clients additional expertise, as well as providing new opportunities for our employees.”

Tighe & Bond’s current offices are now augmented by Coastal Engineering’s Eastern Mass. offices, further strengthening the firm’s presence across Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Maine.

Daily News

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Mall announced the addition of the shopping center’s fourth full-service restaurant, Monsoon Bistro, located on the upper level near Macy’s.

The locally owned and operated bistro combines traditional Chinese and Thai dishes to showcase the culinary landscape and region. The soft opening took place on Thursday, and the restaurant will host a grand-opening event later this month, with details to be announced.

The menu, designed to celebrate Southeast Asian cuisine, features dim sum, drunken noodles, mango chicken, red curry fish, and more.

Monsoon Bistro is hiring both front- and back-of-house positions including waitstaff, kitchen staff, runners, and busers. Those interested should visit the restaurant to apply.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Luke Goodridge has joined the law firm of Bulkley Richardson as a partner. His practice will continue to focus on estate planning, trust administration, and general business-law matters.

Goodridge was previously a named partner at the law firm of Curtiss, Carey, Gates & Goodridge, LLP, based in Greenfield. He will continue to maintain an office in Greenfield.

“Luke Goodridge has established a reputation as a go-to lawyer in Franklin County, and we are thrilled to welcome him at Bulkley Richardson,” Managing Partner Dan Finnegan said. “His clients will continue to receive the stellar legal work they have come to expect from Luke and now will have the support of complementary practice areas to help his clients achieve their personal and business goals.”

Goodridge earned a bachelor’s degree, summa cum laude, from UMass Amherst; a juris doctorate from the University of Connecticut School of Law, and is currently a candidate for an LLM (master of laws) degree in taxation at Boston University School of Law.

Community Spotlight

Community Spotlight

Chris Johnson

Chris Johnson will be returning to the mayor’s office in January 24 years after serving as the city’s first mayor.

Chris Johnson was elected Agawam’s first mayor back in November 1989.

He then served five two-year terms before returning to his real-estate law practice in 2000. In the years that followed, he stayed active and involved in the community where he was born and raised, serving several terms on the City Council, where he likely would have stayed had Mayor William Sapelli, former superintendent of schools in this city that calls itself a town, declined the opportunity to seek another term.

With that decision, and with several key issues facing this community — especially movement toward renovating or, preferably (in the view of most involved) replacing its high school — Johnson sought a return to the corner office. And last month, voters gave him a hard-earned victory over his challenger, fellow City Councilor Cecelia Calabrese.

“They say that once it’s in your blood, it’s hard to get it out,” Johnson said. “I care deeply about the community I grew up in and raised my family in, and we have a few significant issues that we’re facing over the next year or two. And I wanted to make sure they got a fair shake.”

Indeed, Johnson told BusinessWest that, as he returns to City Hall, there are several matters that will have his full attention — everything from a pressing need to create more housing in several categories to bringing roughly 25 years of work to create recreational facilities at the former Tuckahoe Turf Farm in Feeding Hills to a sucessful conclusion, to efforts to redevelop the former Games and Lanes property on Walnut Street Extension.

“I work closely with the mayors, as well as the state senators and representatives, to be sure that we’re providing a platform for the small businesses in Agawam, and be that middle person to ensure that the businesses are able to have their voices heard.”

But it is the high school that will be priority one, he said, adding that, after a few failed attempts to gain traction from the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA), the community is moving closer to getting into the pipeline for state funding for a new school, and city residents will likely have the opportunity to vote on the matter as early as next spring.

In his view, building a new high school, even one with a projected $230 million price tag, will be more practical and cost-effective than trying to again renovate and add onto the current structure, built in the mid-’50s.

Meanwhile, a new high school will certainly help the community effectively compete with neighboring cities and towns for young professionals and businesses alike.

“It’s been 50 years since we’ve built a school,” he said, referencing the middle school, built in 1973. “We’ve gone a long time without making a major investment. I’ve been in the real-estate world since I left the mayor’s office 24 years ago; I’m a real-estate attorney, and I have lots of friends who are Realtors and brokers, and they all say that, when it comes to new families moving into the area, one of the first things they want to know is what the school system is like.”

Robin Wozniak

Robin Wozniak stands in front of the new Starbucks set to open in Agawam.

Robin Wozniak, president of the West of the River Chamber of Commerce, who serves on the committee studying options for the high school, agreed. “It’s imperative that we keep up with technology and provide facilities that are state-of-the-art,” she said. “We have to remain competitive with our neighbors.”

Beyond the high-school project are other pressing issues in town, as well as signs of progress, she said, noting, among them, the highly anticipated opening of a Starbucks in a lot at the corner of Main and Suffield streets, being developed by the Colvest Group. The store is in the final stages of construction, she said, and it will be an important addition to that section of town just over the Morgan-Sullivan Bridge from West Springfield.

With the acquistion by Colvest of a small parcel on the edge of the neighboring Town Hall parking lot, there is room for additional development on the site, Wozniak said, noting that an urgent-care clinic and a fast-food restaurant have been among the rumored possibilities.

Meanwhile, she’s looking forward to working with Johnson to bolster the chamber’s role as a liaison between City Hall and the business community, making sure the wants and needs of the former are understood by the latter.

“We’re trying to identify some parcels for some creative housing concepts to try to see if we can get some more affordable-housing opportunities, if not subsidized affordable-housing opportunities.”

“I work closely with the mayors, as well as the state senators and representatives, to be sure that we’re providing a platform for the small businesses in Agawam, and be that middle person to ensure that the businesses are able to have their voices heard,” she said.

For this installment of its Community Spotlight series, BusinessWest turns the lens on Agawam, a community looking to transfer some unresolved issues to the proverbial done pile in the months and years to come.

Room for Improvement

As he talked about the current high school, a facility he attended in the ’70s and knows from many different vantage points, Johnson compared it to a “beautiful ’55 Chevy that we kept in really good condition.”

In other words, it still purrs, and it’s still somewhat easy on the eyes. But it is simply not suited for these times.

“It’s going to need significant work over the next five to 15 years, and no matter how much work you do to it, it’s not cost-effective to turn it into a new, modern vehicle,” he said, adding that the relatively good condition of the current high school actually hurt the town to some extent because the MSBA put other communities with more pressing needs ahead of Agawam in the competition for school-building funds.

But even the state has come around to the notion that the building needs to be replaced, said Johnson, adding that the MSBA board of directors recently voted to move the project to what’s known as schematic design.

The state would likely pick up $100 million of the total price tag, leaving the community to come up with the rest, he said, noting that a debt-exclusion override — something the town has never before sought from the voters — would likely be needed. And Johnson, like other elected officials, is leaning strongly toward putting the matter on the ballot.

But while the high school is the predominent issue facing the community, there are others, he noted, citing the ongoing work to convert the former HUB Insurance building on Suffield Street into a new police station, as well as continued progress on work to convert the former Tuckahoe Turf Farm, nearly 300 acres the town has owned for more than 20 years, into passive recreation.

“The other need is at the other end of the spectrum, the young people who have grown up in Agawam; they’re young adults out in the work world trying to find housing opportunities so they can stay in Agawam.”

This includes hiking paths, picnic areas, and other facilities, he said, noting that, roughly a year ago, town leaders approved the borrowing of nearly $4 million to build a road, repair the dam and culverts on the property, and create a parking lot.

That work continues, said Johnson, adding that funding has also been received from the state, as well as from Tennessee Gas, which directed funds it has earmarked for conversation projects to work on the dam and pond on the property.

What the initiative needs is a name, he noted, as it has always been referred to simply as the ‘former Tuckahoe site,’ and the town reconizes the need for something new and fresh. “We’re working on it,” he added.

Likewise, this community, like most in the region, is working to address an ongoing housing shortage.

“We’re trying to identify some parcels for some creative housing concepts to try to see if we can get some more affordable-housing opportunities, if not subsidized affordable-housing opportunities,” he explained.

Agawam at a Glance

Year Incorporated: 1855
Population: 28,692
Area: 24.2 square miles
County: Hampden
Residential Tax Rate: $14.54
Commercial Tax Rate: $27.54
Median Household Income: $49,390
Family Household Income: $59,088
Type of government: Mayor; City Council
Largest Employers: OMG Inc., Agawam Public Schools, Six Flags New England
* Latest information available

“We have two glaring needs, and they’re not easy to address, unfortunately. One is seniors who have raised families in Agawam; they’re living in single-family houses, and they want that downsizing opportunity,” he went on, noting that there is one over-55 condomimum project wrapping up, but the units come with price tags above what many can afford. “The other need is at the other end of the spectrum, the young people who have grown up in Agawam; they’re young adults out in the work world trying to find housing opportunities so they can stay in Agawam.”

As for the former Games and Lanes property, long an eyesore and an environmental nightmare, and then a vacant lot used only for parking at Big E time, Johnson said at least one developer has expressed interest.

The broader Walnut Street Extension corridor was rezoned to allow mixed use, he noted, adding that the preferred reuse of the Games and Lanes property would be development that entailed retail and office space on the ground floor and residential units on the floors above.


Bottom Line

Much has happened in this town since Johnson last occupied the corner office at the start of this century.

But some issues, including the high school, housing, and the Tuckahoe Turf Farm, were talked about the first time he patrolled Town Hall.

He ran again to bring resolution to those issues and “give them a fair shake,” as he put it, and as he prepares to return to office, there is an expectation of real progress on these and many other fronts.


Professional Development

Professional Development


It’s called the MCLA Leadership Academy.

This is a program designed to help those with aspirations to be a school principal or superintendent take the next steps in their career in education. It blends academic content with practical skill and knowledge development. As students earn 31 credits, they engage in activities that include reading, writing, discussion, group projects, case studies, simulations, lectures by prominent thinkers, project-based tasks, fieldwork, and more.

“This is an area that school district leaders have identified as a critical need — they’re losing so many principals, assistant principals, and superintendents to retirement,” said Joshua Mendel, associate dean of Graduate and Continuing Education for Partnerships and Programs at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams, adding that this is one of many initiatives at MCLA that fall into the broad realm of professional development — and also address an identified, and often serious, need for trained professionals.

Others include everything from programs for those desiring careers in ‘outdoor leadership’ — managing a ski resort, perhaps — to those seeking to become nurses and radiologists; from teachers needing licensure to would-be entrepreneurs.

Joshua Mendel

Joshua Mendel

“This is an area that school district leaders have identified as a critical need — they’re losing so many principals, assistant principals, and superintendents to retirement.”

Summing up this ever-growing, always-evolving portfolio of programs, Mendel said they’ve been designed with several goals in mind, but primarily to address the needs of employers across several sectors, all of whom are challenged to find sufficient talent in this difficult job market, and to help individuals find not simply jobs, but careers, or take the next big step in their career.

For this, the latest installment of its series on professional-development programs and initiatives in the region, we visit MCLA and examine the many offerings it has developed over the years and continues to hone to meet the changing needs of employers and job seekers alike.


Courses of Action

Mendel said the graduate and continuing-education programs at MCLA essentially focus on needs and opportunities identified by the Berkshire Skills Cabinet, led by MassHire Berkshire, Berkshire Community College, and 1Berkshire and created with the goal of addressing the skills gap by bringing together regional teams of educators, workforce entities, and economic-development leaders to create a blueprint for growth strategies.

“Through the Skills Cabinet, four areas have been identified as having critical growth potential and need,” he said, listing healthcare, education, tourism, and advanced technology. “These are the areas that are seeing a major increase in interest from outside corporations coming into the Berkshires, but are also our strengths when it comes to economic development in the region.”

And these are the areas that MCLA, the public, four-year college in the Berkshires, is focusing on primarily, he said, adding that the school not only serves residents of the Berkshires, but draws students from outside the area, with some of them staying in the region after graduation and starting careers there.

In healthcare, initiatives include the school’s new bachelor’s degree in nursing program that started last fall, as well as a degree program in radiologic technology, a program that resulted from the closure of Southern Vermont College and MCLA stepping in to become that school’s official teach-out partner to enable students to complete their degrees.

MCLA now offers the program, and it is helping to meet a recognized need within the community for such professionals, said Mendel, adding that interest in the program is strong and continues to grow.

The same is true for many of the programs in education, he said, noting that MCLA is helping to meet a critical need for teachers resulting from the retirement of Baby Boomers and other factors.

Elaborating, he said there are many now teaching under emergency licensure, which enables them to teach without a master’s degree. However, this is set to expire within the next year. MCLA has strategically positioned itself to address this situation through a fully online master’s program now being ramped up, with some students starting in the spring and more expected in the summer and fall.

Meanwhile, MCLA has created another new program, a +1 (bachelor’s degree and online master of education degree) program designed as an accelerated pathway for those students who seek to earn a teaching license and undergraduate degree, a second initial license in moderate disabilities, and a master’s degree in education.

“This was an area that was introduced to by the superintendents of this region at our superintendents’ roundtable,” Mendel noted. “They said, ‘we have such a demand for teachers with a background in moderate disabilities that we’ll hire 100% of the students that come out with that discipline.”

As for the Leadership Academy, launched 20 years ago, it enables students to earn their principal or superintendent licensure in Massachusetts, New York, or Vermont.

“It’s a robust program,” Mendel said, adding that about 40 students enrolled this past year, a number that could increase following the closing of the College of Saint Rose, which also has a leadership-academy program for New York’s Capital District.

A third sector that has become a focus at MCLA is tourism, an all-important sector in the Berkshires, one that has been a steady supplier of jobs and one also hamstrung in many ways by the ongoing workforce crisis. Many of the school’s MBA students enter this field, he said, adding that MCLA has created something somewhat unique, an outdoor leadership program that will be a minor within the environmental studies program starting next fall.

“There will courses in environmental studies and courses in leadership that will help students embrace the opportunities they have in the Berkshires for outdoor education and outdoor leadership,” he said, adding that there are career opportunities at ski areas, hiking programs, and related fields.

The fourth area of focus is advanced technologies, specifically a partnership with the Berkshire Innovation Center in Pittsfield, whereby the school’s MBA program is run out of that facility.

“The Innovation Center is doing an amazing job of bringing in entrepreneurs, industry leaders, and advanced technologies,” Mendel explained. “So we’ve created a partnership program with them; our MBA program meets in the cohort model, one class at a time but two classes a semester for 18 months straight, and those classes are both online and in-person, a hybrid model.

“And when they meet in person, they meet at the Innovation Center,” he went on. “The Innovation Center allows our students to meet with local CEOs that are doing amazing things in the area, it allows our students to do research with their companies and organizations, and it’s enabling them to do capstone projects with these new entrepreneurs and learning about new technologies. It’s about elevating our MBA program to focus on the critical needs within these new technology businesses.”


Bottom Line

There are many other new initiatives as well, from a minor in entrepreneurship within the business program to address a surge in interest in starting new businesses to a minor in data science, to an Early College program created in conjunction with Drury High School in North Adams that enables students to earn up to 30 college credits before they graduate from high school.

The common denominator with all these programs is a desire to meet those needs identified by employers and economic-development leaders by creating pathways, Mendel said, and then getting individuals on those paths.


Starting Fresh

By John S. Gannon, Esq.


The new year often brings new challenges to your business. But it also brings new opportunities. Picture this scenario: after months of searching, you have just recruited a person who seems like the perfect fit for a position you have been struggling to fill.

While this is certainly good news, there is more heavy lifting to be done. Employers must create and implement an effective onboarding experience that will help improve employee retention and increase job satisfaction. Here a few tips and suggestions that can create positive and effective onboarding experience for new hires.


Have a Plan

As with most things in the workplace, employers should have a carefully considered plan in place when it comes to onboarding new employees. This means devising an onboarding strategy aimed at ensuring new hires get the most out of the introductory period. Leaders from different departments should be included in the overall onboarding strategy to make sure important aspects of mission statements, strategic plans, and workplace culture are effectively communicated to new employees.

Remember that onboarding is more than a one or two-day orientation, and a successful onboarding plan takes a true team effort.


Ensure Legal Compliance

New hires also come with new legal obligations. For instance, all new employees must complete a form I-9, and employers are required to review the proper employment authorization documents to establish employee identity and authorization to work in the U.S.

Employees should also know what their compensation and benefits package will look like. And, depending on the size of the business, distribution of polices on benefits like sick time and paid family leave should be part of the onboarding process.

John Gannon

John Gannon

“Leaders from different departments should be included in the overall onboarding strategy to make sure important aspects of mission statements, strategic plans, and workplace culture are effectively communicated to new employees.”

Finally, although not legally required in Massachusetts, employers should strongly consider conducting education and training programs on preventing harassment and discrimination in the workplace. Keep in mind that this type of training may be required as part of the onboarding process if you have employees working outside Massachusetts.


Protect Confidential Information and Trade Secrets

Sometimes, what you don’t know can hurt you the most. Unfortunately, bringing on new employees can put businesses at risk of unwanted access to sensitive trade secrets and other confidential business information of your competitors.

For instance, suppose you bring on a new sales executive who has worked for one of your competitors for the last decade. What if that person brings spreadsheets or other documents with sensitive information about his former employer’s top accounts? If handled improperly, this could expose the new employer to legal risk for misappropriation of trade secrets and unlawful inference with business relationships. Similarly, if new employees try to recruit their former colleagues or contact former clients to drum up business in violation of anti-solicitation provisions, this could create legal risk for the new employer.

On the other hand, businesses need to take steps to protect their own confidential business information from disclosure into competitors’ hands. This can (and should) be addressed during the onboarding stage. First, new employees should be instructed in writing not to take any documents, data, or other sensitive business information with them when they leave their former employer. In addition, new employees who have access to your confidential information should be required to sign agreements confirming they will not take or otherwise misappropriate your sensitive data.

These are commonly referred to as non-disclosure agreements, or NDAs. If your employees have access to sensitive or confidential business information as part of their jobs, and you do not have up-to-date NDAs in place, consult with labor or employment counsel with experience in trade-secret protection strategies.


Consider Using Mandatory Dispute Resolution Agreements

In a perfect world, every employment relationship would be smooth and harmonious. However, there are times when employees and employers disagree. In most instances, these differences can be resolved through internal dialogue without resorting to outside resources, such as lawyers and court systems. But, of course, disputes do arise where internal dialogue does not produce a satisfactory result.

One way to avoid costly employment litigation when disputes cannot be resolved internally is through the use of alternate dispute resolution (ADR) agreements, which call for private mandatory mediation and/or arbitration in lieu of court.

Mandatory ADR agreements have a number of practical advantages for employers. First and foremost, mediation/arbitration is typically both less expensive and speedier than a jury trial. Alternate dispute resolution can also shield businesses from unwanted publicity associated with public lawsuits. This is because mediation and/or arbitration involve private hearings that typically do not reach media outlets.

If ADR agreements sound like they might work for your business, they definitely should be part of your onboarding plan.


John Gannon is a partner with the Springfield-based law firm Skoler, Abbott & Presser, specializing in employment law and regularly counseling employers on compliance with state and federal employment laws, trade-secret protection, and strategies for alternate dispute resolution; (413) 737-4753; [email protected]

Healthcare News

Gone to the Dogs

Melinda Harris has always wanted to work with animals.

“That was never a question in my mind,” she said. “My grandfather had dogs and birds and everything else. My mom always joked that I got it from him because he was the animal lover. I had dogs and cats growing up, and as soon as I was in high school and I had the option of taking physics or doing an internship at a veterinary hospital, well, guess which one I picked?”

She’s had a winding path in animal care since then, all of which led her to the culmination of a dream: opening Power Paws Canine Rehabilitation in Granby last spring.

“I was booked up for a month solid before I even opened the doors,” she told BusinessWest. “And I have never not been booked less than two or three weeks out since then. So it’s been really busy.”

Harris’s canine patients have ranged in age from 6 months to 18 years, and they’re brought in for a variety of reasons.

“It’s definitely a mix. There are different kinds of knee surgeries out there, and I’ll see dogs that have had any one of them. I have dogs that come in that are trying to avoid knee surgery, so we’re trying to build up and strengthen that leg so they don’t need to go forward with surgery. I’ve had hip surgeries, and I’ve had geriatric dogs that come in for conditioning and to keep their strength up. I’ve had neurologic cases like strokes.

“And I’ve had a few agility dogs and working dogs that want to keep their strength up so that they can compete at a high level,” she continued. “I have a couple of FEMA dogs, search and rescue, that come in, and they’re very strong. So they go in the underwater treadmill and run for 20 minutes, and it helps keep them strong.”

“I was booked up for a month solid before I even opened the doors. And I have never not been booked less than two or three weeks out since then. So it’s been really busy.”

Harris offers a series of treatment packages targeted to each patient’s needs, starting with an in-depth consultation and plan, which may include a combination of exercise equipment, an underwater treadmill, and laser therapy.

“Almost every dog, unless they’re coming in for general conditioning, will get a laser treatment on whatever is bothering them,” she said. “And then we’ll do different exercises depending on what the condition requires; they’re beneficial for so many different things. And I would say 90% of the clients will also use the underwater treadmill; that has been fantastic for a lot of dogs.”

The device, which offers different levels of resistance through both the moving tread and the water, isn’t exactly the fun part of the session.

“People ask me, ‘do you have a hard time getting them to go in there? Do they fight you?’ I mean, some of them get a little upset when they first go in. They might try to climb out or splash, but I haven’t had a dog yet that I haven’t been able to train to accept the treadmill.”

Part of Harris’s training and expertise, obviously, has to do with how she handles the dogs.

“Generally speaking, my rule of thumb is, I don’t force a dog to do anything,” she explained. “So if a dog doesn’t want to do something, we’ll find a different way to do it, or we’ll skip that altogether. So maybe the first or second visit, we don’t go in the treadmill. Or maybe we throw some cookies in, let them go in and sniff it out, and when they seem more comfortable with me, then we’ll go in the treadmill and see what the dog is willing to do.

Melinda Harris

Melinda Harris stands beside the water treadmill at Power Paws.

“But I don’t muzzle dogs, and I don’t force them to do things, because we have to have a working relationship for weeks and months, and if they’re afraid of me, it’s not going to work,” she went on. “So everything is very treat-based, play-based — and the dogs are absolutely looking forward to running in the door when they get here.”


Animal Attraction

It helps that Harris has loved animals all her life. After high school, she took a year off, working at a pet store and as a groomer — “I’ve always been working with animals, even if it’s not in the veterinary setting” — and then went back to school, earning a certification in veterinary science in 2003.

“I was a veterinary nurse for about six years, working at Southwick Animal Hospital,” she recalled. “The owner/doctor there had another doctor coming in and doing orthopedic surgeries, and she said, ‘why don’t you check out this class on rehab and see if you like it?’ So I said, ‘sure.’”

As it turned out, Harris loved the class and decided to seek certification in that specialty, so she enrolled a program at the University of Tennessee, which, beyond the classwork, involved a 200-hour internship, six case studies, practical work, and more, and in 2009, she became a certified canine rehabilitation practitioner.

Three years later, she took a job with Riverbend Animal Hospital in Hadley, working for Dr. David Thomson, one of the region’s foremost animal surgeons. Her initial role there was in wellness and as a technician, but a few months in, she began doing rehab work.

“He really let me do what I needed to do for rehab; I set all the programs up, I did all the post-op care, all that kind of stuff, and started making connections with local veterinarians, and they would start referring some of their patients over to me as well, outside of Dr. Thomson,” she said. “And after doing that for about six years or so, I thought, this is a really good business model.”

“Everything is very treat-based, play-based — and the dogs are absolutely looking forward to running in the door when they get here.”

She also knew there weren’t many full-service canine rehabilitation practices in the region, so she could fill a need by opening her own. But at first, she struggled to find the right location, one that offered her the space and amenities she needed at an affordable price.

“And right about this time last year, I was driving by, and this place was for lease. I thought, it’s a really good standalone building that could be perfect for rehab. So I called up the number on the sign, I got right in, and I fell in love with it instantly. I knew this was absolutely the space that I want to do rehab in.”

After a few months building it out with new walls and flooring, paint, and other renovations, Harris opened Power Paws on April 3, and she hasn’t regretted the move once. “It’s been a crazy year. After nine months, it’s just as successful as I thought it was going to be.”

The job is one of constant learning and evolution, too.

For example, “laser therapy used to be much different when I first went to school for it. It was much lower power, there wasn’t a lot of science behind it, and a lot of research since then has gone into what wavelengths and joules and energy are most effective for different things. And now I can just put in a condition, the size of the dog, the color of the dog, and it gives me exactly what I need, which is really helpful. So that’s definitely come a long way.”

In addition, she explained, shockwave treatments have long been helpful for tendon and ligament injuries, but the dogs had to be fully anesthetized because it was painful and very loud, so it wasn’t cost-effective for a lot of people. But now, mobile units are available that don’t require anesthesia. “Someday, I’ll get that here — I don’t have it quite yet — but that’s been a big change for sure.”

Beyond technology, Harris also attends continuing-education classes in rehab each year, while drawing on ideas from other sources as well.

“I’m always learning new exercises that I can do with dogs because there are so many smart people in the world that have put together videos and blogs, and every day, I’m just constantly learning — how can I make this dog better? What’s a different exercise I can do that would make a bigger difference for this dog? It’s a really great community out there where everybody shares information and collaborates, which is really nice.”


Pet Project

Not surprisingly, the most gratifying part of Harris’s job is seeing how happy the dogs are when they come in — and seeing them gradually grow stronger and healthier.

“I really love seeing them yanking their owners across the parking lot to come in because they want to come in and play, and I love seeing them get better, having them go from withdrawn and not engaging much with their owners, because they’re in pain, to figuring out what’s painful, treating that, and turning them into a dog the owners forgot they had. That’s really, really rewarding.”

The dog owners are often surprised at the effectiveness of properly targeted rehab, she added.

“Usually they’re pretty blown away after a few treatments. They’re like, ‘they’re so much better, and they’re doing this thing that they never did in a long time,’ or ‘they’re playing with toys again; they’re playing with the other dog.’ It’s great to hear the stories of how much happier their dog is.”

Harris still works one day a week at Riverbend, and appreciates how supportive Thomson has been in her reaching her goal of owning a business.

“He’s retiring soon, so it was a good time for me to transition out and do my own thing here,” she said. “I’m very grateful and very lucky to be here.”


A Brave New Year

By Lauren C. Ostberg, Esq. and Michael McAndrew, Esq.


Artificial intelligence — specifically, natural-language chatbots like ChatGPT, Bard, and Watson — have been making headlines over the past year, whether it’s college writing teachers’ attempts to avoid reading machine-generated essays, the boardroom drama of OpenAI, the SAG-AFTRA strike, or existential anxiety about the singularity.

On the frivolous end of the spectrum, one of the authors of this piece used ChatGPT to find celebrity lookalikes for various attorneys at their firm, and learned that ChatGPT defaults to the assumption that, irrespective of race or gender or facial features, most people (including Lauren Ostberg) look like Ryan Reynolds. On the more serious end, the legislatures of state governments, including those in Massachusetts and Connecticut, have labored over bills that will harness, regulate, and investigate the power of AI.

Lauren Ostberg

“The legislatures of state governments, including those in Massachusetts and Connecticut, have labored over bills that will harness, regulate, and investigate the power of AI.”

In Massachusetts, for example, the Legislature is considering two bills, one (H.1873) “To Prevent Dystopian Work Environments,” and another (S.31) titled “An Act Drafted with the Help of ChatGPT to Regulate Generate Artificial Intelligence Models Like ChatGPT.” The former would require employers using any automatic decision-making system to disclose the use of such systems to their employees, and give employees the opportunity to review and correct the worker data on which those systems relied. The latter, sponsored by Hampden County’s state Sen. Adam Gomez, aims to regulate newly spawned AI models.

While the use of AI to draft S.31 is, in its own right, an interesting real-world application of AI, the use of AI in this way is not the only important part of S.31, which proposes a regulatory regime whereby “large-scale generative artificial intelligence models” are required to register with the attorney general. In doing so, AI companies would be required to disclose detailed information to the attorney general, including “a description of the large-scale generative artificial intelligence model, including its capacity, training data, intended use, design process, and methodologies.”

In addition to requiring the registration of AI companies, S.31 (if passed) would also require AI companies to implement standards to prevent plagiarism and protect information of individually identifiable information used as part of the training data. AI companies must “obtain informed consent” before using the data of individuals. To ensure compliance, the bill gives the AG enforcement powers and grants it the authority to propound regulations that are consistent with the bill.

While S.31 provides robust protections against using data garnered from citizens of the Commonwealth in programming AI models, it may fail because of the amount of disclosure required from AI companies. As part of a new and fast-moving field, AI companies may be hesitant to disclose their processes, as is required by S.31.

Michael McAndrew

Michael McAndrew

“This proposed legislation is, of course, just the beginning of government’s attempts to grapple with the ‘responsible use’ (an Orwellian term, if ever there was one) of AI and technology.”

Though commendable in its effort to protect creators and citizens, S.31 may ultimately drive AI-based businesses out of the Commonwealth if they fear that their competitively sensitive AI processes will be disclosed as part of the public registry envisioned by S.31. However, the structure of the proposed registry of AI businesses is currently unclear; only time will tell how much information will be available to the public. Time will also tell if S.31 (or H.1873, referenced above) makes it out of committee and into law.

Meanwhile, in Connecticut

This past June, Connecticut passed a law, SB-1103, that recognizes the dystopian nature of the government using AI to make decisions about the treatment of its citizens. It requires that — by, on or before Dec. 31, 2023 — Connecticut’s executive and judicial branches conduct and make available “an inventory of all their systems that employ artificial intelligence.” (That is, it asks the machinery of the state to reveal itself, in part.)

By Feb. 1, 2024, the executive and judicial branches must also conduct (and publicly disclose) an “impact assessment” to ensure that systems using AI “will not result in unlawful discrimination or a disparate impact against specified individuals.” ChatGPT’s presumption, noted above, that every person is a symmetrically faced white man would be much more serious in the context of an automated decision-making system that impacts the property, liberty, and quality of life of Connecticut residents.

This proposed legislation is, of course, just the beginning of government’s attempts to grapple with the ‘responsible use’ (an Orwellian term, if ever there was one) of AI and technology. Massachusetts has proposed the creation of a commission to address the executive branch’s use of automated decision making; Connecticut’s new law has mandated a working group to consider an ‘AI Bill of Rights’ modeled after a federal blueprint for the same. The results — and the inventory, and the assessments — remain to be seen in the new year.


Lauren C. Ostberg is a partner, and Michael McAndrew an associate, at Bulkley Richardson, the largest law firm in Western Mass. Ostberg, a key member of the firm’s intellectual property and technology group, co-chairs the firm’s cybersecurity practice. McAndrew is a commercial litigator who seeks to understand the implications and risks of businesses adopting AI.


Dispelling Medicaid Myths

By Hyman G. Darling, Esq.


It seems like every day a client tells me they are going to protect their assets from long-term care expenses by making a gift of $10,000 to their children. If this writer got paid every time a client misspoke about this rule, he quite possibly could be retired.

First of all, the amount a person can gift to a child or another person on an annual basis is $17,000 per year without having to file a gift tax return. ($18,000 in 2024). Any amount over this annual amount will require a gift-tax return to be filed, but at the current time, the exclusion of the gifts is $12.92 million ($13.61 million in 2024). Therefore, most people should not be concerned about limiting a gift to $18,000.

Hyman Darling

Hyman Darling

“If the person has an interest is protecting assets from long-term care expenses, they can make gifts five years prior to needing care, give a child a remainder interest in a house, create an irrevocable trust (also a five-year lookback), or purchase a long-term care policy or hybrid policy.”

Again, this is only a tax rule, not a Medicaid rule. Any amount that is given to a person triggers a five-year waiting period, which means basically that the amount of the gift, whether it is $5 or $500,000, carries with it a five-year look-back. The donor will not be qualified for Medicaid benefits until either the five years is lapsed or all of the funds transferred are utilized for the benefit of the donor. There is no threshold for a de minimis amount that may be given without triggering the look-back. Some states even question and disqualify Christmas, anniversary, and birthday gifts.

Here is a relatively short list of permissible expenditures that do not normally disqualify a person for Medicaid eligibility, although these amounts may vary from state to state:

• $2,000 personal-needs account;

• Pre-paid burial account;

• $1,500 burial account earmarked specifically for funeral and related expenses;

• Purchase of any necessary medical equipment;

• Payment of expenses of a home while a person is living there;

• A home while the person is living in it (with a limit on equity in some states);

• Personal belongings and household goods; or

• One car.

All other assets, including jointly owned bank accounts, CDs, retirement plans, revocable trusts, second cars, second residences, value of life insurance, U.S. savings bonds, etc., are countable and will have to be spent on a person’s long-term care. Unless a person (usually a child) can prove that they contributed to the parent’s accounts, these assets are not protected as the account will be deemed to be owned 100% by the parent, and thus counted as long-term care assets.

Of course, there are many exceptions to the rules, such as having a minor child, a disabled child, or a child who is blind.

If the person has an interest is protecting assets from long-term care expenses, they can make gifts five years prior to needing care, give a child a remainder interest in a house, create an irrevocable trust (also a five-year lookback), or purchase a long-term care policy or hybrid policy. If a person is not interested in these options, then the decision is to take their chances and hope they are never institutionalized.

While this article is repetitive of prior articles, hopefully the annual exclusion rule for taxes will be understood by more people so that the misinformation will not continue to be spread. There is no substitute for good legal advice from a qualified elder-law attorney when considering any Medicaid or tax-planning strategy or transfer.


Hyman Darling, a shareholder at Bacon Wilson and chair of the firm’s estate-planning and elder-law department, is recognized as the area’s preeminent estate planner, with extensive experience with all aspects of estate planning, trusts, tax law, probate and estates, guardianships, special-needs trusts and planning, elder law, and long-term care planning, and additional specialties including adoption and real estate; (413) 781-0560.