Michael J. Vardaro

Managing Partner

801 Second Avenue, New York, NY 10017

Practice Areas

  • Construction Law
  • Commercial Litigation
  • Business Counseling
  • Design Professional
  • Licensing


  • St. John's University, J.D.
  • Villanova University, B.C.E Civil Engineering

Bar Admissions

  • New York
  • Florida
  • New Jersey

Court Admissions

  • U.S. Supreme Court
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Second Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit
  • U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey
  • U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida
  • U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York
  • U.S. District Court, Northern District of New York
  • U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York
  • U.S. District Court, District of Vermont

Industry Recognition

Managing Partner

801 Second Avenue, New York, NY 10017


Michael J. Vardaro, Managing Partner at Zetlin & De Chiara LLP, is a former construction worker with a degree in civil engineering who focuses his practice on construction litigation, drafting and negotiating construction contracts, and providing advice to a variety of construction industry clients.

Mr. Vardaro's unique background gives him the ability to understand the intricacies and nuances of the construction process and to provide focused and innovative counseling to clients ranging from construction companies to owners/developers to architects and engineers. Mr. Vardaro is well known for expertise on the ethics of construction, and is a frequent speaker on the topic. He has a particular interest in the Citicorp building in midtown Manhattan and the ethical issues that arose many years after that project was completed. He appeared on the Science Channel series Engineering Catastrophes ​to discuss problems with the building's design.

​Michael Vardaro featured in Engineering Catastrophes, Science Channel


Mr. Vardaro successfully represents clients in complex commercial and construction litigation matters in various venues across the country. He has extensive experience resolving claims through mediation as well as representing clients before administrative boards and arbitration panels. 
In addition to litigating, Mr. Vardaro drafts and negotiates complex construction contracts for various project types around the world and regularly counsels clients with respect to professional licensing, corporate organization and transition, general business matters, risk management and insurance issues. He works extensively with regard to advancements in the construction process, including design build, integrated project delivery (IPD), building information modeling (BIM), and sustainable/green design and construction. Other relevant experience includes representing clients in international matters including in the Middle East.

Mr. Vardaro holds the notable AV rating for ethical standards and legal ability from Martindale-Hubbell, and has been recognized as a top construction litigation attorney in New York by Super Lawyers Magazine. He was also named a Fellow of the Construction Lawyers Society of America. He has been a featured guest lecturer at Columbia University and New York Polytechnic University speaking about legal issues in the construction industry. 


Fellow, Construction Lawyers Society of America

Honors & Awards


Representative Experience

  • Represented design team against claims in excess of $26M related to mold in multi-use high-rise structure in South Florida (Florida State Court)
  • Represented designers of major airport expansion project in New England against claims of design deficiencies and delays avoiding formal legal proceedings.
  • Prosecuted claims of property owners for damages caused by inadequate construction practices. (New York State Court)
  • Represented contractor in administrative hearing before the New York State Department of Labor for alleged prevailing wage rate violations
  • Negotiated agreements for $1B infrastructure project in Qatar.
  • Represented engineer in dispute over deficiencies in the construction of a $400M convention center in Washington, D.C.
  • Represented hydro-geological firm in dispute concerning the development of a water source for municipal water supply. (New York State Court)
  • Advise multi-national design professional on licensing requirements in various U.S. jurisdictions.
  • Defended the Federal Government with respect to mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire protection design claims in connection with an $81M request for equitable adjustment made by a contractor on a United States Courthouse. (GSBCA)
  • Represented Design-Builder in $100M claim by owner for design and construction defects in a state-of-the-art industrial production facility. (New York State Court)
  • Represented architect of a high-rise mixed use building against owner's claim for professional errors and omissions in arbitration. (Pennsylvania State Court)
  • Represented mechanical engineer against Federal RICO and employment discrimination claims brought by various subcontractors in connection with the design and construction of a football stadium in Ohio. (Federal Court, Ohio)
  • Represented structural engineer in $50M claim by resort owner for professional errors and omissions relating to a luxury resort hotel in Orlando, FL. (Florida State Court)
  • Represented lead architect over the rebuilding and updating of a prominent theatre in New York City in an arbitration concerning a contract dispute with the owner and contractor.(New York, NY)
  • Represented engineering firm involved in the design and construction of the expansion of the infrastructure of an international airport against delay claim by governmental agency.(Federal Court, Iowa.
  • Represented designers of multi-purpose dome stadium against claims for professional negligence. (Federal Court, Iowa)
  • Represented structural engineer in $20M claim asserted by a developer/owner for design defects and delay damages concerning a five-star hotel in an arbitration proceeding before the American Arbitration Association. (Miami, FL)
  • Represented EPC contractor in claims against owner for additional compensation due to delays. (New York, NY)
  • Represented purchaser of grandfathered engineering corporation. (New York)
  • Provided legal advice in corporate restructuring/ownership transition of engineering firm.
  • Represented subcontractor in contract claims against owner (New York State Court)


  • American Council of Engineering Companies - Member, Legal Counsel Forum
  • New York Building Congress - Member, Energy, Environment, Public Procurement, Healthcare Committees
  • American Society of Civil Engineers
  • American Bar Association
  • New York State Bar Association
  • Florida Bar Association

Speaking Engagements

  • “Multijurisdictional Practices: An Exploration of the Financial, Legal and Marketing Issues related to Providing Services through Multiple Entities” at the 2017 winter meeting of the New York Chapter of the American Council of Engineering Companies, CFO Forum
  • Moderator - 6th Annual Construction and Development Update, Bisnow, November 2016
  • Zetlin & De Chiara Attorneys Present CLE Program for the Association of Corporate Counsel
  • Ethics for Design Professionals, RLI Corp. Webinar, August 2013
  • Video Interview, AIA Trust Risk Management, AIA National Convention, June 2013
  • "A Case Study in Professional Ethics and Conduct: Understanding the Significance of Standing Tall," AIA National Convention, June 2013
  • "Legal Issues in BIM," Global Design Alliance (GDA) Conference, June 2013
  • "Contracting for BIM Lifecycle Uses," WPL Publishing webinar, June 2013
  • "Ethics for Architects & Engineers," WPL Publishing, July 2012
  • "Bada Bing, Bada BIM: Sorting Through the Sizzle to Draft Meangingful BIM Contract Terms," ABA National Convention, April 2012
  • "BIM Legal Risk - Real or Imagined?," WPL Publishing, March 2012
  • "The Legal Risk of BIM," Construction Specifications Institute, March 2012
  • "Engineering Ethics for International Projects," American Society of Civil Engineers - International Group, February 2012
  • Moderator - "Energy, Energy, Energy," NYC Real Estate Expo, November 2011
  • "Ethics for Engineers," ACEC 2011 Fall Business Conference, October 2011
  • "BIM Legal Risk – Real or Imagined?," WPL Publishing, May 2011
  • "The Citicorp Center Project: LeMessurier Stands Tall," 50th Annual Meeting of Invited Attorneys, May 2011
  • "Engineering Ethics: Making the Right Choice," ASCE Metro/ Structures Group, May 2011
  • "Ethics for Engineers," ASCE Long Island and Society of Women Engineers, January 2011
  • "Is Your Firm Addressing Green Building Issues?," AIA New York State Convention, October 2010
  • The Virtual Contractor, The Next Generation of Construction Contractors, McGraw Hill Construction, July 2010
  • "Construction Contract Negotiations," July 2009
  • BIM Roundtable, featured in McGraw Hill Construction Magazine, February 2009
  • "Insurance Perspectives," AIA/ACEC Special Advisory Risk Management Committee Meeting, November 2008
  • "Ownership Transition," Architect Symposium, October 2008
  • "BIM: What Architects Need to Know," AIA New York State Convention, September 2008
  • "It's a BIM New World: The Next Revolution in Design and Construction Technology," McGraw Hill/Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc./AIA Florida, August 2008
  • "When the Crane Falls," AIA/ACEC Special Advisory Risk Management Committee Meeting, June 2008
  • "New Contract Form," AIA Long Island, February 2008
  • "Second Annual BIM Symposium," Zetlin & De Chiara LLP with McGraw Hill, November 2007
  • "Construction Scheduling," AACE, December 2006
  • "Design Build," New York State AIA/ACEC, November 2006
  • "Design Build Project Delivery Alternative," New York State Next Generation Housing Convention, October 2006
  • "Building Security Design," ACEC Contracts Committee, May 2006


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