Areas of Practice
  • Cornell Law School, J.D., Editor, Cornell Law Review
  • University of Pennsylvania, B.A., summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa
Bar & Court Admissions
  • New York
  • Pennsylvania
  • United States Supreme Court
  • United States District Court, Eastern District of New York
  • US District Court, Southern District of New York
  • US District Court, Western District of New York
  • US District Court, District of Columbia
  • US District Court, Eastern District of Michigan
  • US District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania
  • US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
  • US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
  • US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
  • Supreme Court of New York
  • Supreme Court of Pennsylvania

Cecelia L. Fanelli

1114 Avenue of the Americas
New York NY 10036
TEL: +1 212 506 3925
FAX: +1 212 506 3950

Cecelia L. Fanelli has decades of experience in litigation and dispute resolution, practicing across the country in federal and state trial and appellate courts.  Her practice also includes arbitration, mediation, and alternative dispute resolution proceedings both international and domestic.  She is also regularly chosen to serve as an arbitrator in high stakes arbitrations, particularly in the hotel, banking, and real estate industries. 

Her practice involves a variety of complex commercial litigation matters, with an emphasis on matters relating to the hotel, resort, convention center, and transportation industries.  Since 2011, she has been ranked by Chambers USA: America's Leading Lawyers for Business in the Leisure & Hospitality (Nationwide) category.  In the publication, her clients and peers singled her out as “one of the best in the business," and observed that "When she speaks, she knows what she is talking about, and it tends to be very persuasive, not just to the court, but to her opposition."

Ms. Fanelli’s clients run the gamut from owners of hotels to lenders, franchisees, franchisors, asset managers, and non-branded management companies.  The owners have included pension funds, high net worth individuals, private equity firms, foreign governments, airlines, construction firms, real estate developers, and insurance carriers.  She has successfully represented clients and obtained a number of multi-million dollar recoveries in hotel industry litigations and complex real estate litigations and workouts.  Ms. Fanelli has defended lender clients against multi-million dollar lender liability and antitrust claims and has tried a variety of trademark infringement injunction and damage claims on behalf of franchisors.  She was counsel for the prevailing lender in the landmark case of Government Guarantee Fund of Republic of Finland v. Hyatt, which confirmed the right of owners to terminate managing agencies.

Ms. Fanelli has a robust transactional practice and is recognized as a leading lawyer on the negotiation and drafting of management and license agreements.  She routinely represents clients in major transactions with respect to traditional hotel assets as well as assets that are part of convention center developments.  Ms. Fanelli counsels clients with respect to the amendment of management contracts and the restructuring of distressed assets.  She is also counsel of choice for disputes relating to mixed-use hotel projects.

In addition, a significant aspect of Ms. Fanelli’s practice includes advising clients with respect to operational issues involving complex accounting and finance issues, construction and capital improvement programs, labor and employment matters, and data security.

Ms. Fanelli is a Dean’s Distinguished Lecturer at the Cornell Hotel School, and apart from her trial and transactional skills, she is recognized as a thought leader in the hospitality industry.  She writes, speaks, and teaches extensively, in particular with regard to topics where she has been involved in making the applicable law.

Speaking Engagements 

  • Moderator, "Select Service," New York University 37th Annual International Hospitality Investment Conference, New York, New York, May 31-June 2, 2015
  • Moderator, “Global Expansion: How Important is it to Grow Your Brands Internationally and How is Doing Business Different?”  New York University 36th Annual International Hospitality Investment Conference, New York, New York, June 1-3, 2014
  • Panelist, "Operating Effectively and Optimizing Revenue," New York University 35th Annual International Hospitality Investment Conference, June 2-4, 2013
  • Speaker, "E-Discovery: Who Pays?  Strategies for Quality Control, Cost Savings and Cost-Shifting," Intermediaries & Reinsurance Underwriters Association 2012 Minisession, November 13, 2012
  • Lecturer, Complex Work-Outs Involving Troubled Hotel Assets, Cornell University, S.C. Johnson Graduate School of Management
  • Lecturer, Franchise Law, Cornell University School of Hotel Administration
  • Lecturer, The Dean's Distinguished Lecture Series, Cornell University School of Hotel Administration
  • Moderator, "Turnaround Asset Management:  Operating Effectively," New York University 34th Annual International Hospitality Investment Conference, June 3-5, 2012
  • Panelist, "Town Hall Discussion of Key Topics," The Lodging Conference 2011, September 23, 2011
  • Panelist, "The New Luxury Resort Model," New York University 33rd Annual International Hospitality Investment Conference, June 5-7, 2011
  • Moderator, "What are the Litigation Targets Now? Recent Lawsuits and Court Decisions that Impact the Hotel Industry," The Lodging Conference 2010, September 23, 2010
  • Panelist, "Hotel Workouts and Restructurings: Looking for an Exit," New York University 32nd Annual International Hospitality Investment Conference, June 6-8, 2010
  • Moderator, “Trying the Arbitration Case – Winnable Strategies,” ABA Section of Litigation Annual Conference, April 21-23, 2010
  • Moderator, “Litigation and Dispute Resolution for the Hotel Owner,” The Lodging Conference 2009, September 22-25, 2009
  • Panelist, “Is Your Iceberg Melting? Strategies for Troubled and Over-leveraged Properties - Today’s Challenged Deals,” New York University 31st Annual International Hospitality Investment Conference, May 31-June 2, 2009
  • Panelist, “Tug of War: Territorial Encroachment,” The Lodging Conference 2008, September 23-26, 2008
  • Panelist, “Uncle Sam’s Watching: New Government Legislation Impacting the Hospitality Industry,” New York University 30th Annual International Hospitality Investment Conference, June 1-3, 2008
  • Speaker, “Has the Death-Knell Sounded for Impact Litigation?,” Cayuga Hospitality Advisors Annual Meeting, November 14-16, 2007
  • Panelist, “It’s the Law: Legal Developments Affecting Your Business,” New York University 28th Annual International Hospitality Investment Conference, June 4-6, 2006
  • Panelist, “Arbitrating A Commercial Case,” Seminar presented by The State Courts of Superior Jurisdiction Committee of The Association of the Bar of the City of New York, April 20, 2006
  • Moderator, “Hotel Franchising: A Power Shift?,” New York University 26th Annual International Hospitality Investment Conference, June 6-8, 2004
  • Panelist, “Taking Sides: Debating the Cost Pass,” New York University 25th Annual International Hospitality Investment Conference, June 1-3, 2003
  • Panelist, “Law and the Management Agreement; Legal Developments Affecting the Hotel Industry: Franchising, Construction, Environmental Issues,” The Lodging Conference 2000, September 14-15, 2000
  • Chair and Panelist, Presentation to Members of the Committee for Constitutional Law of the Finnish Parliament; Representing Foreign Governmental Interests in US Litigation: The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, October 21, 1999
  • Panelist, “Management Contract Litigation-Case Study,” Hospitality Asset Managers Association (Hama) Fall Meeting, September 24, 1998
  • Panelist, 2nd Annual Group H Roundtable, Resorts and Tourism Committee, Real Property, Probate and Trust Law Section, American Bar Association Annual Meeting, August 3, 1998
  • Co-Chair and Panelist, “Emerging Developments in Hospitality Law,” American Bar Association 8th Annual Spring CLE And Committee Meeting, Real Property, Probate And Trust Law Section, May 17, 1997
  • Panelist, “Legal, Tax & Accounting Issues for Deal Making Organizations,” The Hotel Industry Mergers & Acquisitions Forum, April 11, 1997


  • Chambers USA 2011-2017; Leisure & Hospitality (Nationwide) 
  • Law360 Covers Steptoe’s Success for Interstate Hotels & Resorts
  • Law360 Names a Steptoe Matter a ‘Hospitality Case to Watch in 2015’
  • Law360 Quotes Cecelia Fanelli on Biggest Hospitality Cases of 2014
  • Law360 Quotes Cecelia Fanelli on Recent Hotel Management Contract Decision
  • New York Law Journal Features Steptoe-Authored Amicus Brief
  • The New York Times Cites Steptoe's Amicus Brief in Death Penalty Case
  • Hotel News Now Features Cecelia Fanelli in "How to Mitigate Liability in Face of Catastrophes," March 4, 2011

Select News & Events

Selected Publications

  • March 28, 2017
  • Spring 2016, Real Estate Finance
  • Author, “Hotel Subordination, Non-Disturbance and Attornment Agreements: The ‘Boilerplate’ of the Boom Years Becomes Significant in the Great Recession,”
    February 2010, Pratt’s Journal of Bankruptcy Law
  • Author, “The Use of Public Money to Fund Convention Center Headquarters Hotel Development: The Most Recent Controversy Unfolds in Dallas,”
    October 2009, Real Estate Finance
  • Co-Author, “Manual For State Trial Courts Regarding Electronic Discovery Cost-Allocation,”
    Spring 2009, Joint E-Discovery Subcommittee of The Association of the Bar of the City of New York
  • Co-Author, "The Terminability of Hotel Management Agreements in Workouts, Foreclosures and Bankruptcies: Lessons from the 1990s For Today’s Distressed Hotels,"
    March 2009, Finance Channel of
  • Co-Author, "The Employee Free Choice Act: What Hotel Owners and Managers Need to Know About Legislation That Could Alter Labor Relations in the Hotel Industry,"
    Spring 2008, Employee Relations Law Journal, Vol. 34, No. 3
  • Co-Author, “Hotel Investments Issues & Perspectives,”
    2003, Major Legal Issues in the Hotel Industry Today, Educational Institute of the American Hotel & Lodging Association, Third Edition

More Publications »

Professional Affiliations

  • New York State Supreme Court Commercial Division Advisory Committee
  • Association of the Bar of the City of New York, Council on Judicial Administration; the Joint E-Discovery Subcommittee of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York; and The State Courts of Superior Jurisdiction Committee, 2004-2007
  • American Bar Association, Section of Litigation and Real Property, Probate, and Trust Law Section; Former Co-Chair, Litigation Section of Resorts and Tourism Committee
  • Dean's Special Leadership Committee, Cornell University Law School
  • President's Council of Cornell Women, Cornell University