Contract Negotiation & Preparation


An effective and comprehensive contract is the foundation of a successful construction project. Zetlin & De Chiara has long been recognized as the preeminent firm in drafting and negotiating construction contracts and other agreements on behalf of Design Professionals, Real Estate Owners and Developers, Sub-Consultants, Construction Managers, and Owner's Representatives.

The contract development process begins with the client. We take the time to learn your objectives, concerns, and expectations. We thoroughly evaluate the implications, identify potentially unforeseen consequences of complex contract provisions, and capitalize on our clients' strongest points of leverage. The result is an agreement tailored to meet a client's needs in order to build a successful project.

Our attorneys produce contracts that allocate risks and responsibilities, anticipate and prevent ambiguities, as well as provide mechanisms to avoid disputes arising from contract performance. We are familiar with all construction delivery methods, including design-bid-build, design-build, construction management and Integrated Project Delivery (IPD), as well as the full range of public and private sector construction projects, including commercial, infrastructure, industrial, residential, institutional, retail, and mixed-use.

Zetlin & De Chiara is also well-versed in Project Labor Agreements (PLAs), which are used by owners and their constructors to govern the workplace rules for all of the trades on a project.

PLAs help owners and their constructors avoid uncertainty, confusion and work stoppages. PLAs can also save money. On a typical construction project, an owner and its constructor will work with many trades (carpenters, iron workers, masons, etc.). Each of these trades would otherwise be governed by its own collective bargaining agreements (CBA), with its own set of work rules such as rates for overtime, shift time premiums, working hours and the number of holidays observed. The CBAs will likely expire or come up for renegotiation at different points during the construction of the project, thereby reinforcing uncertainty and non-uniformity.  Zetlin & De Chiara advises clients on the suitability and practicality of PLAs for particular projects.  Once the client decides to have a PLA govern the trades working on the project, Zetlin & De Chiara negotiates the terms and crafts the agreement.


Representative Matters

News & Events


  • news
    New York Real Estate Journal

    Twenty years ago, the New York Law Journal published an article about a then little-used law that authorized courts to grant a license to a property owner or developer unable to make repairs or improvements to its property without entering onto a neighbor’s property (See Little-Used Law Helps Developers Held Hostage, N.Y.L.J. Aug. 14, 2002).  The law in question, Real Property Actions and Proceedings Law (“RPAPL”) Section 881, authorized a judicial license where a neighbor refused permission to access its property for necessary construction and repairs.  It also provided the court with flexibility to set conditions on the license upon “such terms as justice requires.”

  • news
    The Construction Broadsheet

    James J. Terry, a partner at Zetlin & De Chiara LLP, is a successful litigator, negotiator and advocate specializing in the resolution of complex design, development and construction management disputes across the spectrum of the built environment.

    In practice for more than four decades, his portfolio includes construction defect claims, bid protests, change orders, liquidated damages, delays, cumulative impact claims, lost productivity, acceleration and inefficiency claims for national and international clients. Mr. Terry’s expertise includes the development and execution of project labor agreements (PLAs) that set labor compensation, work rules, schedules and performance expectations upfront.

  • news

    President Biden recently signed an executive order which will implement new pro-union project labor agreements in order to increase union membership in the federal, public and private sectors.

    The move has set off a round of opposition from construction industry organizations, not to mention individuals who see the move as detrimental to fair and open competition for bids related to the Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act of 2021.

  • news
    Construction Drive

    Jim Terry, Partner at Zetlin & De Chiara, explains the impact of project labor agreements in Construction Dive following President Biden's executive order.

  • news
    Steel Institute of America

    Construction sites close down for emergencies—whether or not everyone involved is ready. The COVID-19 lockdown adds new forms of operational and legal uncertainty. Yet a shutdown needn’t be a disaster: it’s time to plan, anticipate potential problems, and upgrade procedures.

  • news
  • news
    Building With BIM
    New York Construction

    An article titled “Building With BIM” was published in the July 2009 issue of New York Construction with commentary by Michael J. Vardaro.


  • event
    MGM Grand Las Vegas - Conference Center

    Rachel John

    Rachel John will speak on the importance of negotiating a comprehensive teaming agreement when pursuing a design-build project award on a panel entitled, So You Think a Teaming Agreement is Too Much Trouble? She will also discuss updates to the DBIA family of design-build contracts and comparison of key terms with other industry forms in another panel, Fair and Balanced – What Makes DBIA’s Family of Contract Documents Different? The panels will take place at the Design-Build Institute of America's 2022 Conference & Expo in Las Vegas.

  • event
    Virtual and Sheraton New York Times Square

    Michael J. Vardaro, Zetlin & De Chiara LLP

    Joeann Walker, Con Edison

    Michael Hanahan, Perkins Coie

    Sweet Dreams (Are Made of . . . Good Contracts): Understanding and Navigating the Ancillary Contracts in Construction

    Michael Vardaro, Managing Partner, will join a panel at the ABA Forum on Construction Law to discuss the nuances of construction contracts. In-house counsel frequently draft and negotiate core construction contracts, but projects often require a variety of other specialized ancillary agreements, including joint venture arrangements, special project access issues, non-disclosure and confidentiality, unusual project finance, letters of intent, and other issues. You can sleep soundly when you have adequately papered the deal for these critical, and often unique, situations.

    This session will equip counsel to recognize the need for an ancillary agreement as well as the purposes, principal components, and strategies for negotiating such specialized contracts.

  • event

    Loryn Riggiola, Partner

    Loryn Riggiola, Partner will join a panel discussion on the Design Build process. The panel will include NYC DOT’s Tanvi Pandya, PE, DBIA, Executive Director of Design-Build (Bridges) as well as members of WBC’s Design Build Committee who will share their insights and perspectives on best practices for MWBEs as well as managing risk on these type of projects.

  • event

    Anthony DiBrita, Of Counsel

    Tony DiBrita, Of Counsel, discussed the Risks & Opportunities of NYC LL97. He addressed:

    1. The projects that are subject to LL97

    2. Updates on pending LL97 regulations

    3. Identifying and mitigating problematic contract language

    4. The importance of communicating risks and desicions made during the phases of the project

  • event
    Building Energy Exchange & Virtual

    Michael K. De Chiara-Senior Partner, Zetlin & De Chiara

    Rocco Giannetti, FAIA, LEED AP ID+C-Principal/Managing Director, Gensler

    Tomi Vest, General Counsel, NYC Mayor’s Office of Climate Resilience

    Josephine Zurica, P.E., LEED AP, CPHC-Principal, Dagher Engineering

    Michael Izzo-Vice President, Construction, Hines

    Richard Yancey, FAIA, LEED AP-Exectuive Director, Building Energy Exchange

    Michael De Chiara spoke at a BE-Ex Architect Advisory Council (AAC) workshop co-sponsored by the Building Energy Exchange, AIA New York, and ASHRAE New York about the legal risk and responsibility of high performance design and construction, and how to improve compliance with NYC climate legislation.

  • event

    Tara Mulrooney, Partner

    Tara Mulrooney, Partner at Zetlin & De Chiara, moderated a panel of industry experts at the Commercial Observer’s recent Life Science Forum. The panelists, representatives from different constituencies in the life sciences market, were:

    • Susie Harboth, EVP, Business Operations Breakthrough Properties;
    • Matthew Weir, EVP, Taconic Properties;
    • Shara Ticku, CEO & Co-Founder, C16 Biosciences; and
    • Peter Schubert, Design Partner, Ennead Architects.

    The discussion focused on the unique needs of start-up and early stage life science companies and what developers, landlords and the City can do to make New York a destination for these enterprises.

  • event

    Michael K. De Chiara, Zetlin & De Chiara; Scott Frank-JB&B; Josephine Zurica-Dagher Engineering

    This program will present key aspects of ACEC New York's LL97 Reference Guide White Paper. Michael De Chiara will discuss design team liability.

  • event

    Michael K. De Chiara-Zetlin & De Chiara LLP, Moderator, Anthony J. DiBrita, Jr.- Zetlin & De Chiara LLP, Lionel Bejean-Greyling Insurance Brokerage & Risk Consulting, Inc. Peter Koppisch-Willian H. Connolly Co., LLC, Mary Beth Rumple-Poole Professionals, Kevin Viana-Marshall & Sterling Insurance

    The panel of insurance experts and attorneys will address insurance coverage and risk management in these uncertain times and how you can take a proactive approach to protecting your business.

  • event

    Jaimee L. Nardiello, Partner, Panelist

    Jaimee Nardiello, Partner, will participate in a panel that will discuss Contract and Common Law Claims, Prosecution of Claims and Remedies. 

  • event

    Tara Mulrooney, Partner

    Join Tara Mulrooney, Partner, as she participates in an interactive discussion with a panel of lawyers, architects and construction professionals as they explore ways to navigate the issues facing projects in the age of COVID-19.

  • event

    James Terry, Partner and Timothy Hegarty, Partner

    How to Address the Impact on Development, Construction and Design: 

    Answers for the Construction Community

  • event

    Michael Vardaro, Managing Partner

    Michael Vardaro, Zetlin & De Chiara's Managing Partner, provided insights on COVID-19 construction contract issues and overall business advice to senior-level Architecture and Engineering executives. He was a member of a panel of experts who shared their views in an interactive virtual roundtable format. The speakers provided practical and timely advice in an uncertain business environment.

  • event
    San Diego

    Michael J. Vardaro

    Michael Vardaro and fellow speakers: Elena Brescia-SCAPE; Gregg Garmisa-Studio Gang; and Stephen Whitehorn-Empowerment Whitehorn will provide an insider's guide to contracts.


  • publication

    In recent weeks, there has been a long list of companies, from all industries spanning from construction/engineering to fashion and hospitality, that have announced that they are completely severing ties with Russia, while a host of others have announced a temporary halt. See Jeffrey A. Sonnenfeld, Over 400 Companies Have Withdrawn from Russia – But Some Remain, Yale School of Management (Updated Mar. 21, 2022), For those developers, EPC contractors, and design professionals (engineers and architects) who have construction projects in Russia, the question is, “How should we proceed?”

  • publication

    The New York City Department of Buildings (“DOB”) issued a notice of adoption of final rules for its Major Projects Development Program that will go into effect on May 1, 2022. According to the DOB’s press release, the intention of the Major Projects Development Program is “to help construction projects get off the ground safely and avoid work stoppages” by offering one-on-one consultation and support to owners of eligible projects.

  • publication

    Healthcare construction and design has changed dramatically as a result of  the events of the last 18 months, which will have a lasting impact on the industry, noted Jaimee Nardiello, Partner at leading construction law firm, Zetlin & De Chiara.

    As part of Commercial Observer's 5th Annual Healthcare Construction Forum, Ms. Nardiello moderated a panel of industry experts who gave their unique perspectives on how the pandemic will change healthcare facilities and thus design in a post-covid world.

    Topics discussed included building add-ons like airborne pathogen detectors, negative pressure rooms, and air handling systems, as well as how designers, managers, and construction teams can work together to build care-centered facilities.

  • publication

    “New York City’s far-reaching climate laws will have a significant impact on developers, architects, engineers and the other members of the construction industry,” noted  Michael De Chiara, Senior Partner at Zetlin & De Chiara. Mr. De Chiara and a panel of industry experts expanded on the changes at a recent workshop on Contracts, Climate, & Compliance sponsored by the Building Energy Exchange’s Architect Advisory Council (AAC) in cooperation with AIA New York and ASHRAE New York.

    The panel provided a detailed look at the legal risk and responsibility of high performance design and construction, as well as how to improve compliance with NYC climate legislation, including its forthcoming predicted energy use code (Local Law 32 of 2018) and the groundbreaking building carbon emission limits of 2019’s Local Law 97.

  • publication

    The New York City Council passed Local Law No. 97 of 2019 on April 18, 2019 and Local Law No. 147, amending Local Law No. 97, on June 26, 2019, both of which became effective as of November 15, 2019 (collectively “LL97”). LL97 ushers in a new era of stringent climate control regulations for the City, applicable to both existing buildings and new buildings. Though LL97’s emissions limitations do not begin until 2024, real estate owners and design professionals are already busy considering how the new limitations will impact current buildings, as well as those being contemplated for the future. This client alert intends to summarize LL97’s emission standards so that our clients may consider them when conceptualizing new projects and, where feasible and appropriate, recommend design elements and building systems to assist owners in meeting their new obligations.

  • publication

    Following our webinar, COVID-19 Challenges to the Construction Industry, we assembled a Questions & Answers based upon questions participants posed and to issues we discussed.

  • publication

    As 2019 drew to a close, Governor Cuomo signed a bill on December 31st that had been passed by the New York State Legislature in June allowing certain New York City agencies to use the design-build project delivery system for construction projects.

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