Professional, Educational & Personal Biography


Gary L. Cole AIA, Esq. is a Chicago based Illinois and Florida licensed attorney and an Illinois licensed architect – one of the few individuals in the country possessing licenses in both law and architecture.  He is also an experienced construction and commercial arbitrator and mediator for the American Association of Arbitration.

As an attorney, he draws on his experience and insights as a licensed architect to communicate complex legal and business issues with his construction, real estate development, historic preservation and accessibility clients in both the language of the law and their specific industries to assist them in making informed decisions.  As an arbitrator and mediator he draws on his experience as an attorney and architect to arbitrate disputes and facilitate mediation settlements ranging from $20,000 to $8,000,000.

Summary Professional & Educational Biography

Mr. Cole obtained his Bachelor of Architecture at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s School of Architecture. He spent his third year abroad at the L’Ecole D’Architecture Et D’Urbanisme De Versailles, France, studying architecture and adventuring throughout Europe:  he searched in vain for the monster at Loch Ness; photographed the possible ghost of Le Corbusier at the Villa Savoye; was abandoned one night in the deserted maze of Tetaun, Morrocco’s kasbah by his local guides; was saved from an evil flu by a symapthetic Spanish barkeeper’s chicken soup in Granada; and spent an ouzo-inspired starry night in the Temple of Hephaestus below the Athenian acropolis.  He also nearly rode his rented Vespa off sheer cliffs in Santorini, Greece – several times.

Starting in 1985, while still a student, and through 1990, he worked for several architectural firms in Chicago before launching his own architecture and construction practice in 1990.

From 1991 – 1992, while still operating his own architecture firm, he attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Graduate School of Architecture, Historic Preservation Option. In 1993 through 2001, he returned to the University of Illinois at Urbana as a Visiting Associate Professor in the Graduate School of Architecture where he taught popular courses involving hands-on wood, masonry and concrete construction skills, historic building forensic investigation and building documentation.  Also as a professor, he traveled to Cartagena, Colombia four times to study its historic architecture and lecture on historic preservation. Once while there, he enjoyed impromptu coffee with legendary West Side Story playwright Arthur Laurents after helping him – as a fellow American traveler in a strange land – settle issues about his breakfast bill by translating it into English.

From 1992-1994, Mr. Cole was an historical architect with a state regulatory agency – the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency – where he traveled throughout Illinois inspecting historic properties, administering historic rehab tax benefits and grants for Mississippi River flood-damaged buildings, and providing landmarking support, regulatory review and technical assistance for hundreds of historic properties.

He returned to Chicago in 1994 to attend Loyola University Chicago’s School of LawDuring his time at Loyola, he was an editor for an administrative law journal and also studied at Loyola’s Center for International Studies in Rome, Italy, where he gave spontaneous tours of the Pantheon and other great works of Rome’s antiquity to his law professors and fellow students.

After completing law school and passing the Illinois Bar exam and the Florida Bar exam, from 1998 – 2008 he was a construction and real estate development attorney for large Chicago law firms, including Winston & Strawn, LLP and Seyfarth Shaw, LLP, and was in-house counsel for The Sembler Company, St. Petersburg, Florida, one of Florida’s largest commercial developers, where he provided counsel related to real estate finance, real estate development, construction, public finance, leasing, corporate entities and general corporate legal matters.

In 2009, he returned to Chicago and formed his own law practice: The Law Firm of Gary L. Cole AIA, Esq.

He eschews compressed, digitally downloaded music and restores 1960’s tube and 1970s transistor audio equipment to enjoy his extensive collection of vinyl records.  He speaks Spanish passably, French barbarously, is a freshwater aquarist, an avid reader of history, epic and classical literature, has been an archer for more than twenty-five years, and is a cyclist, outdoorsman and photographer.

Finally – he believes that history, architecture and the law belong to, and should be understood and accessible to everyone.



Loyola University Chicago School of Law – Juris Doctor (1998)

• Journal of the National Association of Administrative Law Judges – Senior Articles Editor
• American Jurisprudence Award for Highest Grade – Comparative International Law
• Dean’s List
• Loyola Rome Center for International Studies (1997)

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign – Master of Architecture (1992)

• First Place Charles E. Peterson Prize
• First Place Edward C. Earl Prize in Architecture
• Dean’s List
• Graduate Teaching Assistant

University of Illinois at Chicago – Bachelor of Architecture (1988)

• Graduated with “Distinction in Design”
• Dean’s List
• Talent Tuition Scholarship
• Pillsbury Traveling Scholarship
• Golden Key National Honor Society
• Phi Beta Sigma Honor Society
• L’Ecole D’Architecture Et D’Urbanisme De Versailles, France (1985 – 1986)


Online Publications: LawArk – Industry News and Thought

Written and published by Gary L. Cole AIA, Esq., LawArk provides informative and often provocative news, insights and thought leadership about a wide variety of business and legal issues related to design and construction, historic preservation, real estate development, accessibility, green building, and alternative dispute resolution. LawArk articles may be found at



• Traditional Building Magazine, “Replacing the Secretary’s Standards with a Model Historic Building Code.” 4/2013.
• Licensed Architect, “Arbitration and Mediation 101 for Architects.” 2/2011.
• Licensed Architect, “New Services for Architects: Helping Clients Pay for Historic Rehab Projects.” 10/2010.
• Retail Law Strategist, “Proposed Revisions to the ADA.” 1/2004.
• Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education (IICLE), “Land Use – Historic Preservation Law.” 2004/2006.
• Heartland Real Estate Business, “Minimizing the Risk of ADA Lawsuits.” 1/2004.
• Heartland Real Estate Business, “A Lesson in Historic Properties.” 6/2003.
• Florida Journal of Real Estate, “Financial Incentives for Historic Properties.” 11/2002.
• Midwest Real Estate Journal, “Financial Incentives Help Preserve Historic Properties.” 10/2002.
• Journal of the National Association of Administrative Law Judges, “State Court Invalidation of a Federal Regulation: Thomas v. NCDHR.” Spring 1997.
• Urban Lawyer, “Recent Developments in Historic Preservation and Architectural Control Law.” Co-authored, Fall 1996.


Legal Reference Publications

Co-author of “Historic Preservation Law.” Published by The Illinois Institute of Continuing Legal Education (IICLE).


Public Speaking

• Half-Moon Continuing Education Services, Chicago 2011. “Arbitration & Mediation 101 for Architects.”
• Keynote Speaker – NCSBN Attorney/Investigator Conference, Chicago 2011. “Case Construction Parallels Between Law and Architecture.”
• Traditional Building & Exhibition Conference, Chicago 2010. “Beyond Tax Credits for Historic Rehabilitation.”
• Traditional Building & Exhibition Conference, Chicago 2010. “Avoiding Legal Liability When Preservation Goes Green.”
• American Institute of Architects – Chicago Chapter Historic Resources Committee, 2010. “Expanding Your Services: Become an Historic Rehabilitation Economic Incentives Consultant.”
• American Institute of Architects – “Renew Tampa” Conference 2008. “The Rise of the Green Building Ordinance.”
• American Institute of Architects – Chicago Chapter Historic Resources Committee, 2003. “Legal Advocacy Skills for Architects.”
• Miami Design and Preservation League, Art Deco Weekend, 2003. “Historic Rehabilitation Economic Incentives.”
• Restoration ’97 National Preservation Conference, 1997. “Legal Issues of Architectural Salvage.”
• VI Foro International Patrimonio Arquitectonico, Cartegena, Colombia, 1996. “Chicago Historic Preservation.”
• Restoration ’96 National Preservation Conference, 1996. “Careers in Preservation-The Architect’s View.”
• Illinois Statewide Preservation Conference, 1995. “Historic Building Assessment Fundamentals.”
• Restore – National Masonry Conference, 1994. “Structural Assessment of Flood Damaged Historic Buildings.”
• Illinois Statewide Preservation Conference, 1994. “Assessing Flood Damaged Historic Structures.”
• Illinois State Preservation Conference, 1993. “19th C. Historic Sidings v. 20th C. Artificial Sidings.”