James D. Zirin

Senior Counsel


787 Seventh Avenue
New York, New York 10019


Admissions & Certifications

James D. Zirin

Senior Counsel

JAMES D. ZIRIN, a leading trial and appellate lawyer for over 30 years, is senior counsel in the New York office of Sidley Austin LLP. For three years, he was an Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York and served in the criminal division under Robert M. Morgenthau.

Mr. Zirin has appeared in state and federal courts around the nation. His practice has featured the defense of major accounting firms charged with violations of professional responsibility and in substantial class actions. These matters have included the American Express salad oil and Equity Funding cases where he represented Deloitte Haskins & Sells, and the IOS and DeLorean litigations where he represented Arthur Andersen & Co. His clients have also included The Rockefeller Foundation, Merrill Lynch, Citibank, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and the City of New York. He represented a Brazilian trader who was a significant figure in the silver debacle of 1979 and 1980. He has handled white collar criminal cases, shareholders’ litigation, patent infringement and directors and officers liability cases. His experience includes litigation involving reinsurance on the London market, arbitration and alternate dispute resolution.

He recovered over $100 million in cash and property for Armco in its requirements contract litigation with Allied Chemical. He has appeared in major estates litigation, most notably the Rothko case, the estate of William S. Todman as well as the litigation involving the estate of the widow of the expressionist artist, Max Beckmann. He served as an arbitrator in the complex disputes involving the limited partnership owning the Helmsley Palace Hotel. He successfully represented a take-over target against a $90 million claim for a break-up fee, and the City of New York in resisting a class action seeking over $2 billion, in connection with investments made by the Teachers’ Retirement System. He recovered a large judgment for a placement agent against a substantial private equity fund after the fund appealed unsuccessfully to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and the United States Supreme Court. 

James D. Zirin has written over 100 op-ed articles for Forbes, Barron’s, the LA Times, the London Times, the Washington Times, the New York Sun and the New York Law Journal. He is host of the weekly prime time cable television program “Conversations in the Digital Age” where he has interviewed such guests as former HEW Secretary Joseph A. Califano, Jr., Governor Thomas Kean, Police Commissioners Raymond Kelly and William Bratton, and Ambassador Frank Wisner. He spoke on the litigation aspects of “Accessing the American Capital Markets” at the São Paulo Stock Exchange, São Paulo, Brazil; on officers and directors liability at an insurance colloquium in Santiago, Chile; and on the resolution of China disputes through international arbitration at Fudan University, Shanghai. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and The Economic Club of New York. In August 2003, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg appointed him to the New York City Commission to Combat Police Corruption. He is a member of the Grievance Committee Attorney Panel for the Southern District of New York. 

He is a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, a former chair of its International Law Committee and a past chair of its Alternatives for Dispute Resolution Committee; a member of the advisory board of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs of Princeton University; a trustee of New York Law School; and a member of the Consolidated Corporate Fund Leadership Committee of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. He is a member of the Board of Editors of the New York Law Journal. This past year, Mr. Zirin was elected to the International Academy of Trial Lawyers and is a member of its International Committee. He is listed in “Who’s Who in America.” 

A graduate of Princeton University with honors, Mr. Zirin received his law degree from the University of Michigan Law School where he was an editor of the Michigan Law Review and a member of the Order of the Coif. He is married to Marlene Hess and has two children.

  • James D. Zirin, author, "The Mother Court- Tales of Cases That Mattered in America’s Greatest Trial Court," ABA Books (May 2014)
Memberships & Activities
  • Grievance Committee Attorney Panel for the Southern District of New York 
  • Council on Foreign Relations 
  • American College of Trial Lawyers, former Chair International Committee; former Chair Alternatives for Dispute Resolution Committee 
  • New York Law School, Trustee 
  • Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Consolidated Corporate Fund Leadership Committee 
  • New York Law Journal, Board of Editors 
  • Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Advisory Board 
  • International Academy of Trial Lawyers, International Committee 
  • Host, “Digital Age,” a cable television talk show which covers, among other things, legal issues as applied to the Internet and technology