Joel P. Aaronson



  • University of Pittsburgh School of Law, 1978, J.D.
  • University of Pittsburgh, 1971, Masters in Urban Planning from the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs
  • University of Rochester, 1967, B.A.

Joel focuses his practice in real estate development law with particular emphasis in the area of land use and environmental regulation and litigation and condemnation.

He has advised clients in the development of several major projects in the Pittsburgh area including the PPG World Headquarters, the Mellon Bank Center, National Gypsum's Shippingport Wallboard Plant, Liberty Center/DoubleTree Hotel (now Westin) and the Benedum Center for the Performing Arts.  Joel has represented several national and local real estate development companies in securing zoning, subdivision, historic preservation, and environmental approvals and permits required in connection with a variety of residential, commercial and industrial developments.

In merger and acquisition transactions, he advises lenders, sellers and purchasers in identifying and reducing the risk of retained or acquired environmental liability particularly associated with hazardous waste regulation.  A former urban planner, Joel has also represented several governmental entities in land use, eminent domain and environmental matters. 

Joel is a faculty lecturer for the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, the Duquesne University Law School, the Pennsylvania Bar Association, the Pennsylvania Bar Institute, and the Pennsylvania Bankers Association on the subjects of land use development regulation and environmental considerations in real estate and business transactions.  He edited and wrote the Pittsburgh Commentary for a book published by the Urban Land Institute entitled Cities Reborn, highlighting the revival of four American cities including Pittsburgh.

Employment History

  • 1976 - Reed Smith
  • 1971 - City of Pittsburgh 
    • Principal Housing Planner

Honors & Awards

  • Listed in The Best Lawyers in America (2007-2015) and currently included in the areas of Land Use & Zoning Law and Litigation–Land Use & Zoning Law; also named Pittsburgh "Lawyer of the Year" for Land Use & Zoning (2011)  
  • Selected for inclusion in Pennsylvania Super Lawyers (since 2005), and listed in the Super Lawyers, Corporate Counsel Edition (2009 and 2010), both in the area of Land Use & Zoning
  • Recipient of Chatham University's Trustee Award for Distinguished Service (2015)

Professional Affiliations

  • American Bar Association
  • Allegheny County Bar Association
  • American Planning Association
  • Carnegie Museum of Natural History – Board Member
  • Pennsylvania Bar Association – Past Chairman of the Environmental Law Committee of the Real Estate Section


An avid golfer and scuba diver, Joel also collects ethnographic and Pre-Columbian art.

Military Service

Joel served in the U.S. Army for three years as a company Executive Officer and Platoon Leader in the United States and Vietnam.