Mission And History
Our mission is to excel.
We are a results-driven law firm, and our approach to each case is to obtain the best economic result for our client as efficiently and economically as possible. Keeping the best interests of our clients and the integrity of our firm at the heart of everything we do, our quest for excellence is grounded in efficiency, ethics, practicality, responsiveness, strategy and results.
Established in 1970, the firm was founded to better serve Buffalo’s business and entrepreneurial community. Over the last fifty-plus years, the firm’s practice areas have expanded to include a wide range of civil legal services for both business and individual clients. The high standards upon which the firm was founded continue to guide its practice and growth.
1970: Firm Founding
At the time it was founded in October 1970, the firm name was Duke & Yaeger. Emanuel “Manny” Duke and Edwin Yaeger had been long-time members of the firm known as Saperston, Wiltse, Duke, Day Wilson. Manny was a renowned trial lawyer and head of the firm’s litigation department. Ed was an excellent corporate and real estate lawyer. Manny brilliantly combined a commitment to excellence with an innovative approach to corporate and litigation matters, establishing the firm as the niche leader in commercial and construction litigation through a number of high-profile successes and the consistent delivery of results. The firm was an immediate success because of the stellar reputations of its founders and their establishment of an aggressive results-oriented practice.
1975: Donald Holzman and Barry Radlin Join the Firm
Don Holzman was a leading tax, corporate, trusts and estates lawyer, as well as one of the managing partners, at the firm of Jaeckle, Fleischmann & Mugel. He left that firm in 1973 to establish the Law Offices of Donald J. Holzman. Manny frequently retained Don to handle significant tax matters for the firm’s major clients. This synergistic relationship led to Don joining the firm as a named partner. Don’s work in corporate transactions and tax law paralleled the success of the litigation group, laying the firm’s foundation for growth into a full-service business law firm capable of handling the full scope of corporate clients’ needs. Manny also recruited Barry Radlin to join the firm. Barry had served as the Chief Counsel for the New York State Department of Transportation before Manny recruited him into the partnership where Barry concentrated his practice on construction law and litigation. The firm name was then changed to Duke, Holzman, Yaeger & Radlin.
1993: Photiadis Becomes Named Partner
Gregory Photiadis joined the firm as an associate in 1977 and worked very closely with Manny handling major litigation matters. As his mentor, Greg found Manny to have a brilliant intellect, incisive nature and dominant presence that was second to none. In 1993, Manny appointed Greg and Don Co-Senior Partners. At that point, Manny resigned as Senior Partner and became Of Counsel to the firm, and Barry left to pursue his own practice. It was then that the firm name was changed to Duke, Holzman, Yaeger & Photiadis. The firm was deeply saddened by Ed’s passing in October of 1992, and by Manny’s death in 1999. Their many years of service, dedication and commitment to excellence made the firm one of the leading boutique business law firms in Western New York. In his role as Senior Managing Partner, Greg set out to strategically expand the firm’s capabilities through recruiting and training ambitious and talented attorneys. As a mentor to the firm’s next generation, Greg carries on Manny’s legacy of commitment to excellence. Under Greg’s leadership, the firm has expanded to meet the evolving needs of its clientele, serving as general counsel to many corporate clients and providing the highest quality legal services.
2008: James Gresens and Patricia Gillen Join the Firm
James Gresens and Patricia Gillen both worked at Duke Holzman in the early 1990s before forming their own firm, Gresens & Gillen, LLP, which concentrated its practice on construction law and labor and employment matters. Substantial growth necessitated expansion and, with their common client base and complementary practice areas, Duke Holzman was a natural fit. On January 1, 2008, the Gresens & Gillen, LLP attorneys joined Duke Holzman. With the addition of Jim Gresens as a Senior Partner, the firm assumed its current name.
2014: The Firm Relocates; Charles Ritter Named Senior Partner
In January 2014, the firm’s co-senior partnership of Photiadis and Gresens expanded with the appointment of Charles Ritter as a Senior Partner. Charles joined the firm as an attorney in 1995, following his completion of a clerkship for the United States District Court, Western District of New York. He excelled in both civil litigation and corporate transactional work and became a partner in 1998. His dedication to the firm has resulted in substantial growth in the firm’s Construction Law, Civil Litigation and Insurance Coverage practice areas.
2015: Donald J. Holzman Retires
June 1, 2015 marked Donald J. Holzman’s retirement from the firm. A graduate of SUNY Buffalo Law School, Don began practicing law in 1955, and joined the firm as a partner in 1975 after working with Manny Duke on a significant corporate tax case. He served as the firm’s principle partner for taxation and general corporate matters for many years.
With a strong background in business, including a B.A. in Economics from SUNY Buffalo and an LL.M. in Taxation from New York University, Don practiced principally in the areas of tax and corporate law, as well as the related areas of estate planning, estate administration and trust law. Don participated, personally and as counsel, in the acquisition and development of business entities in the publishing, printing and aerospace industries.
Don wrote extensively in the areas of tax and corporate law and was published in Business First, the Buffalo Business Journal, the Rochester Business Journal, the Tax Law Review, Taxes – The Tax Magazine, Buffalo Law Review, Bankers Magazine, the Journal of Commercial Bank Lending and, Monthly Digest of Tax Articles, as well as additional publications for organizations dealing with tax aspects of charitable giving. He lectured on tax law subjects at various programs sponsored by SUNY Buffalo, SUNY Buffalo Law School, New York State Bar Association, University of Pittsburgh, American Banker’s Association, Robert Morris Associates, American College Public Relations Association and others.
Prior to becoming a lawyer, Don served in the Counter-Intelligence Corps of the United States Army for several years post-WWII. Don passed away in August 2017 and he is deeply missed by his friends and colleagues.
2020: The Firm’s 50th Anniversary and Pandemic
Despite the best of intentions to properly celebrate the firm’s milestone 50th anniversary, the COVID-19 Pandemic put a halt to gatherings that year. Instead, the firm celebrated the following year at the return of its annual holiday party, embracing the better-late-than-never approach. In the spring of 2020, longtime litigation partner Howard E. Berger retired from practice. While his presence at the firm is missed, the firm wishes him the best in his well-deserved retirement.
Throughout the pandemic, the firm was able to seamlessly continue representing its clients even with the added challenges presented by the times. Attorneys and staff pivoted quickly to working remotely when needed; zoom meetings and virtual depositions became second-nature; and improvising new solutions to get the work done, such as curbside will executions and safety protocols, became routine. In 2021, the firm welcomed back Matthew Beck, a former partner of the firm, as Of Counsel and his return to the firm broadens its geographic footprint to include Albany and the surrounding areas.
The firm continues to grow and develop its capabilities, carrying forth the legacy of excellence and commitment to results established by Manny Duke over 50 years ago.