James Ettelson focuses his practice on real estate, commercial financing, and land use and zoning. He previously served as Counsel to the Urban Redevelopment Authority of the City of Pittsburgh for the creation of transportation revitalization investment districts. Jim brings a diverse background in management gained in both the public and private sector, concentrating his practice in the fields of transactional corporate, business and real estate law. His extensive legal experience ranges from business organization and counseling, equity and debt finance negotiation, lease/sale negotiation and agreement preparation to land use and zoning issues.  His practice includes representing developers, builders, health care and educational institutions, assisted living facilities, real estate investors and corporations in both the profit and nonprofit sectors. 

Client Experience

  • Prominent educational institution in a significant land development expansion of its campus

  • National commercial real estate developer in the sale of a Center City high-rise parking facility

  • One of the world’s leading producers of consumer products in the relocation, site acquisition, and development of a major manufacturing facility

  • Nation’s largest shopping center, REIT, in the redevelopment of one of their major assets

  • Major regional developer of multi-family residential and mixed-use commercial projects

  • Leading health care organization in the formation and development of an entity to manage and develop its real estate assets, which involved all phases of documentation, business counseling, land development, and zoning

  • Borrower in the negotiation and closing of a multi-million dollar commercial loan transaction for the redevelopment and expansion of a leading shopping center

  • World-leading Canadian construction engineering public company in the negotiation and purchase of several U.S. entities

Representative Matters

  • Represented a major regional developer in gaining approvals for the development of a $50+ million dollar mixed-use project.

  • Represented an international energy company headquartered in Italy in the negotiation of real estate agreements for local facilities.

  • Represented an out-of-state lender in the foreclosure process regarding local commercial real estate holdings.

  • Counseling and representing a national bank in its collection process.

Personal Insights

My Greatest Strengths

The ability to better understand the needs of my clients since I have been in their shoes, and am able to offer advice from firsthand experience. 

  • I currently serve as Counsel to the Urban Redevelopment Authority of the City of Pittsburgh for the creation of transportation revitalization investment districts.

  • I was peer-rated “AV Preeminent” by Martindale-Hubbell.

  • I was recently included in the annual Edition of Top-Ranking Lawyers in Philadelphia published by The Legal Intelligencer.

  • In 2015, I was named a Philadelphia Legal Leader by The Philadelphia Inquirer.

  • In addition to my legal practice of over 30 years, my career path has included a number of years of experience in the military, private industry, and public service as an elected official.
what drives me
  • An unrelenting curiosity and desire to address new and complex legal issues



Community & Professional

Community & Professional
  • American Bar Association, Member
  • Pennsylvania Bar Association, Member
  • Philadelphia Bar Association, Member
  • Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, Arbitrator
  • Monument Village Corporation, Chairman, Board of Directors

  • St. Joseph’s University, Adjunct Professor of Law

  • Methodist Home for Children, Board of Directors, Member

  • Merion Foundation, Chairman of the Board

  • Lower Merion Township, Past President, Board of Commissioners

  • Lower Merion Township, Building and Planning and Economic Development Committees, Chairman
  • Merion Civic Association, Board Member and Past President

  • Merion Community Association, Inc., President

  • Ardmore 2000, Board of Directors, Past Member
  • Lawyers' Club of Philadelphia, Member
  • City Avenue Special Services District, Founder and Director

  • Lower Merion Library Foundation, Board Member

  • New Horizons Senior Center, Board of Directors, Member

  • Urban Land Institute, Land Use and Policy Council, Member

  • Lower Merion Historical Society, Solicitor

  • Montgomery County Economic Development Board, Member


J.D., Temple University School of Law

B.S., Pennsylvania State University, Management


  • Pennsylvania
    Supreme Court of the United States
    U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
    U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania


Martindale-Hubbell, AV Preeminent

The Legal Intelligencer, Top Ranking Lawyers

The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Legal Leader

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